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A gamble on an old friend could cost Davis his job at UNC

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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John Blake is on a serious roll.

Gary Gibbs, Barry Switzer, Jackie Sherrill and Bill Callahan. All were head coaches -- key phrase here is "were" -- and Blake was an assistant coach under all four.

All of them are no longer involved in college football. Perhaps it's a stretch to put all the blame on Blake. Hey, maybe it's just a coincidence.

But North Carolina coach Butch Davis certainly should have taken Blake's track record into consideration before hiring him in 2007. Come to think of it, he did. Davis figured the reward was worth the risk and it's a gamble that might eventually cost Davis his job.

Blake lost 22 of 34 games as head coach at Oklahoma but also left behind plenty of talent for Bob Stoops. (Getty Images)  
Blake lost 22 of 34 games as head coach at Oklahoma but also left behind plenty of talent for Bob Stoops. (Getty Images)  
Blake has been characterized at every stop as an unbelievable recruiter, even touted by Carolina as the "nation's best recruiter." How Blake recruits those players is another matter, a matter that the NCAA has serious questions about. On Tuesday, North Carolina received its notice of allegations from the NCAA.

Blake accounts for one-third of the nine major violations.

Even though Davis somehow avoids being mentioned in the 42-page report, is he going to become the latest coach associated with Blake to leave the college ranks? Blake has been the human equivalent of Spike-80DF to head coaches' careers. He seeps deep into the program, gets under the foundation and then the head coach is done.

At North Carolina, the NCAA says that Blake provided "false and misleading information" not only to NCAA investigators, but also to the school regarding his relationship with late NFL agent Gary Wichard. Blake also failed to mention he received $31,500 from Wichard's firm, Pro Tect Management, from May 2007 to October 2009.

The first of those payments was for $10,000, according to the NCAA, and occurred less than six months after Blake was hired by Davis, who also lobbied for Blake to join the Dallas Cowboys' defensive staff in 1993.

"John brings a unique blend of college and pro experience to North Carolina," Davis said after Blake's hiring at UNC in December 2006. "He has experience as a Division I head coach and is known throughout the country as a terrific recruiter and teacher. I had the pleasure working with John when we were both assistants for the Cowboys, and his commitment to excellence both on and off the field is unmatched."

More on North Carolina
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More ACC coverage with Chip Patterson

Commitment to excellence: isn't that the Oakland Raiders' catchphrase?

Ask Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman about that commitment. Blake accused Aikman of being a racist during the Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl championship season of 1995, but several of Aikman's black teammates dismissed Blake's claims.

"You have to remember 90 percent of the team is black," Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley said that season. "Therefore, if [Aikman's] going to yell at somebody, it's probably going to be a black guy making a mistake."

Blake, who was an All-Big Eight nose guard and then an assistant under Switzer at Oklahoma and Dallas, left the Cowboys before the Super Bowl was played. He returned to Oklahoma in December 1995 as the Sooners' coach.

Three years later, he was fired. He lost 22 of 34 games, but managed to set several all-time marks at Oklahoma: the worst winning percentage (35.2) by a head coach, the school's worst three-year stretch along with the school's only two eight-loss seasons.

Yet, during that time Blake brought in a ton of talent to Oklahoma. So much, in fact, that two years after his firing, the Sooners -- with Blake's recruits accounting for the majority of OU's starting lineup -- won the BCS national title.

After Blake's firing in November 1998, The Oklahoman reported "it was widely known" that Blake went to work in the agent business and Oklahoma officials privately were angry that Blake attempted to contact Sooners players in that role.

"Through the process, I sacrificed a whole lot and took a whole lot of negative things," Blake told The New York Times two years ago. "But if it's for one man to gain the glory, then I'll just accept it. That's fine with me."

Blake should receive his share of attention when the NCAA is finished.

Among the NCAA's allegations include that Blake "was employed and compensated by Pro Tect Management to influence football student-athletes to hire Wichard to represent them in marketing their athletic abilities and reputations."

Also, Blake failed to report $31,500 in income from Pro Tect Management and "lied that he was never employed by Pro Tect Management," even though he listed the company as his former employer on a credit report and he was listed on company documents as vice president of football operations.

The NCAA also claimed Blake and his attorney refused to provide requested documentation to North Carolina or the NCAA concerning a $45,000 deposit he received in 2007 the day after Christmas.

The day after Christmas? How ironic, since Blake is referred to by critics and message board enthusiasts as "Black Santa," for his alleged "giving" actions on the recruiting trail.

With Blake, the Tar Heels had two Top 10 recruiting classes. And all this time, I thought Carolina was a basketball school.

On Sept. 5, 2010, Blake resigned as UNC's associate head coach. Davis later admitted he was "sorry for trusting" Blake.

Yet Davis, 60, has known -- and trusted -- Blake, 51, for nearly 40 years. They first met during Blake's sophomore year of high school in Sand Springs, Okla., a suburb outside of Tulsa. Davis was Blake's biology teacher.

"He made such an impression on me that I still remember exactly where he sat in my class when he was 15 years old," Davis told the Tulsa World in 2009. "That's John Blake. He has a gift when it comes to relationships.

"John was such a charismatic guy all the way back when I first met him in that biology class. He's been that way his entire life. That's why I've always wanted him around."

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