Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The University of North Carolina is an institution that students gravitate towards. With its rich tradition in both academics and athletics, in addition to its beautiful campus, the opportunity to spend one's college years in Chapel Hill is a no-brainer for those who are afforded such a luxury.
Lately, those flocking to the UNC campus are coming less for the aesthetics and more because they work for the NCAA and/or other investigative branches, seeking answers to troubling questions surrounding the football program.
Head coach Butch Davis had been relatively quiet on the subject and when he talked he said all the right things in terms of cooperating with NCAA investigators, letting nature take its course, and allowing the process to work itself out. The bottom line, however, is that this is only going to get worse before it gets any better and it could be a long time before the program recovers.
USC's sanctions for the Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo transgressions could resemble a child being given a 'timeout' compared to what the NCAA might do to the Tar Heels. UNC's punishment could look a lot more like the one handed down to SMU in the mid-80s.
Butch Davis has had to field a team without most of its star power in 2010.
SMU lost its football program altogether in 1987, when the NCAA handed down the unprecedented 'death penalty' on the Mustangs based mainly on the large sums of money in booster payments being funneled into the program. Terms like 'slush fund' were tossed about, adding to the seediness of the situation. SMU was eligible for the dismantling of the program because it had already been placed on probation for prior recruiting violations. It is only recently that SMU football has enjoyed any kind of success, so it begs the question -- was it worth it?
It seems like history may be repeating itself in Chapel Hill, and everyone involved may pay a hefty price.
Davis has had to field a team minus most of its star power in 2010, especially on the defensive side of the ball. All-American candidates Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin, Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams are all central figures in the NCAA investigation. Quinn and Austin may never suit up for UNC again, while Burney and Williams have been handed lesser sanctions.
It starts with accusations of academic fraud, as a former tutor may have done work for players, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Alleged illegal benefits for players like Quinn and Austin linked to a sports agent will keep the two star defensive linemen off the field for the foreseeable future.
Austin, in particular, is being scrutinized for at least five trips in 2009.
A link between former assistant coach John Blake and prominent NFL agent Gary Wichard has been established as well, outside of their known long-standing friendship.
Alleged wire transfers from Wichard's bank (First National Bank of Long Island) to Blake, a personal loan to Blake from the same bank and a credit card issued from Wichard's company Pro Tect Management in Blake's name, add fuel to the fire.
The notion that Blake used his position and friendship with Wichard to funnel talent to the NFL agent was denied by Blake and Wichard initially, but a recent story, alleging that Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus was referred to Wichard by Blake, has fanned the flames.
Where does Butch Davis fit into this whole picture? He may have been completely unaware that his assistant coach/recruiting coordinator was getting paid by an NFL agent, but if that is his defense, does he really belong in charge of a major university's football program?
Davis has come out publicly and apologized for trusting Blake, and went on to state that he would have fired Blake if he had known the allegations were true.
It may be a little too late for a mea culpa on Davis' part. This has taken on a life of its own now and the fate of North Carolina football is now out of the hands of Davis, or the university for that matter.
Where there's smoke, there is usually fire and Chapel Hill is ablaze right now.
The NCAA is not the only investigative body involved, as the North Carolina Secretary of State is now on the prowl as well. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before the NFLPA throws its hat into the ring with a suspension of Wichard.
UNC is trying to circle the wagons, but that probably won't be enough to prevent the inevitable.