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August 8, 2011Tar Heel Illustrated had a chance to speak for a few minutes with North Carolina baseball coach Mike Fox following the announcement of Butch Davis's firing and athletic director Dick Baddour's decision to step down after 45 years at the University of North Carolina.
"It just hurts that there's attention on UNC that's negative, because I think there's so many positive things about Carolina and our athletic program," said Fox, who earlier this summer led North Carolina to its fifth College World Series appearance in the last six seasons.
"Football is obviously important to our University and our athletic program, and I hate to see that we're having to deal with this."
Fox expressed a high level of loyalty to Baddour, the man who brought him to Chapel Hill.
"I think the world of Dick Baddour. He gave me a chance to be at North Carolina. He's a great person, great administrator, great boss," he said.
"I think Dick's a great man, and I could tell that when I first met him. To me, that's his greatest quality is he's a man of integrity and truth and honesty. Besides the fact that I think personally he's a terrific administrator. He's been very good to me."
"He hired me. He gave me a chance to be here---a relative unknown from my background---and I have the utmost respect for Mr. Baddour," Fox continued.
"I'm sad for him and his family, but how do you measure what a person has meant to a place where he's served for 45 years in almost every capacity possible? That would be hard to say, but I can imagine it would be quite remarkable."
Fox says that he, like most everyone else, didn't have any advance knowledge of Davis's firing---the news that has blindsided the UNC football community and has struck a nerve in a lot of different directions.
"I did not know (ahead of time about Coach Davis). I heard speculation, like maybe others," he said.
But coming from a coach's perspective, Fox is hopeful to see UNC's football players rise up from all this turmoil, face it head-on, and use it as motivation.
"I think this is a blow to them (the football players), but speaking for our (the baseball) program only, kids respond. They're resilient. They respond in a way that surprises you sometimes, especially athletically and competitively," Fox said.
"I think this football team, if they have some leadership in the locker room which I think they do---I hope they do---then they'll respond like they did last year. They'll use this as fuel."
"I just know that the 18 to 22-year old student-athletes who love to play and love to compete, I think when they get out there, I think that's what they're going to do," he added.
Although the circumstances were quite different than what's currently facing the football team, Fox saw his own baseball team this past spring emerge in a way that surprised a lot of people.
Coming off a down 2010 season that ended UNC's four-year run of College World Series appearances, the Tar Heels had plenty of doubters this past spring.
But that group of players---a talented combination of youth and experience---came together to produce one of the better Diamond Heel squads of the recent era and another trip to Omaha.
"It's very similar to my team last year," Fox said. "I think that's what teams do. They face some adversity and everybody's counting them down and out, and they respond accordingly. And I hope and I bet we see that in our football team this fall."
Fox says that he hasn't had to do a whole lot of defending of UNC to outsiders, and he believes that its just a matter of time before the University moves forward with its reputation fully intact.
"I haven't had to speak to that too much (having to defend UNC), thank goodness," he said. "I don't feel that I have to defend the University of North Carolina. I don't know that our reputation has ever been at stake. I just think this is something that could happen on any campus, and we will move past it. I think we will be better off because of it."
"It's just happened to us, and it's shocking because UNC has been the leader in being able to balance athletics and academics in such a positive and great way---we've been one of the leaders---but it's happened to us and we have to deal with it and we'll be better off for it, I think," Fox continued.
"We're going to have to be forthright and we're going to have to face the NCAA mandate and we're going to have to be truthful and honest and just face things head-on."
"I think we'll come through this bigger, better and stronger," he added. "I think the question is how long is that going to take and when that's going to happen, but I think that has to be the guiding force behind it---we live, we learn, and we come through this better for it."
North Carolina is currently looking at not only hiring a new Athletics Director, but also potentially a head coach shortly thereafter. Fox expressed confidence in the process.
"I knew from the very beginning that the one thing this University was going to do was they're going to do it right. UNC is known for making every effort to do things right. And even though we're dealing with something that's obviously is not good, when you face it, we're going to have to face it the right way," he said.
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