Virginia Tech v North Carolina

It’s official: Butch Davis out as UNC’s head coach

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Move over, Jim Tressel.  You have some company in the coaching unemployment line.

Stunningly, unexpectedly and, perhaps most importantly, just 38 days ahead of the first game of the 2011 season, North Carolina has fired Butch Davis, mere days after the now-former head coach expressed gratitude for the support he’s received from the athletic department and university throughout the scandal-plagued last 12 months.  The move came a few hours after rumors began circulating that the would’ve-been fifth-year coach was out.

The press release stated that the decision to dismiss Davis — and the school used the word “dismissed” — was not related to any change in the NCAA investigation, but that it was the result of the cumulative damage to the University’s reputation over the past year.

Additionally, the school has yet to name an interim head coach, although Sam Pittman was promoted to associate head coach.

UNC chancellor Holden Thorp and athletic director Dick Baddour will meet with the media Thursday at 11 a.m. ET to address the stunning turn of events, which comes just eight days before the start of summer camp.

“To restore confidence in the University of North Carolina and our football program, it’s time to make a change,” said Thorp. “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. The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change.”

Thorp said the decision was not related to any change in the NCAA investigation, but that it was the result of the cumulative damage to the University’s reputation over the past year.

“Athletics and football are an important part of this University, and a successful football program is essential to the overall health of our athletic program,” Thorp said in a statement. “That’s why we have to put this behind us and move forward.”

“The last 13 months have been some of the most difficult that anyone associated with the athletic department and football program have dealt with,” Baddour said. “At this time, a decision has been made to change the leadership of the football program to help the entire University community move forward.

“I want to thank Butch Davis and his family for their four-plus years of service and dedication to the University and the Chapel Hill community. My staff and I will work with Chancellor Thorp to transition to an interim head coach as soon as possible. It is critical that we do all we can to help our students and other staff members on the football team since preseason training camp begins in just eight days.”

Davis’ four years in Chapel Hill resulted in an overall record of 28-23 record, including a 15-17 mark in ACC play.  During his time with the Tar Heels, they finished third twice and fourth twice in the Coastal division.

Beyond the subpar record in conference play, Davis’ legacy will likely be the baker’s dozen players who missed all or part of the 2010 season due to the agent/academic scandal that’s plagued the program for over a year.  Additionally, one of his most trusted assistants and his most gifted recruiter, John Blake, resigned last September under a cloud of controversy for his alleged role in the agent side of the scandals.

Matt Rhule adds Texas high school coach association president to Baylor football staff

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This is about as smart a move as Matt Rhule can make.

Baylor’s hiring of Rhule was widely hailed as a masterstroke by the scandal-plagued football program; Wednesday, the coach showed the class he will be bringing to Waco.  The biggest negative to the hire?  Rhule has absolutely no ties to the state of Texas as either a coach or a player.

Friday, Rhule began the process of rectifying the deficit in that area by hiring San Antonio Reagan head football coach David Wetzel to be a part of his BU football staff, the Dallas Morning News confirmed.  Wetzel, who played his college football for the Bears, has been a head coach in the state for two decades, and is currently the president of the Texas High School Coaches Association.

Wetzel has been in the San Antonio area for a dozen years.  Prior to that, he was in the Killeen area of Texas.

The News writes that “Wetzel is not expected to be an assistant coach but will serve in another capacity, such as player development.” While he may have been the first, Wetzel certainly won’t be the last Rhule hire with extensive ties to the state.

Nevada makes hiring of Jay Norvell official

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Nevada athletics
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Less than two days after it was initially reported, Nevada has officially landed its man.

The football program confirmed in a press release Friday Jay Norvell has been selected as the Wolf Pack’s new head coach.  Norvell was one of three finalists for the job, the others being Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin and Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.

Norvell replaces Brian Polian, who “mutually parted ways” with the football program last month after four seasons. This is Norvell’s first head-coaching job at any level.

“I am thrilled to hire Jay Norvell to serve as our head football coach,” athletic director Doug Knuth said in a statement. “Coach Norvell is known throughout college and NFL football as a man of great character and integrity. He is highly respected for his knowledge of the game and ability to teach his players. He has incredible relationships and an army of friends in high school, college and professional football.

