RALEIGH, N.C. — In a panel discussion Monday about public records, Dick Baddour, former UNC director of athletics, and Jon Sasser, attorney for former UNC football coach Butch Davis, joined journalists and other lawyers in laying out their takes on the news media's investigation of the Tar Heel football program.
Academics and journalists gathered Monday at the McKimmon Center at North Carolina State University to mark "Sunshine Day," an annual look at public records law and open government.
Baddour opened by distancing himself from his former job, telling the audience that he was speaking only for himself and not on behalf of the university. Moderator Debra Morgan, of WRAL News, pointed out that Sunshine Day organizers invited UNC to send a representative and leaders there declined.
The former AD stood by the university's decision to stall and resist when asked for records including phone calls to and from Davis and student-athlete parking tickets. He said UNC leaders were committed to perfect compliance with the NCAA investigation, and that forced them to remain silent on some issues.
Davis' representative said the release of his phone records had subjected the former coach to hassling phone calls and forced him to change his phone number.
Davis continues to suffer from his connection to the NCAA allegations against the Tar Heels, his lawyer said, despite being exonerated of any wrong-doing. Sasser said his client has been unable to get a coaching job. "There's still so much pollution out there in social media that it's hard for the truth to get out," he said.
Sasser also explained the competitive advantage of keeping the work of coaches – in recruiting and game plans – hidden from the public.
Media lawyer Amanda Martin countered that Davis' problems were of his own making. "Coach Davis could have avoided all of this if he had given his personal number to his friends and his work number to his work colleagues," she said.
"I don't think the second cell phone is necessarily the answer," Baddour countered.
Davis was fired and Baddour retired from UNC as scandal swirled that football players accepted gifts, trips and cash and were registered for classes that never met. The university, in a series of internal and external investigations, has said that the problems with changed grades and no-show classes were limited to one department and did not benefit student-athletes any more than other students.
UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, who has said he'd leave Chapel Hill later this spring, was in attendance, but he declined the opportunity to address the assembled crowd.
"I think now it's time to move on," Baddour said.
The keynote speaker for the day was Lucy Dalglish, the dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.
The program was sponsored by the Sunshine Center of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition and hosted by North Carolina State University Student Media.