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UNC fires Davis and it's about time

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The powers that be in Chapel Hill said they would stand by their man in the wake of an ongoing NCAA investigation into improprieties by the football program, but when push came to shove, the school distanced itself from its embattled head coach in an attempt to right the ship.

Relieving Butch Davis of his duties was the proper call, its just the timing of the whole thing that is worthy of some head scratching.

Davis led the Tar Heels to three bowl appearances in his four years at the helm, and last season North Carolina was supposed to vie for the ACC crown. However, 2010 turned into a nightmare for the Tar Heels, who despite winning eight games, suffered weekly NCAA scrutiny for major violations, including academic fraud, agent tampering and impermissible benefits.

Davis found a way to come out of the season unscathed. He also was able to weather the mounting storms as winter turned to spring and spring to summer.

Then there was the NCAA's Notice of Allegations, which was telling to say the least. Still, UNC maintained its allegiance to Davis.

UNC suffered weekly NCAA scrutiny for major violations, including academic fraud, agent tampering and impermissible benefits under Butch Davis.
The university once again showed its unwavering support by sending Davis to Pinehurst this week for the annual ACC Football Media event.

He certainly didn't seem to be a man who thought his job was in jeopardy.

However, just a couple of days later, University of North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp did an about-face and announced that Davis would be dismissed as head coach of the football program.

"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."

Training camp is just a week away, and UNC can't afford to head into the 2011 season as a rudderless ship.

Davis recently promoted Sam Pittman to associate head coach. Making decisions about his staff at this late juncture would seem to be yet another indication that Davis was unaware of his impending doom.

"Sam has done a terrific job building our offensive line over the last four seasons," said Davis. "One of Sam's strengths is his ability to build relationships with people and motivate them to perform at the highest level. Sam also has been one of our top recruiters. He is man of great integrity and is a tremendous representative for the University of North Carolina."

Those are traits desperately needed in Chapel Hill these days. Pittman may be in line for yet another promotion, as it might serve the university best to have him ease right into the title of "interim head coach."

Director of Athletics Dick Baddour knows the time crunch that the university is under.

"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," continued Baddour. "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."

Thorp and Baddour must find a way to bail out a sinking ship. Jettisoning dead weight like Davis was a good place to start.

Jim Tressel didn't survive in Columbus. Bruce Pearl didn't survive in Knoxville. Pete Carroll didn't survive in Los Angeles, although he got out of Dodge just in the nick of time.

Was there any reason to think Davis would survive in Chapel Hill?

Firing Davis was the right thing to do -- but it was also the appropriate response six months ago.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.

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