Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Davis "shocked" at his dismissal

Departing North Carolina football coach Butch Davis said in a statement released to the media late Wednesday night that he was shocked to hear of his dismissal.

Davis was fired after four seasons, a 28-23 record with three bowl appearances, and NCAA allegations of nine major violations against his program.

Here is the full text of his statement:

"I was honestly shocked to receive word that I will no longer be the head football coach at the University of North Carolina," Davis said. "I can honestly say that I leave with full confidence that I have done nothing wrong. I was the head coach and I realize the responsibility that comes with that role.

"But I was not personally involved in, nor aware of, any actions that prompted the NCAA investigation. I thank my family for enduring this tough situation. I thank the fans and broader university community who have embraced us and endured these difficult circumstances with poise and grace. To the players, I wish them only the best on the field and academically. The coaches and their families know how much I appreciate their work and dedication. It's a sad day, but I'm certain better times will follow."

Ken Tysiac

UNC fires football coach Butch Davis

Two days after “fully and completely” accepting responsibility for the crisis that led to an NCAA investigation into his program , Butch Davis is out as North Carolina’s football coach.

Davis, who was to begin his fifth season when the Tar Heels open fall practice on Aug.  5, was dismissed this evening, Chancellor Holden Thorp announced. Davis was informed by Thorp and athletics director Dick Baddor of the decision, according to a news release.

“To restore confidence in the University of North Carolina and our football program, it’s time to make a change,” Thorp said in the release “What started as a purely athletic issue has begun to chip away at this University’s reputation. I have been deliberate in my approach to understanding this situation fully, and I have worked to be fair to everyone involved.

"However, I have lost confidence in our ability to come through this without harming the way people think of this institution. Our academic integrity is paramount and we must work diligently to protect it. The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change.”

Thorp said the decision was not related to any change in the NCAA investigation, but that it was the result of the cumulative damage to the University’s reputation over the past year.

“Athletics and football are an important part of this University, and a successful football program is essential to the overall health of our athletic program,” Thorp said in the statement “That’s why we have to put this behind us and move forward.”

Added Baddour: “The last 13 months have been some of the most difficult that anyone associated with the athletic department and football program have dealt with. At this time, a decision has been made to change the leadership of the football program to help the entire University community move forward.

“I want to thank Butch Davis and his family for their four-plus years of service and dedication to the University and the Chapel Hill community,” continued Baddour. “My staff and I will work with Chancellor Thorp to transition to an interim head coach as soon as possible.

"It is critical that we do all we can to help our students and other staff members on the football team since preseason training camp begins in just eight days.”

Thorp and Baddour will meet with the media on Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill (Redbud Room).

Ryan Taylor, a tight end on last year's team and a seventh-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, said he was disappointed by the decision.

"I think it's going to set the program back 10 years," Taylor said. "I don't quite understand the timing of it because it's going to be tough to recover from it this close to the season."
Robbi Pickeral

UNC trustees meeting on football future

UNC football spokesman Kevin Best said that chancellor Holden Thorp met with the school’s Board of Trustees today to discuss the future of the football program.

Best provided no further details, but speculation is swirling over the future of coach Butch Davis in the wake of an NCAA investigation that resulted in accusations of nine major violations by UNC.

Minutes ago, Thorp came out of a closed session with the trustees and declined to comment to reporters about Davis’ future.

Ken Tysiac

UNC examining honor court after McAdoo case

Following embarrassing revelations about a former football player’s plagiarized term paper, UNC chancellor Holden Thorp told the school’s board of trustees today that the university is working on improving the school’s student-run academic honor court.

"Regardless of our situation with football, it makes good sense to look at the honor system and discus how we could provide resources to the students and faculty to help them in their academic work and understand academic honesty in the electronic age,” Thorp told the Board of Trustees today.

Earlier this month, it was discovered that UNC failed to discover that a paper in a Swahili course turned in by former Tar Heel player Michael McAdoo included substantial material copied from other texts.

