LSU on Media's Back Burner

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Butch Davis's media availability on Thursday afternoon at the Navy Practice Field made it seem as though Saturday night's game against LSU was more than two days away.

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BUTCH DAVIS
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It may as well have been a month away, judging by the media's line of questioning.

A horde of roughly 20 media members asked questions about the two-pronged investigation for a solid six minutes at Navy Fields, while Davis toed the company line in refusing to speculate on the review.

When asked if he had an update, Davis responded, "I don't – I wish I did."

To be fair, it's not as though the reporters could focus on much else. With numerous Tar Heels in limbo for Saturday's Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, it's nearly impossible to write about potential matchups with the Tigers. Even during Davis's radio show on Wednesday, the fourth-year UNC head coach talked about the offensive line, injured players and little else.

One of the first questions of the day revolved around an ESPN report suggesting that as many as 16 players could be sidelined against LSU.

"It's total speculation," Davis replied. "I know our administration is working very diligently to have a lot of conversation with the NCAA to try to come to some kind of resolution on the matter. And as quickly as they do, then we'll know a lot more."

When asked if 16 was a ridiculous number, Davis responded, "Again – it's something that you just can't comment on."

The team bus leaves the Kenan Football Center at 9:30am sharp on Friday, leaving precious little time for the NCAA to provide a response as to which players will be cleared to play. Davis provided some details as to the requirements for actually boarding the bus and for when the final word may ultimately come down.

"The No. 1 key thing is participation in the game," Davis said. "If there's any clear indication that anybody is not going to be allowed to play in the game, then they won't travel. [Dick] Baddour also said in the statement the other night that it's conceivable that we might not know the resolution on some of these, if any of them, until the middle of the afternoon on Saturday. We're making contingency plans for a variety of different things."

If there can be a silver lining to a NCAA investigation, it's that North Carolina's coaching staff has worked since the spring to give the second- and third-team players a larger percentage of snaps in hopes of building depth. While there's no doubt that this situation has been brutally tough on the Tar Heels, Davis is proud of their mental approach over the past month.

"I like the way that they practice," Davis said. "It has put them to a challenge for guys to assume roles that maybe they haven't played before. The kids are pretty resilient and they're excited about playing. Some of the guys that are going to play maybe bigger roles than they thought they were going to play are equally as excited.

"I think all of the kids that are in this program came here because they wanted to play and wanted to play in big games and so they're certainly going to get their opportunity."

And while this NCAA investigation has led to sleepless nights and graying hair for plenty of Tar Heel fans, Davis provided some perspective when asked if this review has been the worst development that he has even encountered in his coaching career.

"Obviously, there's been an awful lot of things that we've had to deal with," Davis said. "People have asked if this is the most tragic stuff [in my career], and it isn't. Unfortunately, I've been in some situations that were unbelievably more tragic than this that involved the safety and lives of other kids. But it hasn't been easy."



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