Local News

UNC faces reputation repair after football scandal

Posted October 14, 2010

— The University of North Carolina has five fewer men on the roster this season as a result of the ongoing investigation into allegations of agent and academic improprieties. Tailback Ryan Houston was cleared Thursday, but four other players remained sidelined and under scrutiny.

Head coach Butch Davis doesn’t know what, if any, sanctions face his program, but he said other schools that have gone through the process could offer a hint.

“You can certainly look and draw conclusions from Southern Cal, Alabama or any of the other institutions, whether it's in football, basketball or any of the other sports and kind of get a general idea," he said.

He could also look to the other major universities in the Triangle for an idea of the price the scandal will exact on the school’s reputation. Each has learned from a recent experience in crisis management.

Duke University dealt with the fallout from accusations of rape against the lacrosse team in 2006. North Carolina State University saw several high profile resignations in 2009 when the details of the hiring of former first lady Mary Easley became public.

UNC Football Investigation Logo Local universities deal with PR crises

Both universities faced a tough situation that appeared to get worse with each new revelation, said Rick French, chairman and CEO at French/West/Vaughan, a public relations firm with offices in Raleigh, New York and Tampa, Fla.

“The most painful execution is one that comes slowly,” French said.

French believes universities often move too slowly to acknowledge mistakes.

“They don't tend to handle these situations particularly well. They don't get out ahead of the problem.”

French, who advised NFL quarterback Michael Vick during his dog fighting case and Bret Favre about allegations that he sent inappropriate photos to a New York Jets employee, said, “It's pretty simple. Tell the truth.”

Holden Thorp, chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill, had to bite that bullet on Aug. 27. He opened a news conference about the allegations of academic infractions on the football team by saying, “To everyone who loves UNC, I'm sorry for what I'm about to say.”

As UNC leaders urge patience, French argues allowing information to trickle out only fuels negative stories.

“If you go easy on yourself and then it continues to come out, it's a death by a thousand cuts,” French said.

He added that UNC should cut down on self-congratulations.

Dick Baddour, director of athletics, said at that same news conference, “I just feel good about the academic support program.”

UNC President Erskine Bowles has said, “There's nobody prouder of the job we've done since we discovered this.”

“When you say, ‘Look at us. Look at what a good job we're doing managing this crisis.’ The question is, how did you allow the crisis to get to that point in the first place,” French asked.

Until the full story is told, UNC will keep taking hits. Then, reputation repair can begin.

A UNC spokeswoman said Thursday that Thorp and Baddour have been consistently accessible to the media despite constraints because of student privacy laws and the NCAA's decision not to release information.

UNC leaders argue they've done everything possible to get information to the public.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • wildcat Oct 15, 2010


  • acc_blood Oct 15, 2010

    ttc248: As a "not usually a UNC fan" myself, I have to agree with you. One of the things I love about football is that it builds character through adversity more than any other sport, and UNC's coaching staff - and the players - are showing an immense resiliency, especially on the offensive side, which was supposed to be the "weak" part of UNC this year.

    The young men that are representing UNC on the field this year are doing so with aplomb, and it's appreciated by sports fans.

    On another note, I have to say that when you recruit bad eggs (xlation: Marvin Austin), then bad things happen - period. Austin showed ON THE FIELD last year that he is uber-talented and an extremely poor sportsman. That is a badddddd combination when it comes to following rules.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Oct 15, 2010

    I didn't think you were attacking me. I just wanted to make sure you knew I was with you on this.

    This reminds me of a political discussion where people defend the wrongdoing of their party's candidate for the sake of the party. I hate that, too.

  • Objective Scientist Oct 15, 2010

    TBK... hope you didn't think I was "attacking" you in my comments. They were not intended that way, and were more directed at the "head in the sand" syndrome folk.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Oct 15, 2010

    People attack me for calling it like it is. Forgive me for not letting anyone spin their way out of this. And Objective Scientist, you and I both know that there are plenty of good fans that aren't trying to defend what those players and coaches did. I'm addressing the ones that continue to defend them, despite so much overwhelming evidence that disputes their claims.

    Those people are so much more pro-Carolina than I am anti-Carolina.

  • Objective Scientist Oct 15, 2010

    Additional note: I truly appreciate comments such as those of "ttc248". Are there some "rotten apples" in the UNC football basket? Without doubt that is the case... indisputable! Nevertheless, there are FAR more good, decent, hard-working coaches, football support personnel, and athletic administrators at UNC... very honorable people! There are also FAR more players who have attended class, have not succumbed to "short-cuts" to meet class assignments, etc., and who have truly "played their hearts out" (to use a 'time-worn' phrase) in the face of all this adversity. All in all... there is still far FAR more "GOOD" at and about UNC than there is bad!

  • Objective Scientist Oct 15, 2010

    Another note... some point out that the players "flaunted their indiscretions on twitter and thus an investigation was launched" and more or less suggest that "discovery by twitter" is the problem, that UNC would not be under investigation/scrutiny if players had not "twittered". Fact is that there was rule breaking, perhaps even law breaking, going on and I'd prefer that such activity be discovered and brought to an end NOW rather than later. Let's do things RIGHT or not do them at all!

    All the "self-congratulatory" statements made by various UNC folk... was a "turn-off" for me from the beginning. Whether or not a great job has been/is being done in the investigation, or in the academic support program, etc., etc., is not to be judged by those involved in the investigation or support program... or in the athletic program or UNC. That is to be judged by others... otherwise it smells of the "fox guarding the hen house" situation.

  • FedUpAmerican Oct 15, 2010

    Butch... the buck stops with you... period!

  • Objective Scientist Oct 15, 2010

    Several comments to make...

    TBK - "At what point will you Carolina folks stop trying to defend the indefensible?" This may seem "nit-picking", but... not ALL "Carolina folks" are defending the indefensible. Some, many, out of a sense of "loyalty" may be "defending" even though they know it is "indefensible" - and there may be a few who truly have the proverbial "head in the sand" syndrome and actually feel that it is defensible, or at least justifiable in some fashion. Speaking for myself and some Carolina folk that I know... we want this to be a very thorough investigation, turn over "all the rocks" and look very closely under them. Then take steps to reduce as much as possible that this will ever happen again. Some of us are not "defending" any of this "mess".

    More to follow...

  • ncguy Oct 15, 2010

    problem about getting rid of Butch is - who would you get?

    Not many coaches out there right now..

    One name comes to mind-

    Mike o'cain. LOL!