The honor court failed McAdoo, suspended him and gave him an F in the course based on inappropriate bibliography citations, but did not notice the plagiarism in the paper. The material lifted from other texts was not discovered until McAdoo’s paper became public in a court case where McAdoo unsuccessfully argued to be reinstated.

N.C. State fans and later media members ran the paper through an online plagiarism checker. The News & Observer found that 39 percent of the paper was copied from other texts.

“I am deeply disappointed by the recent revelation of plagiarism in one student-athlete’s favor,” Thorp said. “…I wish we could have caught that.”

Thorp told reporters after the Board of Trustees meeting that he didn’t know what specific changes might be made to the student-run honor court, and said discussions are ongoing.

He said the situation has brought attention to the honor court, which has a long tradition at UNC.

"I am very encouraged by the discussions I've had with faculty members in the last couple of weeks," Thorp said

Students have pledged to abide by an honor code for more than 130 years. When students are accused of violating the code, they are judged by a court of their peers.

Katelyn Ferral and Ken Tysiac

Monday, July 25, 2011

Davis takes responsibility for UNC troubles

PINEHURST – Butch Davis said today that he “fully and completely” takes responsibility for North Carolina’s NCAA troubles, which he called the most important issue the school has faced in “many, many, many years.”

Davis spoke today at the ACC football media kickoff in his first extended interview opportunity since the NCAA charged the school with nine major violations in a notice of allegations in June.

“I’m the head football coach,” Davis said. “And things that happen, anything I can do to make sure these things don’t happen…anything that we can do to make sure that doesn’t happen again, that’s part of my responsibility.”

Thirty minutes before Davis’ interview, reporters were camped out at the time where he was to sit. By the time Davis sat down, more than 30 reporters had surrounded him to hear his answers.

Davis was not personally cited in the letter of allegations and said he felt like he always has had the UNC administration’s support. He said he never considered resigning in the wake of the investigation, but said he regrets what’s happened.

“It’s caused a tremendous amount of embarrassment and a tremendous amount of hard times for Carolina fans and alums,” Davis said, “. . .but we’re going to get through this.”

UNC has until Sept. 19 to provide the NCAA with a written response to the notice of allegations. School officials are scheduled to appear in front of the Committee on Infractions on Oct. 28 in Indianapolis.

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, July 24, 2011

BC's Harris nearing Ted Brown's record

PINEHURST – In a matter of 15 minutes, four different reporters asked Boston College running back Montel Harris about Ted Brown.

Brown is the former N.C. State player who set the ACC record with 4,602 rushing yards from 1975 to 1978. Harris enters his senior season with 3,600 rushing yards, so he needs 1,003 more to break one of the ACC’s longest-standing records.

“I’m starting to hear a lot more of Ted Brown,” Harris said. “Once I go back home, I’m going to look up some tape on him.”

Harris originally committed to Duke, but backed off after the Blue Devils fired Ted Roof and hired David Cutcliffe as coach. Harris said Roof had recruited him as a running back, while Cutcliffe didn’t promise him which position he would play.

Meanwhile, then-Eagles coach Jeff Jagodzinski was scrambling to replace Andre Callender and L.V. Whitworth. Harris visited Boston College, committed and set the school freshman rushing record with 900 yards.

With regard to Brown’s record, Harris said he is trying to focus on winning rather than individual accomplishments.

“That would be a great goal to accomplish this year,” Harris said. “It will mean a lot more when I’m finished playing football and able to look back on it.”

