Maybe It's Time for Butch Davis to Go

North Carolina nearly pulled off an amazing win over Louisiana State this weekend, losing to the Tigers 30-24 when a Tar Heel receiver dropped what would have been the game-winning pass in the end zone as time expired. Replays showed that a Tiger defender probably should have been called for pass interference on the play.

Chaz Misenheimer and I watched the LSU-UNC football game Saturday night at his home in Richfield. It was the kind of game that should have had us on our feet and screaming, especially when UNC staged a remarkable second-half comeback that put them within a questionable officiating call of winning the game.

At halftime, it looked like UNC was going to get blown out by LSU, a Southeastern Conference powerhouse that won a national championship just two years ago. Carolina trailed 30-10, and was playing like a clumsy, poorly coached high school team. Two or three times, the center and quarterback couldn't even execute the snap, resulting in a fumble that was recovered by LSU. And on one play when quarterback T.J. Yates was standing in a shotgun formation in his own end zone, the center snapped the ball past his ear and out of the end zone when Yates wasn't expecting it.

Yet the Tar Heels still made a game of it. Despite Carolina's remarkable second-half performance, however, I watched the game quietly, but it wasn't because I was indifferent to the outcome. I was subdued because what I feared would happen when UNC hired Butch Davis as head football coach in 2007 apparently has come to pass. The NCAA is investigating the Tar Heel football team for possible rules violations. Carolina's near-miraculous comeback against LSU is even more amazing when you consider that more than a dozen players -- including most of their starting defensive team -- were held out of the game because of the investigation.

Three years ago, I made a blog post titled "Go Tar Heels -- I Think," At that time, Davis was in the news because he was expected to bring a "new culture" to Carolina's football program. Presumably, that new culture involved putting the football program on an equal footing with its stellar basketball program. Tar Heel basketball teams have won six national championships without even a hint of NCAA violations.

In that 2007 post, I wondered whether Davis -- who had a 71-38 record and three Big East championships at the University of Miami -- could steer clear of NCAA violations and build a national powerhouse football team at a university that takes academic standards seriously. Among the possible violations being investigated by the NCAA is an allegation that an academic tutor may have improperly helped some football players write term papers.

To their credit, UNC officials prohibited the players being investigated by the NCAA from playing in the LSU game. They probably forfeited a huge win by doing that, because if those players had been in the game, they probably would not have made the mistakes their inexperienced substitutes made that gave LSU at least 16 points.

UNC is one of the best public universities in the nation, and a degree from UNC is a source of pride among its graduates. If the investigation reveals even questionable conduct by Davis in supervising his players, he should be fired. Anything less would cheapen the value of a UNC degree.

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