Davis Firing Became Inevitable
Butch Davis never seemed to recognize that the blood in the water was always his own.
His bosses and supporters never seemed to recognize that, no matter how many lawyers you hire, neither the laws of physics nor the laws of scandal are magically suspended at the Chapel Hill city limits.
The laws of scandal, always the same whether involving sports figures, politicians or celebrities, run something like this: As long as blood is in the water, sharks will keep circling; the only way to stop the sharks is to stop the bleeding, or get out of the water.
Davis couldn't or wouldn't stop the bleeding because he never provided a full accounting of what he knew about the improprieties surrounding his football program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He wouldn't say how much he paid the tutor under his personal employ, the same tutor accused of helping football players plagiarize papers.
He wouldn't provide a plausible explanation of how he could be ignorant of the connections between longtime friend and former associate head coach John Blake and professional sports agents.
When fired, he had yet to turn over personal cell phone records that were only required to be turned over because he used that phone, rather than a university-provided phone, to conduct his business. He never said much about why he didn't use that university-provided phone.
So the blood kept flowing.
His bosses, and their bosses, after months of denial, finally removed him from the water. One of the bosses, athletic director Dick Baddour, announced that he would be stepping down too.
Sports pundits immediately jumped on Chancellor Holden Thorp, the man who took responsibility for the decision to fire Davis.
Why now, they asked, just weeks before the start of the football season?
Maybe because a university chancellor has to be concerned about more than a football program, things like the larger academic reputation of the university. And maybe because the scandal increasingly touched on that larger academic reputation, with revelations of a plagiarized paper that should have been caught long before it ever became an exhibit in an NCAA file or a court brief.
And what would the sports pundits, or the school's football boosters, have said if the timing had been better, back in January, before the extent of this mess was put on a platter for all to see?
Objective students of scandal could (and did) predict the end result as early as last fall. Objectivity isn't always easy when you're the one charged with managing the scandal.
Now the cleanup begins.
One part should be examining whether UNC-Chapel Hill is doing all it should to truly educate its student-athletes in meaningful fields of endeavor and not just disciplines meant to keep them eligible for athletic competition.
Some critics will want more - more digging, more blood.
They aren't likely to see much more.
Over the next few months, the red tinge to the water will start to fade.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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