Ken Tysiac

Offensive line could be a strength for Heels

PINEHURST --  As a member of North Carolina’s off-injured offensive line two years ago, Jonathan Cooper always wanted to believe things would get better up front, “but I don’t know if we ever thought we would be projected as well as we are now.”
Indeed, the Tar Heels – who have steadily improved after struggling to both open running holes, and protect the quarterback early in 2009 because of youth and injuries -- begin practice on August 5 boasting a front line that is now one of its biggest strengths.
“This offensive line can be the best one Carolina has had in years,’’ UNC defensive lineman Tydreke Powell predicted Sunday at the ACC Kickoff.
The difference is experience. Cooper, a junior guard, headlines a position group that returns two other starters (center Cam Holland and tackle James Hurst), plus guard Travis Bond, who started four games last season. Combined, foursome has started 58 career games – leading to both continuity and confidence.
“Part of it is being healthy, and part of it is knowing our assignments,’’ Cooper said. “I think there were times [in the past] when we were just happy to get into our guys [assignments] some of the time, but now we’re going for perfection, because we know we have the athletes and the guys to do it.”
Boasting a veteran line will be key to an offense that replaces four-year quarterback T.J. Yates (more than 40 school records) with sophomore Bryn Renner (two career passes), and that also lost its three top rushers from last season.
“We have size, speed and strength,’’ Cooper said, “…and I think we can set the tone.”
- Robbi Pickeral

Swofford calls for athletics reform

PINEHURST - In the most serious address to the media of his 15-year tenure, ACC commissioner John Swofford called today for reforms to a college athletic infrastructure that he said has lost the confidence of the public.

At the ACC football kickoff media event, Swofford told reporters in his yearly address that:
  • NCAA rules and enforcement need to focus more on serious offenses, particularly involving third parties, and less on minor transgressions such as phone calls and text messages.
  • Enforcement of NCAA rules needs to have consistent punishments from case to case and must take place expediently.
  • Athletes’ scholarships should cover the full cost of attendance, rather than just tuition, room, board and books.
  • The NCAA needs to consider having scholarships operate as multi-year deals rather than one-year agreements.
“Tweaking is not enough for what we need to do for the future of college athletics,” Swofford said in calling for progressive adjustment of college athletics.

Swofford’s speech came after a 12-month period in which, college athletics and football in particular have come under fire for rules violations that have in many cases involved the influence of third parties.

Last week, SEC commissioner Mike Slive campaigned for many of the same issues Swofford is proposing.
In the ACC, Georgia Tech recently forfeited its 2009 conference championship and North Carolina last month received a notice from the NCAA detailing allegations of nine major rules violations.

Although Swofford acknowledged that some conferences with schools with smaller budgets might get left behind by some of his proposed reforms, he nonetheless said the reforms are critical.

He said college athletics is at a “tipping point” where the money involved is so significant. Swofford said the explosion in interest and revenue are good, but he said that when the stakes go up, quality and integrity can suffer.

“We’ve got to slow down, back up, re-evaluate and find better ways to do things and not sit here trying to act like everything is hunky-dory and everything is good and not acknowledge that we’ve got some challenges out there,” Swofford said.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, July 22, 2011

LSU QB: Criticism motivates me

LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson comes into the 2011 season with questions surrounding him. In 2010, his performance was inconsistent, and it seemed he lacked confidence.

Head coach Les Miles said he thinks Jefferson has confidence, and he doesn't let who's looking over his shoulder affect him.

"I think he steps forward to do the things he can do," Miles said. "He's been a very productive quarterback for us."

Jefferson said the criticism motivates him.

"It helps me workout harder, but at the same time, it helps me improve what people feel I lack," he said.

Offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert said he's happy to have Jefferson as the team's leader and quarterback.

"Jordan has really proven how resilient he is," Hebert said. "He keeps fighting and working to get better."

- Laura Owens

Heels promote Pittman to associate head coach

North Carolina has promoted offensive line coach Sam Pittman to associate head coach, the school announced today.

Pittman will continue coaching offensive linemen, a duty he has handled in the last four years under head coach Butch Davis. Pittman came to the Tar Heels as part of Davis' original coaching staff in 2007.

“Sam has done a terrific job building our offensive line over the last four seasons,” Davis said in a statement.  “One of Sam’s strengths is his ability to build relationships with people and motivate them to perform at the highest level. Sam also has been one of our top recruiters. He is man of great integrity and is a tremendous representative for the University of North Carolina.” named Pittman one of the nation's top 25 recruiters earlier this year. In the past two years, Pittman has signed the nation's No. 2 tackle with James Hurst in 2010 and Kiaro Holts in 2011.

