Butch Davis Gets Canned
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Take all the crazy controversies going on in college football, all the problems, all the silliness, and wrap them up in a nice, neat ball, and you have the North Carolina football program under Butch Davis.
Seriously, UNC, what took you so long?
Davis put together one of the greatest college football teams that no one ever saw. The 2010 Tar Heels had the talent and the ability to not only win the ACC title, but it would've been good enough to be in the hunt for the whole ball of wax. Instead, a slew of suspensions ruined the first half of the year, and a cloud of scandal hung over the program ever since. But instead of coming up with a preemptive strike – like Ohio State did with Jim Tressel's "resignation" - North Carolina showed support for the embattled Davis and let the problems fester. Now there's no wiggle room with the NCAA. Now, North Carolina can't say it did all it could to correct the problem.
In all, 14 players were suspended at some point for issues with agents, alleged academic misconduct, and a slew of other problems. Adding gasoline to the fire, former assistant John Blake was cited by the NCAA for attempting to push players over to an agent, the late Gary Wichard, known as the original Jerry Maguire.
Davis didn't get fired when all of this started to come out, and now, just a few short weeks before the season, North Carolina has to find a new coach and a new direction.
This isn't a shocker in any way. The program almost certainly would've had to cut bait with Davis at some point when the NCAA started turning the screws, but it's odd that it happened so soon after the ACC media days and so soon after Davis accepted blame for the problems and thanks the North Carolina brass for its support.
Now who wants this job?
The NCAA hearing is in October, and no one worth the title of being the North Carolina head football coach is going to have any interest in the gig without knowing what the situation is going to be, but after the recent jaw-dropping handling of Ohio State, anything can happen when it comes to NCAA investigations.
The speculation is that assistant head coach Sam Pittman will be the lame duck in charge when James Madison comes to Chapel Hill on September 3rd, and North Carolina should have a good season on the field. The team is talented, the defense should be terrific, and the schedule is light enough to be in the hunt for the ACC title. So why did it happen now?
Davis was allowed to go through the ACC media days as the North Carolina head coach, and then just like that … he was gone.
And with him, the North Carolina football program for the foreseeable future.
Fortunately, all can be right with the Chapel Hill world if Shabazz Muhammad puts on a Tar Heel Blue hat.
By Richard Cirminiello
What took you so long, Carolina?
In light of the serious allegations being levied by the NCAA, the Tar Heels responded the only they possibly could, firing head coach Butch Davis. North Carolina repeatedly bent the rules, which means Davis was either asleep at the wheel or complicit in the wrongdoing. In either case, he was no longer fit to be the leader of the school's football program. The only curiosity associated with Wednesday's news is the timing.
Why now, a week before the start of fall camp and months after the University could have pulled the plug with just cause? President Holden Thorp unequivocally made the right call, but his timing has put the team in an impossible situation for a second straight summer. Last August, the Heels were forced to adjust to a spate of suspensions on both sides of the ball. This August, they'll be picking up the pieces, with a new leader on the sidelines.
North Carolina clearly needed a fresh start. The current scandal was not going to go away until one of the adults on campus started cleaning house. However, a clear slate should have been sought months earlier, when no more due diligence was needed to figure out where this mess was headed. By having Davis' back for far longer than the coach deserved, the Heels have hamstrung the 2011 edition, and needlessly delayed the search for a successor. Clearly, the coaching staff isn't the only entity fumbling the ball in Chapel Hill these days.
E-mail Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee
Unless it was discovered that Butch Davis used Willie Lyles to solicit $180,000 from T-Town Menswear while getting a tattoo from Cecil Newton, the move to dismiss him now might be the most ill-timed
firing in recent college football history.
At any point during the last 365 days, this move would have been warranted. But today? July 27? A few days after ACC Media Days?
One week before the start of fall camp?
North Carolina might as well just wave a white flag a surrender for a season or four, just to make things clear to the rest of the ACC and country.
"Our academic integrity is paramount, and we must work diligently to protect it," said North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp. "The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change."
Well, no kidding. You didn't see that a year ago?
North Carolina is commonly regarded as a basketball school, and the move to dismiss Davis will undoubtedly send the football program into another tailspin to start the season. It's hard to get rid of the basketball school moniker if your football program is constantly taking three steps forward followed by four steps back.
By Matt Zemek
There's no sense wasting any more breath about it – the simple and obvious conclusions should suffice: North Carolina should have fired Butch Davis as soon as the 2010 regular season ended. July 27 is not the time to fire a coach – only a bombshell development (for a coach who did nothing to deserve a pink slip) would warrant such timing. This program needed to be cleaned up, but the time when housekeeping needs to be tended to is in December, not the week before August camp. What's worth discussing is the fallout from this move.
To some extent (your mileage may vary), the UNC Board of Trustees felt uneasy about keeping Davis on board. To some extent, a sense of panic permeated the program, which didn't want the NCAA to throw the book at the Tar Heels. Those fears were well-founded, but the time to deal with them in an effective manner – a manner the NCAA would respect – had long since passed. You'll recall, of course, that USC didn't push out former Athletic Director Mike Garrett until after the 1965 Heisman Trophy winner had done as much damage as humanly possible.
Will this move bring about a less severe set of sanctions from the NCAA? Possibly. However, in the larger scheme of things, this decision – the right decision made at the worst possible time of year – will have a crippling effect on the Tar Heel football program. Enthusiasm for this season – among fans and players – is close to zero. Then come the NCAA penalties. That's just the beginning, however. Recruits will see this and become skittish (that's a charitable description) about going to Chapel Hill to play football. Coaches won't exactly be inspired to seek the UNC gig, assuming it opens up for a long-term Davis replacement in 2012. Fans, especially season-ticket holders and donors, will not want to pony up to support the program.
This is a train-wreck supreme. Carolina couldn't have punished itself more severely if it tried… all because it failed to do the right thing several months ago.
And oh, as a postscript: That sound you just heard was the combined roar of laughter from Coral Gables, Florida, and Blacksburg, Virginia.