As I noted yesterday Adam Gold at 850 the Buzz pretty much spelled out Bunting's end. Initially I raised the possibility that Gold might be offering more than just his personal opinion and had some inside information on the Bunting situation. My ultimate conclusion was that he was just offering opinion but based on two articles in the News and Observer this morning I am beginning to to think differently.
Staff writer Robb Pickeral lays out the adminsitration's options with Bunting which are: fire him now, fire him later, or let him stay. I had assumed all along that Bunting's demise would come at the end of the season but Pickeral points out that at least announcing a coach would be fired at the end of the season opens up the opportunity to immediately enter into the search for a new coach, as Florida did when it hired Urban Meyer. As far as potential tell-tell signs that end is nigh we have UNC Chancellor James Moeser is dodging the question or offering the standard "we want a football program that performs at the highest level." Dick Baddour was said to be out of reach because he was travelling which is possible if he is flying but then again I think someone is blowing smoke there. In other words UNC has circled the wagons and is playing everything close the vest which could mean the idea of changing coaches is quietly being explored and any public comments might upset that process. And could someone tell the UNC faculty that it is possible to have a winning program at the same time as a clean program. I keep hearing this idea that Bunting is doing things the right way as though well behaved players and winning are mutually exclusive concepts. They are not.
Speaking of possible coaches, the N&O was kind of enough to compile a list of potential candidates:
Butch Davis, former Miami head coach
Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt head coach
Paul Johnson, Navy head coach
Steve Kragthorpe, Tulsa head coach
Mike Leach, Texas Tech head coach
Steve Logan, NFL Europe offensive coordinator and local radio personality
Gary Patterson, TCU head coach
Bobby Petrino, Louisville head coach
Greg Schiano, Rutgers head coach
Ty Willingham, Washington head coach
That is an interesting list. Let me first point out something that everyone on the planet seems to have forgotten and that is Bobby Petrino signed a 10 year, $25.5 million contract in July. He is not leaving Lousiville so do not even bring his name up. I also do not think Schiano would leave Rutgers or Willingham is going to leave the west coast again. Bobby Johnson, Mike Leach, and Gary Patterson all coach in football rich conferences or states so luring them to North Carolina might be tough but not out of the realm of possibility. Butch Davis might want to see what happens at Miami first before considering UNC. That leaves Paul Johnson, who is the darling of the UNC message boards, Kragthorpe, and Steve Logan. In my opinion all three would be a good choice. However, the list does not include current assistant coaches at major football programs who might be ready to take a head coaching job and could bring a workable system in to maximize the present talent in-house. Then again this is all moot if Bunting stays, but the fact this list has been published in the paper of record for North Carolina seems to indicate something is afoot and someone is attempting to see what the weather is like.
As for the players, they are all standing up to defend Bunting. This is not unexpected, unless you are talkng about Matt Doherty's players. These guys all came to play for Bunting and believe in what he is doing.
"He's a good coach and a good person," Edwards said. "This season doesn't reflect how much time and effort all of our coaches put into everything around here. Fans just don't understand that. Even though things aren't going well around here right now, our coaches have dedicated their whole lives to do something with this program."
With all due respect to Edwards, but no one has ever questioned Bunting's work ethic, passion, or desure to win. This is not a question of heart. The questions surrounding Bunting have to do with his is abilities as a coach. Can he recruit, retain, and develop players? Is he capable of implenting systems and coaching a winning football team? There is plenty of hard evidence right now that he cannot. Even hard working people fail sometimes, that's life.
And finally the Charlotte Observer trotted out someone who has a clue in the person of Ken Tysiac to examine the UNC debacle a little further. Basically Tysiac address the lost players from the 2003 class and the QB issue. The first is non-starter for me. I think there is enough talent to be competitive and not get yourself steamrolled every time you hit the field. And the QB issue may have more to do with the offensive line and the lack of a running game than anything to do with either Joe Dailey or Cam Sexton. Thought I think Dailey has shown he does not have good decisionmaking skills while Sexton is still young.
Then again if UNC wins in Charlottesville for the first time in 25 years then all of this is going to be really confusing by Friday morning.
Update: I also came across this Fayetteville Observer article also calling for Bunting to step aside.(hat tip: Inside Carolina).