Butch Davis

Holden Thorp sends e-mail explaining decision to fire Butch Davis

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And considering the UNC Chancellor did it with fall camp right around the corner, he probably does have some explaining to do.

In a letter sent to UNC students and faculty, Thorp explained his reasoning behind letting Davis go after giving what seemed like a year-long vote of confidence. You can read the letter below, but it really doesn’t deviate too much from Thorp’s explanation a week ago during a press conference.

Thorp continues to push that this was not a “one incident” decision, but rather a “cumulative effect”. But it seems pretty clear that Thorp was waiting for the results of the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations before making a decision.

Here’s the letter:

Dear Carolina Colleagues and Students:

My decision last week to ask head football coach Butch Davis to step
down was difficult. I think it was the right decision, and I wanted to
let you know why I made that call.

Throughout the NCAA investigation of our football program, I said that
we would take all accusations seriously and that we would face issues
head on. We apologized, and we pledged that the athletic department and
the University would be stronger as a result of the investigation. We
have cooperated fully with the NCAA and we have moved deliberately,
resisting the urge and pressure to make snap judgments.

Early on, I thought that it was important to support Coach Davis and to
allow time for improvements in the football program. But in the past few
months, I became increasingly concerned about the damage being done to
our University’s integrity. When we received the NCAA letter of
allegations a month ago, I began to think about the need to make a
change. After 50 years without any major violations, we are now facing
nine allegations. And there are persistent questions about our
commitment to academic integrity. In the final analysis, there wasn’t
any one thing that tipped my decision. It was the cumulative effect of
the football-related events of the past year on the University’s
reputation. The only way to move forward and put this behind us was to
make a coaching change to restore confidence in the University as well
as our football program.

The difficulty of my decision was compounded by cost (up to $2.7 million
under the terms of Coach Davis’ contract – all of which will come from
the athletic department) and timing (just before the start of training
camp for the team). But the reputation of this University and the
integrity of our football program have a value beyond any dollar figure
or any timeline disruption. I am committed to maintaining our standing
as one of the top public universities in the nation – both in academics
and in athletics.

Athletic Director Dick Baddour and I named Everett Withers, a member of
the current staff, as the interim head football coach. His top priority
is to help our student-athletes succeed on and off the field and in the
classroom. Dick also announced his decision to step down as athletic
director before his planned retirement later this year. He offered to
leave his job sooner because he feels strongly that our ability to
recruit a new head coach depends on having a new athletic director in
place to make that hire. I agree with that and reluctantly accepted
Dick’s offer. He will serve out his contract through next June, but will
step aside and assume other duties when a new athletic director arrives.
Right now, we’re putting together our response to the NCAA that’s due on
September 19. Then we’ll go before the NCAA infractions committee on
October 28. We need Dick Baddour with us when we go to Indianapolis to
meet with the NCAA. There is no other person I would rather have by my
side than Dick.

One additional issue requires attention this year. I’ve talked to
several faculty members recently, including new Faculty Chair Jan
Boxill, about the role of the Honor Court. Jan has agreed to pull
together a group of respected faculty members who will help us consider
changes or improvements to the honor system. We have a long tradition of
a strong student-run Honor Court, and of course, we’ll involve students
and Student Government representatives in our analysis. Regardless of
the situation with football, it just makes good sense to seek ways to
improve our commitment to honor and integrity.

I hope you’ll continue to support our student-athletes and the Tar Heel
football team. They will play their hearts out, just like last year.

Thanks to those of you I’ve heard from on this issue since it began.
I’ll share more updates as developments warrant. In the meantime, best
wishes for a great fall semester.

Sincerely,

Holden

Temple adds recent NFL assistant, long-time college coach

MIAMI - 2009:  George DeLeone of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
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With the Cleveland Browns (again) changing regimes, George DeLeone found himself on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  A couple of weeks later, DeLeone is back on the inside, and in a familiar locale at that.

While the school has yet to officially confirm it, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that DeLeone has been added to Matt Rhule‘s coaching staff at Temple.  Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com subsequently confirmed the report.

According to both outlets, DeLeone will serve as the Owls’ running-game coordinator.

The past two seasons, DeLeone worked as an assistant line coach with the Browns.  Prior to that, however, the vast majority of his 46-year coaching career had been spent at the collegiate level.  And a sizable chunk of that time was spent in the Northeast.

