A NCAA investigation has been a dark cloud hanging over Butch Davis and North Carolina’s football team since last season. And North Carolina is ready to make Davis the fall guy. In a bit of strange timing, Davis was fired on Wednesday – less than 40 days before the start of the 2011 season.
University of North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp announced through a statement the coaching change -
"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."
The school is still facing NCAA sanctions as a result of improper benefits and academic issues before last season. The Tar Heels lost several key players as a result of last season’s apparent allegations for all or part of last season, including Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn, Greg Little, Kendric Burney and Charles Brown.
Former assistant John Blake was the center of the NCAA investigation and he resigned in early September. Much of the blame was placed on Blake, and Davis thought he had the support of the North Carolina administration – especially with the season right around the corner.
However, the North Carolina Board of Trustees met on Wednesday and the decision was made to fire Davis. If there were no new allegations uncovered recently, the timing of Davis' firing is odd. The Tar Heels are scheduled to open up camp in early August and the team will have a new coach to adjust to in a short time.
After six disappointing years under John Bunting, Davis was brought in to raise the profile of the football program. Although Davis brought much-needed improvement to Chapel Hill, the program never managed to contend in the ACC Coastal. The Tar Heels have had three consecutive eight-win seasons.
Davis was 28-23 in four years at North Carolina. Before coming to North Carolina, he had a previous stop in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and served as head coach at Miami from 1995-2000.
North Carolina was picked third in the ACC Coastal by Athlon. The Tar Heels were projected to finish 7-5 this year. With a new coach taking over and the NCAA allegations still hanging over the program, 2011 will be an interesting year in Chapel Hill.