North Carolina football killed Butch Davis. Not the other way around.
Sure, Davis is to blame for allowing the program to go rogue on his watch but that's part of my logic. A coach successful enough to get to the highest level of the NFL, a man diligent enough to bring Miami back from the brink of scandal in a relatively short amount of time, a man who then basically delivered Miami a national championship, caved.
He caved because he knew North Carolina was not your normal salvage job. Even in the mediocre ACC, North Carolina's football mediocrity stood out. The last coach to win 10 in Chapel was the first to do it in 16 years. Mack Brown got the hell out 14 years ago because he knew it couldn't last. Butch Davis took the job because he was the latest in a line to believe he could make a difference.
But knowing the history of North Carolina football Davis was desperate enough to hire John Blake, a guy he had known for 30 years. That's what makes the events of Wednesday even more tragic. It wouldn't have taken much because Carolina fans don't demand much.
That was Davis' greatest mistake. He should have known better. He didn't have to hire Blake, the coach by his notorious nickname "Black Santa". Davis knew Blake's recruiting coordinator's rep. Hell, it looks like he hired Blake because of the dark side of that rep.
Davis ultimately concluded that Blake is what Carolina needed because it's Carolina. There are reasons why the administration failed time after time to get it right, why a school with a glorious athletic tradition elsewhere has averaged 5 1/2 football wins since 1998.
It was all there in front of Davis and he was getting close. A BCS bowl was possible, dangling out there in a league that is still waiting to be taken over by Florida State and Miami. Once again, it wouldn't have taken much: All Roy Williams needed was a football program his hoopsters could be proud of.
But John Blake? Really? The guy was apparently funneling players to an agent. Wasn't he making enough money as associate head coach at Carolina? Unlike Ohio State, Carolina got out ahead of this thing for the moment with Blake's forced resignation in September.
You will read elsewhere about how the school has handled the investigation and the timing of the firing but those are just details at this point. Davis' job security has been a topic for months. It matters that the move comes 5 1/2 weeks before kickoff but only if you believe that Carolina is going to get anyone of substance with the NCAA ready to clamp down. That has been a threat for months.
Now we just add Davis to the list of college coaches who are radioactive at the moment: Jim Tressel. Gary Barnett. Mike Leach. These guys would all be great replacements for Davis if they weren't, like him at the moment, unemployable at the college level. Welcome to 21st century college athletics.
Yes, there are other aspects to this story. Davis deserved to be fired because he let the program crumble underneath his feet. The tutor thing is just incomprehensible. It looks like the players were running the program. For all of those in deep thought about the cost-of-attendance issue, ask yourself if $200 a month would have kept some of those entitled Tar Heels happy. It probably wouldn't have paid for a couple of Greg Williams' tickets.
Tie it up in a big Carolina blue bow and the football program resembles Miami at the moment. That would be the program Butch Davis inherited in 1995, not the one he passed on to Larry Coker in 2001.
Renegade-to-renewal never works in reverse.
North Carolina coaching candidates
Before proceeding, let's make sure we're all on the same page here. It would be foolish for any of these coaches to the job right now. Expect Carolina to name an interim -- offensive line coach Sam Pittman was just bumped up to associated head coach. That guy will have to shepherd the program through the Oct. 28 infractions committee hearing. After THAT, comes the penalties perhaps early next year.
So before going all Malzahn or Mullen, consider that the program is most likely going to have its legs chopped off. Still ...
Mike Leach: If Carolina is looking for a proven academic head coach, he's their guy. Leach graduated 80 percent of his players at Texas Tech. It's interesting that Leach's lawsuits and the NCAA penalties could be finalized at the same time. Someone call Match.com.
Bill Cowher: Just keeps getting better with age, by sitting out. Cowher was Urban Meyer before Urban Meyer, content with spending time with his family. Doubt he would want to take on this burden.
Phil Fulmer: Proven. Rested. Ready. Age is a factor. Fulmer will be 61 on Sept. 1.
Gus Malzahn: Hey, he considered bumblin', stumblin' Vandy why not a crippled Carolina?
Dan Mullen: No way. His career is taking off. Why run it into the ground?
Rich Rodriguez: If it weren't for the NCAA violations at Michigan, this would be intriguing.