It is the time of year for the coaching carousel and rumor mill to get cranked up and this year is no exception.
With the firing/resignation of Tommy Bowden at Clemson and the recent surprise announcement that Phil Fulmer will not be the coach in Knoxville next year (just a little sarcasm laced in this writing) among other openings around the country, the talk is rampant on the internet message boards about who is going where after this season. Here in North Carolina, the talk reached a fever pitch last week after a few seemingly innocuous events happened in relative proximity to each other.
The first was the spotting of a University of Tennessee airplane on the tarmac at RDU airport two weeks ago. Initial speculation was that the plane was in the triangle for David Cutcliffe, the current Duke coach and longtime offensive coordinator in Knoxville who has engineered a turn around of a once moribund Duke program. Cutcliffe quickly denied that he was any candidate for the job at Tennessee, especially since his mentor Phil Fulmer was still the coach! Then, the speculation turned quickly to Butch Davis, the current UNC head coach who has turned the Tar Heels into a top 25 team within the span of two seasons. Davis also denied he had anything to do with the plane's presence and the flight plan showed the aircraft departed RDU for Stillwater, Oklahoma. Apparently a 40 year old man lives out there.
Next, an interview linked at the bottom with Memphis based agent Jimmy Sexton added some more kindling to the fire. Sexton just so happens to represent the likes of Nick "I will not be the next coach at Alabama" Saban and Butch "I have no interest in leaving Miami for the NFL" Davis, among other big name coaches. In the column, reported in the Birmingham, AL newspaper and linked at the bottom, Sexton stated in typical agent speak that he thought "Davis would be at North Carolina for a long time." He also said the Clemson job was the hottest job opening in the country and that Davis's wife had asked what coaching at big schools in the SEC was like compared to North Carolina.
Finally, last week a guest host on a Charlotte syndicated sports talk program dropped an unsubstantiated rumor on the air. Brett Jensen, who writes for a UGA site of all places, stated that Butch Davis contacted Clemson about their coaching vacancy. Now while the host of the show Mark Packer gave him hell for basically throwing something on the wall to see if it stuck, the damage was done. Tar Heel fans were scrambling around the blogosphere to find out if the rumor was indeed true. Davis himself was asked at his Wednesday press conference by a reporter with more guts than I, if he had contacted Clemson. The coach let the guy have it and said that it was all untrue. The hysteria continued for another couple of days and was fanned on by a few articles on Clemson websites proclaiming why Clemson is a better football job than UNC due to fan support of football, tradition, so on and so forth.
Just the other day both Cutcliffe and Davis reassured fans in North Carolina that they were committed to staying at Duke and UNC. The chatter has died down as a result, but in my opinion, this type of stuff is Entertainment Tonight type journalism and the sports equivalent to the grocery store romance novel. Translation: it is a bunch of Soap Opera garbage that unfortunately is given credence by the actions of coaches and school administrators nationwide.
Coaches have no room to complain about this type of stuff when it is they who continually skip out on schools in the middle of contracts for "bigger" jobs. School athletic directors are equally to blame by extending contracts and then firing the coaches within a season or two and giving them huge buyouts in the mold of CEO golden parachutes. UNC is no exception by firing John Bunting mid-season two years ago. At least Butch Davis was out of coaching at the time and UNC did not hide the fact that he was their target. Quite frankly, it has worked out well for UNC but that doesn't necessarily make it right. Mid-season firings and five million dollar contracts are stuff for the NFL. As college football inches closer and closer to the pro game every year though this job-shuffle, yarn is knitted earlier and earlier. I think it is wrong and is a distraction from the game.
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