The original story line
The competition at quarterback was supposed to be the summer headline for the North Carolina football program — T.J. Yates and Bryn Renner battling it out for the chance to be “the guy.”
But at media day, one week into training camp, Davis’ first mention of the fight at the quarterback position came more than 15 minutes into the press conference.
Yates, a three-year starter who has seen his fair share of ups and downs, was a side note this summer to the NCAA review. The attention given to Austin and Little took away the heat reserved for Yates, similar to when Michael Jackson’s death just days after South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s affair was made public last year.
An NCAA investigation is not what Davis would have picked to upstage the quarterback battle, but he had a lengthy list from which to choose.
Before NCAA investigators Rachel Newman-Baker and Chance Miller sat down with Austin and Little, Davis had two players displaced from their home, a star player arrested and a young defensive tackle running into the law for a second time in two years.
*Problems outside the investigation *
Guns, fire and drugs were the three topics hovering around UNC football in the early summer. Linebacker Kevin Reddick and defensive end Michael McAdoo were displaced from their Farrington Lake apartment on July 10 when a fire destroyed everything they owned.
On June 20, reserve defensive tackle Jared McAdoo was arrested for a misdemeanor weapons charge after bringing a BB gun onto campus.
The offense wasn’t the Chapel Hill native’s first. The misdemeanor came two years after he was arrested on a felony drug count.
Quan Sturdivant had his bout with a drug arrest as well. Two weeks after McAdoo’s citation, the All-ACC senior linebacker was arrested for possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana by Albemarle police. Police arrested Sturdivant at a Bojangles’ near his hometown of Oakboro at 11:15 a.m. on July 10.
The arrest came after Sturdivant’s grandmother died earlier in the summer. Davis said Sturdivant’s grandmother was a big influence on his life. The linebacker lived with her for some time before college.
“It was real hard,” Sturdivant said. “It was tough for me at first, because I lived with my grandmother, so it was tough for me to lose someone real close to me, but it happens, so you’ve just got to move on from it. She’s in a better place.”
When asked about his arrest, for which Davis said he will not suspend the linebacker from the LSU game, Sturdivant said he “just want(ed) to talk about football.”
The coaches were hard at work this summer assisting players with how to handle questions regarding matters off the field. Neither Austin nor Little has been allowed to speak publicly since the investigation news broke — an effort by UNC and Baddour to maintain the integrity of the NCAA review. What was said to the players behind closed doors before the start of training camp was obvious: Talk only about football.
“Right now, we’re football,” senior cornerback Kendric Burney said after the first day of training camp. “It was a great first day, and we’re just out here to compete and have a great training camp and get ready for LSU.”
“We’re really looking forward to the season and that game,” junior defensive end Robert Quinn said.
“They won’t let us talk about (the investigation),” junior running back Shaun Draughn said.
The particulars of the investigation haven’t been discussed publicly, much to the chagrin of all interested parties. Because those involved are tight-lipped, disappointment has set in across the UNC constituency.
“As disappointed as I think a lot of you will be, unfortunately I’m not going to be able to answer (questions regarding the investigation),” Davis said at the Pigskin Preview on July 22. “Anything that leads to speculation would have no point to it today.”
After making his opening statement, Davis was promptly asked two questions regarding the particulars of the investigation — both of which he evaded. He issued a similar statement at the start of the ACC Football Kickoff on July 27, where he again swerved around the first two questions.
When Austin was named specifically in a question at the Pigskin Preview, Davis asked for the next question. The cat had been out of the bag for a week, but Davis refused to acknowledge Austin or Little’s involvement.
He finally broke his silence on the duo after the first day of training camp. He never mentioned either by name, which made his comment more ominous than informative.
“At some point and time during training camp, we’ll have to make a decision on what direction we need to go, but right now we’re just practicing football,” he said.
Indeed, they continued practicing football, but not necessarily together.
Not only were Austin and Little demoted to second string, but once the words “academic misconduct” and “lack of institutional control” were thrown about the room at an Aug. 26 press conference with Baddour, Davis and Thorp, an unspecified number of players began seeing time on the scout team.
Davis received public votes of confidence from both Thorp and Baddour, who essentially told everyone: “We aren’t firing him.” Much like Baddour stepped in front of the barrage of questions about the investigation at UNC’s media day, the Chancellor also shielded Davis from the onslaught of inquiries about the tutor he welcomed into his house who has all but dissolved the team.
Davis’ hair was a bit disheveled and his face projected a red tint, but he was no longer the press conference-opener for UNC. Rather, he was simply a back-seat passenger while Thorp was the driver and Baddour sat shotgun.
No end in sight
He’s still the man in charge of the football team, even if his depth chart is as fluid as he described at his press conference Monday.
The uncertainty at positions — mostly on defense — has likely skewed game-planning for Saturday and beyond. He finally took a step toward arranging his lineup when he suspended Austin indefinitely on Wednesday.
But for as much as Davis has opened up since NCAA investigators came to campus, it seems as though even more about the team has been uncovered. Davis’ progression with speaking on the investigation has had an inverse relationship with how clean the UNC football program appears to be.
And it looks as if there is no end in sight.
“I think it would have been great to put it behind us months ago,” Davis said. “You’d like for it to be a quick review and got some kind of resolution to move on.
“Whatever the results, they’re going to be honest, they’re going to be truthful, the facts are going to be the facts. The truth will always come out. And as soon as that is, then you’re able as a football program, you’re able to move on and deal with it.”
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