Butch Davis Fired: How Will North Carolina Football Fare in 2011?

Danny Flynn@FlynnceptionSenior Analyst IJuly 27, 2011

North Carolina fired head football coach Butch Davis, as an ongoing investigation into the program continues
North Carolina fired head football coach Butch Davis, as an ongoing investigation into the program continuesStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

It’s been about a year since the North Carolina agent scandal first broke last summer, and the day has now finally come for head coach Butch Davis to pay the price.

Today, North Carolina announced that Davis had been terminated after a year-long investigation into the football program’s agent and academic scandals.

The university higher-ups couldn’t have been very pleased with all the negative publicity Davis and his team brought upon the school, and they ultimately decided it was time for a change.

The timing is a bit curious, considering the Tar Heels kick off the season against James Madison on Sept. 3.

After a disappointing 8-5 campaign last season, North Carolina has enough returning talent to be a factor in the ACC Coastal division this year, but you have to wonder how the loss of Davis will affect the team’s collective psyche.

As evidenced by last year’s turbulent season, this is a team that obviously knows how to deal with adverse conditions.

North Carolina has some solid veterans who can provide senior leadership, so a sudden coaching change may not be all that earth-shattering. This coaching move will probably cool the public’s expectations for North Carolina this season, but there’s still a strong possibility that this team can contend for a conference crown.

The Tar Heels should have one of the country’s top defenses led by a defensive line that is loaded with three future pros, ends Quinton Coples and Donte Paige-Moss and tackle Tydreke Powell.

The suspensions of Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin allowed Coples, Paige-Moss and Powell to receive significant playing time last season and they proved to be quite an overwhelming front line.  

The offense will have to break in new QB Bryn Renner, but don’t be surprised if the sophomore signal-caller turns out to be one of the breakout players in the ACC this season. Renner’s got the skills to be special; he just doesn’t have a whole lot of game experience on his resume yet. He’ll have a terrific trio of receivers to throw to with Dwight Jones, Erik Highsmith and Jheranie Boyd.

With so much talent on defense and so much potential on offense, this is a team that should in no way be thinking about waving the white flag right now just because they lost their leader—if you can even call Davis that after all of these allegations and rumors.

Remember, if there’s one thing Davis could do right, it’s recruit.

He brought that old Miami mentality to Chapel Hill, and he ended up with a roster ripe with future pros and quality depth. There’s a reason North Carolina had nine players picked in the 2011 NFL draft.

Davis may have lacked control of the players that were actually on campus, but he excelled at promising young star high school recruits an awful big future and convincing them of that future.

Sadly for Davis, he won’t be on the sidelines anymore to see his recruiting gems blossom into highly coveted pro prospects.

Davis won't be sitting at Quinton Coples’ table in next year’s draft green room. He won’t get to sing the praises of senior receiver Dwight Jones at the team's award dinner. And he won’t get the chance to guide QB Bryn Renner on a path to stardom.

Davis lost all of those opportunities right when he lost control of his team.

Some coaches can promise you the world, but they lack the proper authority to make sure you don’t blow that world up. That's what separates the great head coaches at big schools from everybody else in their profession.

Davis lacked that authority, and now his world’s been blown to pieces because of the ongoing actions of the talented but not-so-NCAA code-loving players he brought into town.

After stops in Dallas, Miami and Cleveland, Davis will now leave his latest job with his head held low.

The North Carolina football program almost has a greasy kind of film covering it now, and it’s all because of what occurred under Davis’ watch.

If none of this ever came to light, I firmly believe the North Carolina Tar Heels would have come into the 2011 season as defending ACC champions, ready to make a run at a national title.

And now, I don’t know.

At this point, since camp hasn't even started yet, it’s tough to tell what the mood around the team is.

We know the talent is certainly there—we have Davis to thank for that. But we’re left wondering if the team's heart and desire still remains, and unfortunately, we have Davis to thank for that as well.