And so we begin football season preview time.
Here is a thought I spent most of yesterday pondering. With all of the high profile turnover in D-1 head coaching since 2006, how is it that Butch Davis, a defacto mention in coaching search rumors all over the SEC to ND, WVU, Michigan, and even briefly another stint at Miami, is still working away the years at a basketball school?
Especially when he was able to almost immediately succeed in turning around the fortunes of a program that hadn't seen good days since Mack Brown was the coach (John Bunting's '01 8-5 campaign aside) . And when I say "fortunes", I mean in the broadly defined sense, not tied to actual winning. SEC Bias or not, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who considers the ACC a tough football conference, and Davis has yet to crack the .500 mark in conference since taking over. Not to mention last year's painful -9 yards per game average differential in conference play. (For comparison sake, LSU averaged -33 ypgd in conference last year)
No I mean fortunes as in revitalizing a fan base. In just 3 years Davis has managed to bring up the stature of the football program to the point where games are near constant sellouts and, more importantly, increased booster donations to the point that long delayed facilities expansion and renovation programs are finally getting off the ground.
It's not all pomp and circumstance improvements though. Despite the mid-line success rate on the field, Davis has continued his specialty of creating great defenses. Last year's squad in particular was one of the best in the nation, allowing just a little over 17 points and 97 rushing yards per game. A large majority of that squad returns this year, full of Seniors from his 1st UNC class and plenty of early round draft talent.
So, a talented and experienced coach, doing a fantastic job in building up a program at basketball school to the point where they are a decent pick for the ACC title and even a NC dark horse by the very optimistic. And yet in the same time span, Lane Kiffin has been hired TWICE by marquee programs that don't have a "basketball problem" to deal with. What gives?
I'm not going to pretend to know what Davis thinks about all this, but publicly (and to the chagrin of hopeful fans with vacancies to fill, including us after Saban if you remember) Davis always pulls himself out of these rumors very early on, most famously during the 07 Arky search that occurred while Nutt was still coaching. Despite the chance for a primo job at his alma mater, Davis quickly and very loudly signed an extension at UNC 2 days before Nutt got his final win with the Hogs (that 3OT insanity that took years off all of our lives).
Not that he's is hurting with a $1.86 million a year contract, but in these highly competitive days of college football where seemingly everyone has a price, Davis seems content to keep working away in Chapel Hill. Maybe he sees what the elder Bowden saw when he called UNC a "sleeping giant." The monetary support from UNC is there, and despite the push for upgrades, the facilities are some of the best in the ACC. Maybe he sees that diamond in the rough that's just a few steps away from shining.