October 04, 2010
Butch Davis and John Blake go way back, all the way to Blake's days as a high school star at Sand Springs High in Oklahoma, where Davis was his defensive coordinator in the late '70s. They went on to win a Super Bowl together as assistant coaches with the Dallas Cowboys. When Davis was tapped to salvage North Carolina's sinking program in 2006, Blake was one of his first hires.
So it wasn't just a quick, professional cut when Carolina pushed Blake out last month, after it discovered multiple financial links between Blake and NFL agent Gary Wichard. And as Blake's role at the center of the scandal that threatens to bring Davis' program to its knees continues to expand in the press, it didn't seem like just another token line Monday morning when Davis apologized for ever hiring Blake and repudiated his role in the program. From The News & Observer:
Davis who has not spoken extensively about Blake since the agent-related NCAA investigation began in mid-July, apologized for Blake's role in the on-going turmoil at UNC.
"Let me tell you, here's how I feel: I am very sorry that all of this stuff has tainted the football program," Davis said. "And as the head football coach, I take a tremendous amount of responsibility for all of the football-related issues. I'm the head guy.
"I'm sorry that it has affected the football program. But I'm going to tell you what I'm more sorry about, I'm sorry that I trusted John Blake."
Ouch. Davis wasn't about to turn that into a confirmation that Blake was guilty of what he's informally accused of – specifically, accepting money to act as a "runner" who steers players towards a certain agent. He shrewdly maintained that he nor anyone else at UNC had any idea what was going on. You know, if anything was going on: "If we would've ever known that if any of these allegations were absolutely true, coach Blake would have been dismissed [sooner]," Davis said. "I would have fired him." When the university did fire him, according to athletic director Dick Baddour, it was as much for appearances' sake as anything Blake may (or may not) have actually done.
For now, that's only an admission that Blake cost the program some credibility and helped get it in hot water with the NCAA, even if it turns out (improbably) that he didn't commit any violations in the end. But Davis didn't exactly sound like a man who expects to be exonerated when the proverbial facts come out.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.