Remember when Steve Spurrier took playful jabs at football programs under NCAA investigation?

Remember the "Free Shoes University" bit?

Hilarious material.

Butch Davis got credit for cleaning up an image mess at Miami.

Today, he is not hirable.

As South Carolina and North Carolina make final preparations for their football season openers, it's been rough on Las Vegas odds makers left to wonder how many players from each team will be suspended.

Spurrier having to put "NCAA" and "rules" and "punishment" into the same sentence on the eve of tonight's home game against Southern Mississippi was like Mr. Rogers cussing.

No wonder the Head Ball Coach has been a bit snappy lately. The sting of this NCAA stuff cannot be overstated. Virtually no coach in the Southeastern Conference has been as successful/baggage-free as the HBC.

He uses the word "impermissible" a lot, usually in reference to mud another program stumbled into while his guys took the cleaner path.

He is understandably proud that all those victories at Duke and Florida and South Carolina came without cheating.

Quicker sand

Sadly, Spurrier is finding out that dealing with questions about agents and hotel bills take precious time away from, say, preparing a quarterback or two to face Southern Miss.

Trying hard to do things the right way and still getting into trouble, that's what will push Spurrier into full-time golf and grandfather life, not losing the Papajohns.com Bowl to Connecticut.

Davis is in quicker sand. Agents. Trips to California. Tutorgate.

At the present rate of allegations and investigations in Chapel Hill, he won't make it to Saturday's kickoff against LSU at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

This was supposed to be a breakthrough year for the Tar Heels, and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game against LSU seemed like a nice opportunity for the Atlantic Coast Conference to make an early splash with a loaded North Carolina defense that has nine returning starters.

Instead, an academic-minded league must apologize for what has gone on at one of its most prestigious institutions. That's why Davis won't last long, not any stigma that comes with losing the Meineke Car Care Bowl to Pittsburgh.

'Fluid' lineups

Two players definitely out for their openers are South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders and North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin, NFL draft prospects tied to an NCAA investigation into alleged agent impropriety and suspended indefinitely by their respective schools.

Austin was suspended Wednesday but not "as a result of the ongoing NCAA review," Davis said in a statement released by the school. Spurrier said something similar about Saunders.

Robert Quinn said this week he has done nothing wrong. The Fort Dorchester High School graduate is a defensive end projected as a top 10 NFL draft pick next April but one of nine players demoted to North Carolina's scout team last week just as school chancellor Holden Thorp announced an academic impropriety probe involving a former tutor who also worked as a nanny for the Davis family.

Quinn told the Daily Tar Heel campus newspaper he worked with the tutor but is not involved in the academic misconduct investigation. He would not elaborate on his depth chart status.

But why ask? Davis is waiting for NCAA and school rulings on various players and said he has "fluid" versions of his starting lineup.

"We're trying to prepare for all scenarios," Davis said Wednesday during the ACC's conference call for head coaches.

At least South Carolina has a football depth chart and, so far, it doesn't include outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Evan Marzilli.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or (843) 937-5593.