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Fourth and Long

There are times when I am glad I write a weekly column instead of a daily one. This is one of those times.

With more time between writing I am more likely to write columns that are well thought out and much less likely to write emotionally driven rants, something I could have easily done last week.

Since then I have had some time to digest the news that the University of North Carolina’s Chancellor Holden Thorpe and its Board of Trustees have dismissed Butch Davis from his duties as head of the UNC football program.

Notice I don’t refer to Butch Davis’ duties as that of just a head football coach because those in the know recognize he was really so much more than just a coach.

Big time college football programs are about more than improving the win-loss record from last year, they are about ensuring success year after year. Big time college football programs require leaders with broad vision and long term goals.

The NCAA investigation into his assistant coach and several of his players seems to have made many people forget just how much the football program as a whole has improved since Butch Davis arrived in Chapel Hill.

To build a big time college football program the first thing you need is alumni that are excited about football. These are the people that give the money to hire the coach and improve the facilities.

In the case of UNC, these alumni and boosters didn’t just “improve the facilities,” at the insistence of Butch Davis UNC now has one of the finest athletic complexes in the country.

Great facilities combined with an improved record combined with a pro-style offense equals great recruits. Great recruits equal superior talent. Superior talent equals more wins. More wins equal bowl games and increased ticket sales. Bowl games and increased ticket sales equal more money. More money means the program not only pays for itself, but funds most of the other sports on campus.

At the end of the day all of this equals happier students, alumni and fans; something UNC had there for a little while. That is, of course, until the NCAA began their investigation.

We did not have a big time college football program when Butch Davis got here. You needed only to look at the top ten list of most every uncommitted recruit in the country to see that as of the day before he was fired, Davis had Carolina well on the way to being considered amongst the nation’s fastest rising programs.

Despite his success and the fact that Davis has never been accused of any wrongdoing whatsoever by the NCAA, he must be held accountable right?

Chancellor Thorpe felt so and because the university has a reputation to protect, he chose to dismiss the man that invited trouble into the program. My sources say he may be right.

Before you jump to Davis’ defense and remind me that he has been accused of nothing wrong, before you lecture me with your ideals about the University of North Carolina being too grand an institution to be dictated by media influence and before you mention words like loyalty and liberty I will ask you to keep one thing in mind.

Davis did bring the excitement, the pro style offense and the influence to force facility improvements which brought the great recruits which increased wins which got brought bowl games which brought more money. My source Biggie said Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems and it appears in this case at least that he might just be right.

Shame on Butch for trying to turn the UNC football team into a great Tar Heel football program. I can assure you that if Holden Thorpe and the current Board of Trustees stay around then nobody with a lick of sense will try that at UNC again.

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publishing. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at dave@gate811.net.