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.