You have to hand it to Holden Thorp and the UNC Board of Trustees. They stood behind Butch Davis for months, passing on every opportunity to fire him, then pulled the trigger only days before practice for the new season begins. It's the right move, but at the wrong time.
Davis had to go. That much had been obvious to neutral-minded people for months. When an oil tanker runs aground, they don’t put the captain in charge of the cleanup. If Davis knew what was going on in his program, with John Blake and Jennifer Wiley and all the agents handing out goodies, that would obviously be bad enough. It’s no less worse that all of this was going on under his nose, with Davis impervious and oblivious.
By firing Davis now, Thorp and the trustees put the players on North Carolina's football team who didn’t do a thing wrong -- the vast majority of the players on this year's roster -- in an almost impossible position going forward.
A coaching change a week before the start of training camp is about as big a negative as you can slap onto a team’s season. It’s an uphill climb for the Tar Heels now, a season in purgatory, and there are a lot of innocent players who already saw last season diminished by the misdeeds of their teammates.
Thorp has had ample reason to cut Davis loose for almost a year, ever since that awkward night he apologized to fans because the investigation had uncovered possible academic fraud and, oh by the way, the tutor we would soon know as the mysterious Jennifer Wiley just happened to have worked in the Davis household. Even the day last month when the NCAA finally got around to handing down its Notice of Allegations would have been a better day.
Let us hope for Thorp’s sake, despite the denial in the press release, that he has access to new information that justifies the timing of this move. Perhaps there was something in the yet-to-be-released records from Davis’ personal phone that made his dismissal imperative, not merely changing dynamics among the trustees, with Wade Hargrove taking over for Bob Winston as board chairman.
Otherwise, the timing of Davis’ firing is as baffling as the long delay in getting to this point in the first place.