Butch Davis

Thorp: Davis’ firing results from a ‘cumulative effect’; AD Baddour to step down

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One day after firing North Carolina head coach Butch Davis, UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp and Athletic Director Dick Baddour held a nearly 30-minute press conference on the decision, as well as the future of the program, both immediate and long-term.

And while it’s crystal clear that it’s Davis who should be the one apologizing for allowing his own program to run unattended like a problem child , it was Thorp who began the press conference with his own apology.

Okay, it was more empathy than apology, but the point was taken.

“To our student-athletes, you have already been through a lot this past year, and I know this is adding to that. I want you to know the university is behind you,” Thorp said. “I know the timing is terrible.”

Indeed it was. North Carolina is on the verge of starting up fall camp, and a program that lost so much talent from last year now has to trudge through what looked to be a rebuilding year with this punch to the gut.

Some media have already prophesied 2011 as a lost season for the Tar Heels. Perhaps it will be, but it’s obvious that Thorp is looking toward greener — or, bluer — pastures. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on Davis when he did.

Carolina is transitioning. The NCAA’s investigation and allegations were going to end in Davis’ dismissal; any other outcome would have resulted in rioting on Franklin Street. The school just swore in a new Board of Trustees, and today, Baddour announced his resignation as athletic director. Baddour’s contract ends next summer, but the 45-year AD asked Thorp to begin a new search for an athletic director who will, in turn, hire a new football coach.

Whether Baddour asked to step down (like he claimed), to which Thorp “reluctantly” agreed, or the other way around, it matters not. UNC is starting new again.

And the first step is finding an interim coach. Baddour said he’s already interviewed candidates and a decision should be coming within the next day or so.

The program also still needs to buyout Davis’ contract, which will be very close to $2.7 million. Thorp said the athletic department — not university subsidies — would pay whatever amount necessary to separate themselves from Davis.

The four-year head coach at Chapel Hill will not be fired with cause. Amazing, considering clauses in Davis’ contract stipulate that he could be fired with cause despite not being targeted in the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations.

“There was no evidence that coach Davis was involved in the allegations,” Thorp said. “This is about a cumulative effect on the university.”

Firing with cause could have could result in a lawsuit from Davis, and at this point, Thorp appears ready to cut his losses and move on.

“This was an athletic issue that began to chip away at our university… there was no one incident that led to the decision,” Thorp explained. “But the reputation of this university has a value beyond any dollar figure.”

Or, apparently, beyond any concept of timing.

UPDATED 2:03 p.m. ET:WRAL Sports has laid out the specifics of UNC’s buyout of Butch Davis. Below is an explanation of that buyout that actually states Davis may not get all $2.7 million:

Coach Davis’ Employment Agreement calls for the University to immediately pay him $270,417. Before the end of the calendar year 2011, the University will pay Coach Davis (a) an additional $13,083, which is the pro rata share of his retention bonus, plus (b) an additional $650,000 in supplemental compensation payments. That’s a total 2011 payment of $933,500.

The University will owe Coach Davis an additional $590,000 each January 15, starting in 2013 and concluding in 2015.

These amounts would be reduced by any compensation that Coach Davis might earn for coaching in a college or professional program.

The maximum total that Coach Davis could receive is $2,703,500.

All payments to Coach Davis will be made by the Department of Athletics. No state funds will be involved.

Greg Ward Jr., to Heisman voters: ‘Psssttt, I’m still here, don’t forget’

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs past Connecticut defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi, left, en route to a 30-yard touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Deservedly so, most of the Heisman focus these first four-plus weeks of the 2016 season has been squarely on Lamar Jackson and the stunningly phenomenal season the Louisville quarterback is putting together. There are others, though, who merit mention.

Case in point? Greg Ward Jr.

In No. 6 Houston’s Thursday night 42-14 romp over UConn, the quarterback completed just over 84 percent of his passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 65 yards and two scores for good measure. The win was the Cougars’ eighth in a row, with the last loss coming Nov. 21 of last year to… these very same Huskies.

On at least one occasion in avenging the loss, though, Ward Jr.’s sterling completion percentage got a little help from one of his receiving friends.

The latest virtuoso performance, which included his third 300-yard passing game of the season, pushed Ward Jr. to 1,503 yards of offense (1,325 passing, 178 rushing) and 13 total touchdowns (eight passing, five rushing) in four games while also battling a lingering shoulder issue. For comparison’s sake, and you know we’re not alone in doing so, Jackson will enter Week 5 with a statistical ledger that’s straight from a teenager’s video game: 1,856 yards of total offense and a ridiculous 25 total touchdowns in his four games.

While it’s still quite a ways down the road, Ward’s Cougars and Jackson’s Cardinals will square off in what’s shaping up to be a monumental mid-November Thursday night game that could go a long way in determining not only the Heisman race, but helping to shape the playoff picture as well.  In between, voters, don’t forget about the kid from Houston.

Report: Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel undergoes surgery, out as long as a month

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Sojourn Shelton #8 of the Wisconsin Badgers, Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers, T.J. Edwards #53 of the Wisconsin Badgers react to a interception during the second half of a game against the USC Trojans in the National University Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Just in time for their toughest stretch of the season, No. 8 Wisconsin may be without one of the team’s most important defensive players.

Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel is set to miss the next several weeks after undergoing surgery to insert a screw in his cracked foot.

“He’s been playing on it for the last couple weeks, and it was bothering him a little bit,” Biegel’s father Rocky told ESPN. “He had X-rays last night and confirmed it was cracked. He either plays on it, and then if he breaks it, then he’s going to be out for eight weeks. Either way, he’s got to have surgery on it. So he can keep playing until it breaks or try to go through the season with it and try to fix it. At any time, he could break it all the way through. It was just a crack and they’re just putting a screw in it. It’s a very, very minor crack.”

No matter how minor it is, losing Biegel for as long as a month is a huge blow to a defense that has been among the best in the country this season. Wisconsin does have a bye week after traveling to No. 4 Michigan on Saturday but also have to play No. 2 Ohio State and division rivals Iowa and Nebraska to close out October.

Biegel has nine tackles on the year and a sack but is among the most experienced players on the team having played in 46 games at Wisconsin, including 32 starts. Redshirt freshman Zack Baun is expected to take his place.

If there is one bright spot for head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox however, it’s that the Badgers’ linebacking corp is one of the best in the country. Still, as good as Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards and T.J. Watt have been this year, they’ll have to step up their games with an imposing schedule coming up.

Houston missing four starters for AAC matchup against UConn

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Duke Catalon #2 of the Houston Cougars runs against Brandon McDowell #6 of the Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).

Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.

Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.

Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett officially withdraws from school

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.

After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.

“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”

Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.

Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.