Suit Against UNC Should Be Benched
The timing of the firing of UNC-Chapel Hill football coach Butch Davis was unfortunate. But even more regrettable is the filing of a spurious lawsuit by athletic boosters.
The whole episode only serves to reinforce the arguments of those who complain that in all too many instances these days, academic concerns take a back seat to an out-of-control obsession with athletics.
Though there has been no lawsuit as of this writing, attorneys representing a group of Carolina sports boosters asked the university to turn over information having to do with Davis’ dismissal as a possible prelude to legal action.
“I can tell you everybody that we represent is furious about the timing of Butch Davis’ firing,” attorney Don Brown was quoted as telling The News & Observer of Raleigh. “They feel like their investment was based on Butch Davis being the head coach, and the public reassurances over the past year that he would remain the coach ... They want answers.”
Timing Is, Indeed, Questionable
The boosters may have a valid point or two about the timing, if nothing else. After all, Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp had been publicly expressing strong support for Davis for months before his sudden dismissal on July 27, which came only a couple of days after he represented the university at a preseason football event staged by the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Suspicions have been expressed that the university held off on acting until it had sold enough season tickets and collected as many private donations as possible toward the planned building of Blue Zone, a $70 million addition to Kenan Stadium. If so, that would bear more scrutiny.
If Davis was going to be fired, surely it would have made more sense to do so long ago, when the public first learned the details of alleged violations of the rules. But you get the idea that many fans and boosters don’t question the sequence of events so much as they challenge whether Davis should have been fired at all, since he had coached the Tar Heels to a winning season and positioned the UNC football program to move higher in national rankings.
In other words, winning is everything, and legal, upstanding behavior finishes in second place. This is hardly a message a premier institution of higher learning should be conveying to its students.
Especially troubling is attorney Brown’s use of the word “investment” in referring to the donations made toward the big Blue Zone construction project. It’s not an investment of the kind one might make on Wall Street in hopes of a particular monetary return. It’s a gift to a university sports program and does not confer a right to question official decisions.
If such donors can claim that they didn’t get a big enough return on their “investment” because the coach was let go, then what next? Demand a refund when the team has a losing season?
This silly lawsuit, if indeed one is in the works, is yet another sign that the athletic tail has indeed come to wag the academic dog. If those doing the suing can force the institution to expend the time and money necessary to defend itself against such a frivolous action, they can hardly claim to be “friends” of the institution.
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