RALEIGH — Watching his song and dance routine, it’s difficult to know whether Holden Thorp believes the words he is singing or is simply mouthing them to please his masters.
“We have found no information that Coach (Butch) Davis was involved in any of the problems that have surfaced,” the chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently told the school’s Board of Trustees.
Thorp, of course, was referring to the tainted football program run by Davis.
It is true that Davis didn’t taint the football program, and hence the school, by himself.
Thorp et al. have helped.
Thorp and other administrators failed to force Davis to kick players off the team who have both taken loot and cheated in the classroom. Thorp and other administrators refuse to release records to provide a complete accounting of who gave players improper benefits and refuse to say how much Davis personally paid the tutor who helped players cheat.
Apparently, there is still stuff to hide over on the hill.
So, there was Thorp, defending his coach, giving his trustees the little show that they had requested.
His words were followed by important questions from trustees. “How is this scandal hurting recruiting?” one asked.
Frivolous questions were avoided. No one asked, “Is this scandal staining our overall academic reputation?”
And no one dared asked something as foolish as, “Why are outside experts who look at our situation and who are being quoted in the news media saying that the results are likely to be much more serious than you suggest?”
Why should they ask such questions? The Stepford faculty at the school hasn’t. They just write letters criticizing newspaper editors who do.
And Davis was there. He might be embarrassed. And he’s even taken to wearing Carolina blue lately.
Besides, those 50-yard line tickets are pretty sweet.
So, let’s get back to the original question.
Does Thorp really believe that Davis, a man who once talked about how close he was to his now-resigned former assistant/chief recruiter/agent runner, didn’t know about his dear friend’s ties to a sports agent? Does he believe that Davis bears no responsibility when nearly 20 percent of his scholarship players have cheated in the classroom and/or taken illegal benefits?
Or is it more likely that Thorp has his marching orders from his bosses on the board of trustees, that they wrote the tune which he sang?
For Thorp, an affirmative answer to any of the questions is problematic.
Eventually, an unvarnished version of the truth will come out. Davis won’t emerge unscathed. Thorp’s words will be dangled in front of him, painting him as a dupe.
If they aren’t really his words, his bosses will know. And they will safely understand that they can use him again to hide their own hand.
What this scandal is really revealing is that a huge leadership crisis exists at the state’s flagship university.
Scott Mooneyham writes about North Carolina politics for the Capitol Press Association.