“Lastly, and importantly, Coach Norvell is known for his passion and love for his players. He will set a very high standard for excellence and work tirelessly to achieve our goals academically and athletically. I am excited to watch Coach Norvell build Wolf Pack football into a championship program.”

Norvell just completed his first regular season as an assistant on Todd Graham‘s Arizona State coaching staff.  With the Sun Devils, Norvell served as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.

Norvell has spent most of his nearly three decades in coaching at Power Five programs, with stops that included Texas (2015), Oklahoma (2008-14), UCLA (2007), Nebraska (2004-06), Iowa State (1995-97), Wisconsin (1989-94) and Iowa (1986-87).  He also spent six seasons as an assistant in the NFL — 1998-2001 as the wide receivers coach of the Indianapolis Colts, 2002-03 as tight ends coach of the Oakland Raiders.

“I want to thank University president Marc Johnson and Doug Knuth for this tremendous opportunity,” Norvell said. “Our family is humbled and honored to lead the Nevada football program. It is our charge to make this the flagship program of the Mountain West Conference.”

Bovada installs Louisville’s Lamar Jackson as a 1/25 Heisman favorite

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 26:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs  for a touchdown during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Thanks to Louisville bumbling and stumbling its way to two losses to close out the regular season, there were some who thought the race for the Heisman Trophy might be back open after belonging to Lamar Jackson for the majority of the season. While that notion is patently ridiculous, at least one sportsbook is at least considering the far-flung possibility.

Thursday night, Bovada.lv, after a brief shutdown, once again released what will likely be its final set of Heisman odds, with the Cardinals quarterback the overwhelming favorite at 1/25. For you neophyte gamblers in the audience, that means a bettor would need to wager $25 in order to win just $1.

This comes a week and a half after Bovada‘s email release contained the following note where their Heisman odds normally would’ve been: “The Heisman odds are currently off the board as the odds are astronomical in favor for Lamar Jackson. The Oddsmakers are currently in discussions on if they’ll be re-opened.”

The four other finalists, announced over the weekend, were included in Bovada’s latest set of odds.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson 7/1
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield 50/1
Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers 50/1
Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook 66/1

The 2016 Heisman Trophy will be handed out Saturday night in New York City.

Major Applewhite, not Lane Kiffin, named Houston’s head coach

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Houston athletics
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Here’s a stunner.

The past several days, all the signs seemingly had been pointing to Lane Kiffin as the replacement for Tom Herman at Houston. Instead of the Alabama offensive coordinator, however, the football program shocked some by staying in-house.

Friday morning, athletic director Hunter Yurachek announced that UH offensive coordinator Major Applewhite has been named as his new head football coach. This will be Applewhite’s first head-coaching job at any level.

One thing Yurachek noted was Applewhite’s deep ties to the state of Texas, something that Kiffin lacks.

“When we set out on our search for the new leader of our football program, we wanted a coach with great integrity who believed in our mission and truly believed in our student-athlete experience,” said Yurachek in a statement. “We had our sights set on a focused competitor who has demonstrated success and possesses a deep connection to college and high school football in the great state of Texas. As this process was completed, it was clearly evident the only individual to offer our position to was Major Applewhite and he was indeed the right man to lead our program.”

Applewhite has been UH’s coordinator the past two seasons. Prior to that, nine of his first 11 seasons as a coach were spent in the state of Texas, including two separate stints at the University of Texas.

From 1998-2001, Applewhite was a quarterback for the Longhorns.

“My family and I are excited and honored to have the opportunity to lead such a tradition rich program and continue our lives in one of the greatest cities is the nation, a city we love,” said Applewhite. “The student-athletes truly are the backbone of every great program and as they’ve demonstrated over the past few years, we have an exceptional group of young men in our program, and we’ll continue to add men with great character and a competitive drive in our recruiting.

“Living in the best state for high school football is a true blessing and advantage for our program and I cannot be more thankful for the support of our outstanding high school coaches from throughout the state.”

UH defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who interviewed for the position as well, had been named as the Cougars interim head coach. Applewhite, however, will coach the team in the Las Vegas Bowl, with Orlando staying on to coordinate the defense. Whether Orlando will remain on after that remains to be seen, although retaining the coordinator will be a priority for the first-time head coach.

Orlando, however, could follow Herman to Texas when it’s all said and done.