If only North Carolina could forfeit the rest of the season.
That's what North Carolina deserves. That's what college football deserves, too. We deserve to not have that program, currently in the middle of two enormous and distinctly unrelated scandals, foisted upon us. The college football season is a three-month-long celebration of sport. It's confetti, strobe lights and a kazoo. It's a party. It's a punch bowl.
North Carolina is the turd floating in there.
|No matter what happens with the North Carolina investigation, coach Butch Davis has to be fired. (US Presswire)|
This is a bad scene, but we're stuck with it. As much as I'd love to sit here and demand that North Carolina do the honorable thing and remove itself from our sight for the rest of the season, I can't do it because that would hurt too many innocent victims. The other 11 schools on the UNC schedule, especially the five teams that have home games against the visiting Tar Heels, need North Carolina. North Carolina is a rotten egg, but this isn't a grocery store. Virginia can't throw the Tar Heels against the wall, watch them splatter there and drip to the sidewalk, and then stroll down some mythical aisle and pull another opponent off the shelf for its Oct. 16 game in Charlottesville. Virginia needs North Carolina. So do Rutgers, Miami, Florida State and Duke.
And North Carolina needs North Carolina, too. The UNC football program generates more than $60 million annually, and like most BCS programs, it helps fund many of the non-revenue sports on campus.
UNC football is here to stay for the 2010 season, so we're stuck with it. But it doesn't mean we have to like it, because this is a scandal -- sorry, two scandals -- that will only get worse. That's how it is with inquiries like these, with investigators from the school, the NCAA and even the North Carolina Secretary of State's office interviewing players, coaches and anyone else they can get into a small room with mirrors on the walls and a tape recorder on the table.
In particular, the academic scandal could get a lot worse. I invite you to recall what happened in 2007 at Florida State. You remember that academic scandal, which ensnared 61 athletes from 10 sports? It started with one athlete taking one test for another athlete. Within a few months, Florida State found out that tutors had helped 23 athletes cheat. The athletics director was forced out. Two senior assistant AD's were pushed out. Tutors were dismissed.
A rogue online music class was discovered. Cheating had been going on for years, and the number of athletes involved almost tripled. A third assistant AD resigned. The director of the school's student-athlete academic support staff was let go. The football team suspended more than 20 players for the 2007 Music City Bowl, a 35-28 loss to Kentucky.
That's the road map for North Carolina. That's the future. The present? The present is nauseating. We have to turn on the television and watch a team that has been cheating its ass off, coached by a man who let it happen.
Butch Davis has to be fired, even if he did nothing wrong, even if he didn't know that anything was going wrong. He has to be fired because he failed to promote, in NCAA-speak, an atmosphere of compliance. That's not up for debate -- North Carolina's atmosphere of compliance has been violated more than our ozone layer. Thirteen players, including five starters on defense, were suspended for the opener against LSU because they are suspected to have cheated academically.
And Davis' best player, defensive tackle Marvin Austin, has been connected to multiple trips that have been tied to agents, one of those agents being Gary Wichard. Wichard's agency once employed John Blake. Butch Davis hired Blake anyway, and blew a raspberry at common sense by putting him in charge of recruiting. Blake's best defensive tackle at UNC, Kentwan Balmer, signed with Wichard after turning pro in 2008. Blake resigned Sunday night.
Lot of dots to connect there -- pock marks, really. Davis is gone. Maybe he doesn't know it yet, but sometimes people like that are the last to know. He's in the moment. He's not thinking of his future. Hey, I'll think of it for him, and what I think is this: He's gone. He's gone, and he'll finish his career as an NFL assistant.
But we're stuck with Davis for another 11 games, probably another 12, just like we're stuck with the 2010 UNC football team -- a team that didn't give a damn about playing by the rules, academic or otherwise.