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.

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

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Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

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Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.

SEC commissioner confirms graduate transfer rule changes will be discussed at spring meetings

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We’re still over a month away from the SEC’s annual spring meetings down in Destin, Fla. but one item we might be able to confirm is on the agenda will be the graduate transfer rules for the conference.

It’s a hot topic around the league and particularly so at Florida, which is in the mix to land Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire but can’t officially take him due to restrictions from the conference office.

That may change however, as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey confirmed in a radio interview on Friday with ESPN Gainesville.

“It will come up,” Sankey said, according to SECCountry.com. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

At the heart of the issue is a rule that limits schools from taking additional graduate transfers if previous graduate transfers failed to meet academic requirements after enrolling. The move was designed to prevent a number of situations where players would transfer over just to play and not really go through coursework at their new school.

Other NCAA conferences have failed to follow the SEC’s lead in this area however and now the league is being put at a bit of a disadvantage on the graduate transfer market. This is particularly an issue with the Gators this offseason but it seems as though there will be quite the discussion down in Destin among athletic directors and head coaches about changing the rules to be on more of a level playing field with other conferences on this front.