Not many people were surprised at the announcement of defensive line coach John Blake’s resignation on Sunday afternoon. It capped off a hectic weekend for a North Carolina football program swimming in a two-pronged NCAA investigation.
But a detrimental side effect of that decision lies in the fact that UNC will be without one of the most celebrated defensive line coaches in the nation for the remainder of the 2010 season. Make no mistake about it Blake, also known as Black Santa, for his ability to get the best prospects in the country, is one of the best if not the best defensive line coaches in the country. Take a look at the NFL prospects that have left that defensive line in the last four years and are playing in the NFL.
Butch Davis stated that he would probably make a few moves this week to balance out the coaching staff. There will be added responsibility to the coaches already in place and a few coaches will have to move to positions other than those they have coached in the past. The first move will probably be secondary coach Everett Withers leaving the defensive backs to coach the linebackers corps since he already has experience coaching linebackers when he was at Tulane.
According to Inside Carolina, “Art Kaufman, who has also been a defensive coordinator, will assume the role with the defensive line from the standpoint of being able to run the meetings,” Davis said. Helping Kaufman along the front line will be player development assistant Norris McCleary, a former NFL defensive lineman. “He’s worked in our strength and conditioning program,” Davis said. “He’s been a defensive lineman; he played at East Carolina. He came here as a result of his relationship with Jeff Connors.”
These guys may be a temporary fix for the Heels but they are no John Blake. Blake has guys who didn’t start on his teams in years past who have made it to the NFL and they have been successful.
As expected, Davis did not provide much of any insight into his longtime friend’s resignation in the wake of the NCAA investigation on Sunday evening.
When asked why Blake decided to step down when he did, Davis responded, “I really don’t know – I think you would have to ask him that question.”
It is obvious why Blake resigned. It had to be a lot of pressure on him and his family. Hopefully he lands on his feet and things work out for him. It’s just too bad he had to be the first to fall on the sword for the Heels in their effort to ward off stiff penalty from the NCAA.
The attorneys for John Blake confirmed Thursday September 30th that the former associate head coach for North Carolina's football team received payments from sports agent Gary Wichard while Blake worked for UNC.
In a conference call with the News & Observer, Charlotte Observer and the Associated Press on Thursday, William Beaver and Wade Smith, Blake's attorneys, declined to provide details about how many payments Blake received or for how much money.
The attorneys characterized the transactions as loans between friends. They described Blake and Wichard, whose relationship dates back 25 years, as "dear friends," almost "like brothers."
Blake served as UNC's associate head coach and recruiting coordinator from Jan. 2007 until Sept. 5, when he resigned one game into the Tar Heels' 2010 season.
Blake's lawyers said the payments ended around the time Blake began coaching at UNC.
The NCAA is investigating the UNC program for agent-related violations, including if Blake steered players to sign with Wichard. Former UNC defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer, a first-round pick in 2008, is one of Wichard's clients.
Smith said Blake, who coached Balmer for one season, has not recruited clients for Wichard.
"No one ever said to us that he sent any athlete to Gary Wichard and certainly no one would say that he got anything from Gary Wichard in return," Smith said.
You can read into this what you want but either way it doesn’t look good for Blake’s time at UNC.
At a news conference Monday, North Carolina football head coach Butch Davis said he would have fired associate head coach John Blake if he had known Blake had improper relations with agents.
“I can promise you and tell you that if we would have ever known that any of these allegations were absolutely true, Coach Blake would have been dismissed — I would have fired him.”
The statement comes just a day after a Yahoo! Sports story reported that Blake had recommended his agent friend Gary Wichard to Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus and South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders, a violation of NCAA rules. Blake resigned from his position with the football team last month.
“I am very sorry that all of this stuff has tainted the football program and as the head football coach, I take a tremendous amount of responsibility for all of the football-related issues,” Davis said. “I’m the head guy. I’m sorry that it has affected the football program, but I’m going to tell you what I’m more sorry about — I’m sorry that I trusted John Blake.”