Butch Davis, UNC, And A Japanese Plywood Metaphor

In the crazed heat of Japan's economic boom in the 1980s, the plywood sheets lining the walls of construction sites were made not just of any wood, but from tropical hardwoods torn straight from the forests of Indonesia. This has something to do with North Carolina and Butch Davis, we promise. 

The wood that would have gone for huge dollars on the market for use as anything else was instead cut, pressed, and formed into the cheap sheets used to block out windows. After it was used, it went into the garbage with the Fendi bags, unused chunks of $500 a pound fatty tuna, and whatever other expensive goods the Japanese had decided to throw away that day.

Butch Davis had to have the best at North Carolina, and like the Japanese and their thirst for only the finest wood to use for anything, he didn't particularly care how it got there. The illegal logging in this case was done by one John Blake, a recruiter with a terrible reputation before he ever got to North Carolina, and a recruiter who did nothing but get recruits North Carolina was not supposed to be able to sign.

Well, that's not entirely accurate. Blake did more than that. He never really stopped recruiting, not even after the recruits arrived on campus, pushing certain athletes at UNC towards agent Gary Wichard and taking cash from Wichard in return for the lobbying. The cell wall separating college athletics from the professional world didn't have a hole punched in it, but rather had a lovingly constructed swinging gate installed by Blake and Sons Carpentry of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For added spice throw in some academic fraud, and some money flying around to cover parking tickets that no one really wants to track down, and you have a failure to monitor case that could have easily slipped over into "lack of institutional control" territory.

Even if you somehow accept that Butch Davis did not know he'd hired a recruiter with a horrendous reputation, and that he truly knew nothing about Blake's blatant violations of the rules--and improbable as this may seem, that is exactly what the NCAA might do--then you have to move to the next logical conclusion from a survey of the Butch Davis era at UNC. Given fine wood taken from mysterious sources, Butch Davis got out his table saw and made...plywood. Sheet after sheet of steady, boring, and utterly mediocre plywood. The net sum of all this effort and ruthless recruiting? Three straight years at eight wins, a win total often padded by matchups with D-1AA cupcakes, and a 2010 season crippled by the suspension of a slew of players due to the agent contact that got us here talking about all this plywood in the first place.

It's not even the cheating that boggles the mind. It's that UNC, in the end, made so much cheap plywood out of such good materials.

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