UNC — finally — fires Butch Davis

About a year after it should have been over, the Butch Davis era came to an end at North Carolina today.

From a news release on UNC’s website (with the understated headline “Carolina Football Makes Coaching Change”):

University of North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp announced this evening that Butch Davis has been dismissed as head coach of the Carolina football program. Davis was informed by Thorp and Director of Athletics Dick Baddour of the decision.

“To restore confidence in the University of North Carolina and our football program, it’s time to make a change,” Thorp said in the release. “What started as a purely athletic issue has begun to chip away at this University’s reputation. I have been deliberate in my approach to understanding this situation fully, and I have worked to be fair to everyone involved. However, I have lost confidence in our ability to come through this without harming the way people think of this institution. Our academic integrity is paramount and we must work diligently to protect it.”

Two thoughts immediately sprung to mind when I saw this:

1) As an N.C. State fan, I’m sad to see Davis go. I was really looking forward to watching Tom O’Brien make it five straight over him this year.

2) What took so long for this to happen?

Over the last 12+ months, the following things occurred in Davis’ program:

  • The NCAA began investigating some Tar Heels, including star defensive tackle Marvin Austin, for allegedly receiving improper benefits from sports agents.
  • UNC started looking into accusations of academic fraud that centered on a former tutor who once worked privately for Davis’ family.
  • More than a dozen players were suspended or benched for a nationally televised game against LSU because of those two investigations.
  • The associated head coach/recruiting coordinator resigned for allegedly taking money to steer players to a sports agent.
  • Austin was dismissed from the team without playing a down all season.
  • The NCAA has charged UNC with nine major violations — which, given the logic of NCAA justice, is saying something.

What smoking gun were Baddour and Thorp waiting for?

It’s not even like this was a Jim Tressel situation. Tressel won a national championship for Ohio State and consistently led the Buckeyes to Big Ten titles. Davis went 28-23 in four years at Carolina, never won more than 8 games in a season and was winless in four tries against the rival Wolfpack. Up until today, UNC’s brass was standing behind a coach who was delivering mediocre results while embroiled in a scandal arguably worse than the one that brought down the coach of one of the most prestigious programs in the country.

Maybe the weirdest thing about all of this is the timing. The News & Observer‘s Luke DeCock called it “the right move, but at the wrong time” — about a week before the start of practice. Along those lines, ESPN’s Pat Forde wrote:

This could have and should have happened much earlier. North Carolina had a dozen compelling and reasonable occasions in its miserable, scandal-scarred past year to fire Davis, and it declined to do so.

I obviously don’t root for UNC’s sports teams, but I could respect the athletics department for running a seemingly clean program. Davis’ tenure has left a huge stain on that image.

(Then again, with all the revelations in collegiate sports over the last year or two, I have to wonder if there is any such thing as a “clean program.”)

By the way, did I mention Davis was 0-4 against N.C. State?

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