In my column Saturday, I wrote there were more similarities than differences in two prominent personnel cases at UNC involving Butch Davis, the football coach, and Bonnie Yankaskas, a cancer researcher. Here are the similarities:
1. Each leader was well regarded by his or her employer.
2. A person who reported to the leader erred in a significant way, causing a major problem and embarrassment to UNC. (The football team had other problems related to players accepting benefits and academic misconduct.)
3. There is no evidence that either leader knew of wrongdoing.
4. Each leader said he or she was ultimately responsible. But each blamed the person who reported to him or her (associate head coach John Blake and the IT person assigned to the cancer-research project).
5. There were systemic problems that contributed to the problems. For football: Agents are widespread and have gained great influence and access. For research: A faculty committee said principal investigators like Yankaskas didn't have the right relationship with technology-security specialists.
Chancellor Holden Thorp said there were significant differences in the cases:
1. There was no evidence Davis was negligent. My view: This is perhaps the key question in each case and the most difficult to resolve. Reasonable people can disagree as to whether Davis or Yankaskas were negligent or the degree to which each was negligent.
2. Former associate coach John Blake's acceptance of money from an agent was personal, while the problems in the cancer-research case were professional. My view: Blake's misdeed was professional. The N&O has presented strong evidence that Blake called the family of a top football prospect and then immediately called the agent. Another news outlet has reported that Blake recommended the agent to another prospect. Blake used his role as an assistant football coach to try to help the agent.
3. The football investigation continues and the Yankaskas investigation is complete. "We don't have any evidence that Butch Davis was negligent," Thorp told me. "If facts of that kind emerge, we'll deal with them. People have been looking for a long time and haven't found them." --John Drescher