Ken Tysiac

Vandy's Franklin: Fanbase must unite

Vanderbilt’s new head coach, James Franklin, made his first appearance at SEC Media Days Friday morning. As Vanderbilt’s third coach in three years, Franklin said he’s looking for commitment from both the players and the fans.

“Everybody has to understand we can’t do this alone,” he said. “It’s not the players, it’s not just the coaches. It’s our alumni base, it’s the community, everybody. We need this fan base to unite like it never has before.”

Linebacker Chris Marve said Franklin did a good job of bridging the gap between the new coaching staff and the players.

“They’re really personable and I’ve grown attached to them in the eight or nine months that they’ve been here,” he said. “I’m thankful to play for this staff.”

--Laura Owens

At Alabama, QB is a question mark

Perhaps the biggest question mark for Alabama this fall is at quarterback.

Greg McElroy, a two-year starter, is with the NFL's New York Jets. The two candidates for the open position are redshirt sophomore AJ McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims.

So where does the quarterback competition stand?

“It doesn’t stand anywhere,” said head coach Nick Saban. “It stands like it stands. We have two guys competing for the quarterback position. We’re going to continue to manage those guys trough fall camp. We have confidence in both of their abilities.”

Saban said he expected his quarterback to be a game manager.

 “When you manage the game, you make all the people on the offensive field feel like you’re in command, and you’re in control in terms of direction,” he said.

--Laura Owens

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vols' Dooley: Let schools control scholarships

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley is against mandating multi-year scholarships for athletics.

“I hear about how it’s so awful when a player gets a scholarship taken away,” he said. “I’m sitting there going, Universities give academic scholarships all the time, and if a student doesn’t meet certain requirements, they take it away from them. It’s not different to me in athletics.”

Dooley said allow the market to act. If a coach is kicking people off the team all the time, that’ll affect the team in recruiting.

“Are we going to allow the institutions and programs to set their rules, then allow the market to handle which way they go and the success they have, or are we going to take over and define what everybody does all the time?” he said.

--Laura Owens

Davis to release records from personal phone

DURHAM - North Carolina football coach Butch Davis said today that he will release records of the business calls he made on his personal cell phone in response to a media public records request.

Media outlets have sought to review Davis' personal cell phone records in hopes of shedding light on an investigation that has resulted in NCAA allegations of major violations against the Tar Heel program.

Davis said his personal cell phone records were reviewed "completely and entirely" last fall by UNC's counsel, and he plans to release them "pretty soon." He said he plans to redact personal calls from the records.

"It’s a personal cell phone that I’ve had for over 10 years," Davis said. "And so we’ll redact and I will go through it and things like my wife, my son, my dad, my sister, close personal friends and family members, those types of things. Anything that has anything to do with UNC and business, those will be completely open for public record."

Davis met for eight minutes today with reporters following the annual Triangle Pigskin Preview charity luncheon that features coaches from UNC, Duke, East Carolina, N.C. Central and N.C. State.

In his first public comments since UNC received its notice of allegations from the NCAA in June, Davis said the university has done a "remarkable" job in full cooperation with the NCAA.

The NCAA on June 21 sent UNC chancellor Holden Thorp a notice alleging nine major violations. The investigation of impermissible benefits and academic misconduct began in July of 2010 and resulted in 14 players missing games in the 2010 season, with seven missing the entire season.

UNC must provide a written response by Sept. 19 and is scheduled to meet with the Committee on Infractions on Oct. 28.

"Now obviously we have the opportunity for 90 days to review those allegations and decide which ones they think they might want to contest and which ones they don’t think there is any contest to it," Davis said, "and in October, we’ll go in front of the infractions committee and some time thereafter we’ll find out what comes out of the entire investigation."

Davis said he plans to join school officials when they meet with the Committee on Infractions. He declined to respond to any of the allegations, saying the NCAA has asked UNC officials to refrain from comment, and that athletics director Dick Baddour is the spokesman for the school on the case.

