North Carolina coach Butch Davis didn’t know.
He didn’t know about former assistant John Blake’s reputation as a sly recruiter.
He didn’t know about the trips his players took and the thousands of dollars of improper benefits they received that cost seven players their eligibility last year and 14 players at least one game.
And he didn’t know about defensive end Quinton Coples’ mind-bogglingly bad decision to attend a post-draft party earlier this month in Washington, D.C.
It's been four years. It's time Davis got to know his program a little better.
The main reason Davis has escaped any repercussions so far from the NCAA and the university is because officials have concluded that he was unaware of the misdeeds that took place in his own program. The time-tested Clueless Defense has simultaneously been the biggest reason to fire Davis -- a lack of institutional control. Coples’ situation is the latest example. Despite all of the negative publicity and angst the NCAA investigation has caused the university, despite a new “sign-out” policy to help keep track of players, Davis still can’t keep his players from being lured into the NFL life prematurely. Instead, it’s one of his biggest selling points to recruits, and it’s those talented recruits who are making the bad decisions.
It all starts at the top.
Coples signed out, according to a school spokesman, but not to Washington, D.C., where he was invited to a party with former teammates Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn. No, Davis wouldn’t have allowed Coples to attend that party if he knew about it. Most reasonable fans would concede to that. But it’s up to Davis to set a zero-tolerance policy about any NFL-related activities at least until the NCAA investigation has concluded.
Davis and Coples both declined interview requests this week.
North Carolina is oozing with NFL talent, recruited well enough to contend for a national title last season, and yet the Tar Heels have nothing to show for it but another eight-win season, an NCAA investigation and a 0-4 record against NC State.
Oh, and a school-record, nation-leading nine NFL draft picks in 2011.
It has to be a baffling, forehead-slapping, head-shaking situation for Tar Heel fans.
Ken Tysiac of the Raleigh News & Observer attended a recent NCAA event and spent a day following a mock case through the Committee on Infractions. He reported that “regardless of knowledge or involvement under NCAA rules, institutions are responsible for actions of staff members, student-athletes and boosters.”
What a concept -- coaches are responsible for their players’ actions.
Maybe Davis should nix the sign-out sheet and sign up for Facebook.
If he had an account, he might have seen the photos of Coples with Austin and Quinn at the party.
There’s no law or NCAA rule preventing Coples from attending an off-campus party, but every penny he spent must be accounted for. How he got to D.C. How he paid for his food. How he got into the club.
All questions the NCAA will have.
All answers Butch Davis should be expected to know.