NCAA Should Hammer The Heels
Any discussion of the litany of allegations the NCAA hurled at North Carolina last week must begin with these two: The Tar Heels allegedly employed an agent's runner as its associate head coach, and a woman employed by coach Butch Davis to tutor his son provided several players improper assistance. If proven, those violations rank alongside any of the last decade.
John Blake, who spent three seasons as an assistant at North Carolina, resigned last September. But according to the Notice of Allegations the NCAA sent the school last week, from 2007 through '09 he received payments totaling $31,000 from agent Gary Wichard, a close friend and former employer. The NCAA's insinuation is that Blake not only recruited players to wear Tar Heel blue, but that he also recruited Tar Heels to sign with Wichard's agency. (Blake's lawyers say the payments were to help the coach pay for private school tuition for his son and deny that Blake recruited players for Wichard while with the Heels.)
Also in the notice, the NCAA has accused Jennifer Wiley, a former tutor, of providing about $3,500 in impermissible benefits—including paying parking tickets for players and providing them free tutoring. (Messages to Wiley's lawyer went unanswered.) If North Carolina is guilty of both, the NCAA would be justified in sanctioning the Heels as harshly as it did USC last year—even if the Committee on Infractions doesn't find evidence of a lack of institutional control, which draws the most severe penalties. (And the NCAA's 42-page notice doesn't accuse the school of that.) Consider that the NCAA banned the Trojans from postseason play for two years and stripped the program of 30 scholarships because USC coaches and administrators, it says, should have known that Reggie Bush and his family had received improper benefits. Shouldn't Davis and his bosses also have known that their own man steered players to an agent who provided them with extra benefits? Davis and Blake's relationship dates to 1976 when Davis coached Blake at Charles Page High in Sand Springs, Okla. Still, the coach has pleaded ignorance throughout this investigation. Last October, Davis said, "I'm sorry that I trusted John Blake," and the coach maintains that position.
Davis has taken the stance that those who remain ignorant should remain gainfully employed. But even if he somehow keeps his job, he probably won't find it so appealing once the NCAA is finished with the Heels.