"There’s a limited amount that any of us know," Davis said. "I think, certainly, as has been talked about many, many times is that Dick Baddour as the athletic director, he’s been the point guy. And he along with our compliance department and Chancellor Thorp, they're the ones that are in the know on absolutely everything. There’s a lot of things that I don’t need to know, don’t know. And they’ve handled everything."

Throughout the NCAA investigation, Davis said, he has expected to remain UNC's coach. He was not personally cited in the notice of allegations, which spared UNC the damaging "lack of institutional control" charge but did accuse the school of failure to monitor some violations in the program.

"I totally expected to be the football coach," Davis said. "I’ve been very, very fortunate. I’ve had great support from the administration and the board of trustees, the athletic director, chancellor Thorp. And I’m excited about the future of our program. I’m looking forward to the 2011 football season. We’ve got some good, young, talented kids."

Ken Tysiac

Auburn knows what great looks like

Reigning national champion Auburn lost more than 20 seniors from the 2010 squad, but the goal hasn't changed.

“The standard for Auburn and the goals for Auburn, no matter if we’re going to play 22 freshman, will not change,” said head coach Gene Chizik.

Chizik said this spring practice featured young players with lots of energy, competing for vacated jobs.

“Our football team this time last year didn’t know what great looked like,” he said. “I’ve said that several times. The good thing is a majority of the guys we have coming back know what great looks like it.”

--Laura Owens

Georgia: Boise State game a step toward goal

For the 2011 season, Georgia will open against Boise State in Atlanta. While Georgia struggled in 2010, going 6-7 overall, 3-5 in the SEC, head coach Mark Richt said a win against Boise State could give the program new life.

“When we were making the decision, should we play in the Chick-Fil-A, should we play Boise State, where we were at that time was a decline in our record, a decline on how people perceived our program,” Richt said. “What better way to send a surge of energy in this program than to schedule a game like that?”

Richt did acknowledge the risk as well.

“There’s risk in playing a team that could whip your tail because they might whip your tail, but in order for us to get back to where we want to be, which is highly ranked and highly thought of, we need to play this game,” he said.

  --Laura Owens

Kentucky football ready to rise?

The Kentucky Wildcats finished their 2010 season 6-7 overall, 2-6 in the SEC. The Wildcats are not  normally known as a dominant force in football, so head coach Joker Phillips said his team has a new theme this year: Rise.

Phillips cited a win over South Carolina last season as evidence the Wildcats can do just that.

“We have shown that Kentucky can compete in this league,” Phillips said.

But to compete every week, quarterback Morgan Newton said, some fine tuning is necessary.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re the most prepared team, the smartest team,” he said. “It just comes down to winning games. We’ve got to really want to win more than our opponents.”

 Despite the loss of high-caliber offensive players like Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke, Newton said there are players ready to fill the void.

"It’ll be different not having them out because that’s what I know of Kentucky football, having those guys around and back there making plays,” Newton said. “It’ll be different, but I think we’ve got a great group of guys that’ll come in. That’s what they recruit for.”

--Laura Owens

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Florida's Muschamp: Weis will be a key

        Florida's new head coach, Will Muschamp, said at the SEC's media days that because he's defensive minded, offensive coordinator and former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis is important to his success.

    "I think the worst thing you can do in leadership position is be something you're not," he said. "I'm a defensive coach. I hired Charlie Weis to run our offense. Having him in the staff room is really important to me."

    Quarterback John Brantley said it's been great having Weis.

   "You grow up watching a team like the New England Patriots and see the offense he runs, you just don't expect to have him as a coach," he said."It's an honor to play for him."

    Defensive end William Green said the defensive changes Muschamp has been making mostly revolve around scheming and personnel.

   "He's big about doing things 'The Florida Way,' playing hard, running to the ball," Green said. "He's a bit more intense."

    In taking on this new program, Muschamp said not everything needs fixing.

