Yes, for real this time.
According to official UNC sources Dick Baddour met with John Bunting today and informed the beleagured coach that he would be relieved as head football coach at season's end.
John Bunting will not return as head coach of the University of North Carolina football program in 2007, Director of Athletics Dick Baddour announced this evening. Bunting, a 1972 UNC graduate, is in his sixth year as the Tar Heels' head coach. Bunting will continue to coach the Tar Heels through the rest of this season.
Bunting and Baddour met on Sunday at which time Baddour informed Bunting that he would be relieved of his duties at the end of this season. The team was told Sunday evening at a meeting after the players returned from Fall Break.
So the question for me is what the heck was all that business on Friday about? Did someone jump the gun or was it a leak for the purpose of ratcheting up the pressure on Bunting or to set the stage for what happened tonight? Obviously we may never get an answer on that, not that it matters. This is the only move Baddour could have made regardless of the cicumstances.
For his part, Bunting is a loyal Tar Heel and his method of handling players is to be commended, especially as compared to the Miami's of the world. Bunting's discipline cost him some very good players. He knew this was the case and was willing to live with the consequences. Sadly for him this is one of those consequences. On one side there were a lot of good things Bunting did but whether it is fair or not, the results have to be seen on the field and in six years they have not been there. As Tar Heel fans, we all wish it were different because Bunting is such a character guy and saw fit to run his program with respect and discipline. Unfortunately there were things he could not overcome and it is possible he simply lacked the skills as a head coach to manage the personnel and the game in an effective manner. It can only be our hope that the next head coach can honor the good things Bunting did by maintaining that level of discipline and character while also adding wins and competiveness to the program.
So, I wish Bunting well and hope he continues to represent the best of UNC wherever he ends up.
An editorial appeared in the Chapel Hill News today by Eddy Landreth which hinted at possible involvement by UNC system president Erskine Bowles in the situation. Bowles is a former White House chief of staff, so if he is involved in the situation then I am almost certain that the media's involvement last week were absolutely information leaks intended to increase the pressure on Bunting or simply as a means of gauging the public reaction. Yeah, I probably sound like a conspiracy theory nut with that but it all seems to convenient to be a coincidence.
Another interesting part of all of this is Bunting earlier today denied, again, that he was resigning. Here is the Inside Carolina transcript:
With regards to the radio station's report last week - have you resigned or offered to resign or anything like that?
"Absolutely not. I'm here to talk to you about the Virginia and Wake Forest [games]."
Which I guess is technically true since Bunting has actually been fired and did not or will not resign. The text of the article on Tar Heel Blue makes it clear that Bunting will be "relieved of his duties at the end of this season" which means he is being fired. Just a minor clarification and further weirdness where the Friday's report is concerned.