DeLeone’s first FBS job came at Rutgers from 1980-83.  Two different stints at Syracuse (1985-96, 1998-2004) were sandwiched between his the job at the NFL level with the Miami Dolphins (1997).  Temple was his home from 2006-07, and then UConn from 2011-13 before the Browns called.

Demoted by BC, Todd Fitch takes over as LaTech’s OC

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach Skip Holtz of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs objects to a call during the first half of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 19, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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A promotion in 2015 was quickly followed by a demotion a year later for Todd Fitch.  Not long after the latter went down, Fitch left town for a fresh start to his coaching career.

Friday, Skip Holtz announced that Fitch has been hired as his offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech.  Additionally, Fitch will serve as the wide receivers coach for the Bulldogs.

Fitch had spent the past three seasons at Boston College, first as receivers coach and passing-game coordinator in 2013-14 before being promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2015.  However, BC head coach Steve Addazio announced in mid-January that he had hired Scott Loeffler as his coordinator, effectively demoting Fitch back to receivers coach.

Three weeks later, Fitch headed south.

“I am excited to be joining a staff that is part of growing something special,” Fitch said. “This coaching staff has laid the groundwork for a program that has already done some great things and is building a foundation for future success. I am excited for the opportunity to be on a staff with Skip Holtz again and to keep growing this program.”

In addition to BC, Fitch had also been a coordinator at East Carolina and USF. Holtz was the head coach at both of those stops.

San Jose State QB Malik Watson latest to take grad transfer route

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  The San Jose State Spartans marching band plays their fight song against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the second quarter on November 29, 2013 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California.  The Spartans won 62-52.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a college football player has decided to ply his final season of college football wares elsewhere.

The latest to take that tack is Malik Watson, who announced via Twitter that he has “decided that I will not be returning to San Jose State for my senior and will be seeking elsewhere to pursue my dream.”  As Watson will graduate from SJSU this May, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2016 if he lands at another FBS school and enrolls in a grad program not offered at his former school.

Watson added that, as he awaits a new destination, he “will continue to train with my private QB coach in this meantime.”

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A California high school product who was born in Hawaii, Watson transferred from the junior college ranks to SJSU in 2014. After redshirting that first year, the 6-3, 208-pound Watson played in two games as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart.

In that time, Watson completed 9-of-15 passes for 59 yards and an interception. Of the 15 attempts, 14 came in the Week 3 loss to Oregon State.

Illini grad transfer T.J. Neal to visit WVU, Auburn

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMPER 27: Linebacker T.J. Neal #52 of the Illinois Fighting Illini arches of running back Ameer Abdullah #8 of the Nebraska Cornhuskersduring their game at Memorial Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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T.J. Neal does not yet know where he will continue his collegiate career, but it appears the linebacker has significantly narrowed the field.

A little less than two weeks ago, Neal, after being told by the coaching staff that they were planning to move him from middle to strongside linebacker, decided to transfer out of the Illinois football program.  As he will be a graduate transfer upon earning his degree in May, Neal will be eligible to play at another FBS program in 2016.

Enter West Virginia and Auburn, two teams which have been in contact with Neal and vice versa.  According to al.com, Neal will visit Morgantown this coming Monday, then head to The Plains a week later.

Upon the announcement of an impending departure, Illini head coach Bill Cubit said the Pennsylvania native “was talking about playing closer to home.”  Even as a move to Auburn would be the exact opposite of that, Neal seems genuinely excited over the prospects.

“Being able to play down there in Alabama, it’s like a dream come true,” Neal told Brandon Marcello of al.com. “From my high school, I never thought I’d play at a big-time school like Auburn. To have a chance now, it’s exciting to play against some of the top players in the country.”

According to blueandgoldsports.com, Penn State and Pittsburgh are/were also in play. It’s unclear if he’s visited or plans to visit those schools in his home state, although it was originally thought that the Nittany Lions could be high on Neal’s to-do list.

Not only is Neal a native of McKeesport, Pa., but Tim Banks, the Illini’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach the past four seasons, left in December to become the Nittany Lions’ coordinator.  PSU has also seen a pair of linebackers, Troy Reeder and Gary Wooten Jr., transfer out this month, meaning the opportunity for a starting job would certainly be on the table.

Regardless, Neal expects to make a decision shortly after the Feb. 15 visit to Auburn. He would then enroll in his new school of choice shortly after his graduation from Illinois.

Neal was a two-year starter for the Illini who finished second on the team in tackles (109) this past season.  He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten for his play in 2015.