    "I think more than anything if its not broken don't fix it," he said. "Urban (Meyer) did some great things that we're going to continue to do. There are some really good things at Florida."

--Laura Owens

Arkansas RB Davis still working hard

    Arkansas running back Knile Davis finished his sophomore season second in rushing in the SEC with 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns. Yet, for the 2011 pre-season, he wasn't one of the two backs voted first-team All-SEC by the coaches.

    "I feel like he should be a first team player," said Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino. "That's something that throughout all the positions in this conference, everyone has good players."

    The first team running backs were Alabama's Trent Richardson and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore.

   "I think I'm right up there with them," Davis said. "I'm just going to go out there and try to compete hard and do better this year and hopefully they'll put me first."

    Davis, who turned 18 last October, has proven to be a great asset on a team that in recent years has turned towards a passing offense.

   "It was great to add that dimension," Davis said. "It kind of helped us out down the stretch."

    Davis admitted to stealing techniques from other running backs around the SEC.

    "I watch film on them," he said. "Mark Ingram has a quick first cut. He hits the hole very hard. You learn things like that from those guys."

    Petrino said one of the first things to notice about Davis is his work ethic.

    "In the weight room, he's continued to get stronger and faster," Petrino said. "He just did a great job in the weight room this past week. In the winter when we had our testing days, he went in there with every group; he didn't have to be there.

"He was there cheering guys on, spotting guys. I's become extremely important for him to show how much he cares."

-- Laura Owens

Herschel Walker featured in ESPNU documentary

The SEC and ESPN are teaming up to make a series of four one-hour documentaries highlighting traditions, rivalries and unique stories of the conference, slated for ESPNU.

The first in the 'Storied' series, "Herschel," is scheduled for Sept. 7, and focuses on former Georgia and NFL standout Herschel Walker.

"The' Storied' series will be an opportunity to take fans behind the scenes of some of the compelling stories that have been part of the history of the Southeastern Conference," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said.

The second documentary, highlighting the first SEC football championship game, will air in December.

-- Laura Owens

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Former Tar Heel Marvin Austin vents on Twitter

Former North Carolina defensive lineman Marvin Austin's comments on Twitter first drew the attention of NCAA investigators last year as he tweeted about a party in Miami and other good times.

Wednesday, in the aftermath of a Durham Superior Court ruling that denied his former Tar Heels teammate Michael McAdoo an injunction that would have allowed McAdoo to resume playing with the Tar Heels this fall, Austin (above) unleashed a series of tweets on his @anchormanaustin account expressing his frustration and apparently threatening to reveal more about North Carolina's football program and the ongoing NCAA investigation.

Shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday, the following message was posted on the @anchormanaustin account: "I'm so heated right now...justice will provail..even if I have to spill the beans"

That tweet was followed by nine more posted over the course of Thursday evening (spelling is Austin's):

This is so frustrating right now..I can't rap my head around it..I wish I could understand but maybe its not logical enough to understand

Twitter I'm not bitter I just don't like the way my friend, teammate,brother was mislead,misued, and ostrisized from the program for the

Same reasons that others got suspened and are able to play for because I know exactly the details in each case and its noway that this young

Man should have his dream snatched from him like the #ncaa has done.I can tell you so many stories that would be mind boggling in comparison

Man should have his dream snatched from him like the #ncaa has done.I can tell you so many stories that would be mind boggling in comparison

Trust me I know....I love my school..I chose to come here when nobody thought it was smart to do..but I just wish the administration stood

And stop the cowardly acts when the are in front of the ncaa just tell them what you told us...don't turn and twist your story to look

Appealing to the Ncaa and presure the 21 year old athlete to say and do things that aren't in there best interest...its so much that's not

Said it stings when I think about it Unc true fans understand how we as players love this place it tatted in blood for most guys on the team

This morning, Austin, who was drafted by the New York Giants in this spring's NFL draft, offered one more Tweet:

Up and off to work....great day to be a tarheeel....imma grind tell my feet fall off #grindmode