As it stands, Butch Davis will likely be the next head football coach at UNC. According to multiple outlets the two sides are very close to ironing out a contract and though David Glenn's assertion that until the contract is signed this could all fall apart is a valid concern, everyone seems to be gearing up for Davis arrive in Chapel Hill. Very early in the process referred to Davis as being "untouchable" partly because of the money and partly because I assumed he would head to somewhere like Miami or Alabama. The way it is looking now, I probably missed on that assessment. I also have been very vocal in my support for Navy's Paul Johnson as the best choice for the job for various reasons. However, if the current situation plays out like so many expect it to, Davis will get he chance to revive the UNC program.
Now, my opinion of Davis as a coach and his ability to run a program is has high as anyone else. Obviously he is a great choice to be a head coach. Davis was a winner at Miami and has been associated with winning programs on both the college and NFL levels with his tenure with the Cleveland Browns being an exception. In terms of criteria set for hiring a new coach, Davis overwhelms them. Davis can recruit, he is a good coach, and he brings instant credibility to a program missing it by the truckloads. Davis also took a Miami program well reputed as a thug program and reformed it. In so many ways Davis is the perfect candidate for UNC except for the nagging feeling he will leave within five years. It is well understood that there are no such assurances with any coach how long they will be there but with Davis the odds seems more in favor of him jumping to another job in 2011 versus someone like Paul Johnson who might have been persuaded to stay for a very long stretch.
It is my general sense that the hiring debate, which probably took place among the powers that be in Chapel Hill, centered on whether to go for instant returns or a long term solution which might require a little more patience. Apparently the winners of the debate opted for the influx of instant credibility and an immediate bump in recruiting. Davis' resume is expected to have a healing effect on UNC's on-the-field football reputation which has been in steady decline since Mack Brown left and really bottomed out this season. Any concerns about discipline were assuaged by the work Davis did at Miami to refine the Hurricane reputation. The individuals running the coaching search put a premium on bringing in a coach who could raise the program up in a very immediate fashion. Johnson was undoubtedly and probably unfairly viewed as a coach who could bring consistent winning but after a brief dip in recruiting, especially if guys like Mike Paulus bailed on UNC. My opinion has been that Johnson would have little trouble getting the program back winning but this was obviously seen as a risk. The bottom line is that powers that be were looking for the best college football coach available period. The concern about Davis' wanderlust versus the probability of another coach and a potential longer tenure was deemed a minimal factor. In short they went for the "sexy" pick. UNC wanted a big name coach and that is who they are very close to getting at this point.
So in terms of hiring Davis, I am happy with it as long as it brings the promised results. Like any other UNC fan I want to see winning football and a well run program. Davis has done it before and everyone is right to believe he can do it in Chapel Hill. The job is tougher at UNC than it would be at Miami or Alabama but for all we know Davis was perhaps looking for a challenge of this nature to attach his name to and create a football legacy were one sparsely existed before. There is also a possibility that Davis intends this to be his last stop though I would think that is quite improbable. Davis is also smart enough to see that UNC is backloaded with a redshirted class and good recruits on the way which means he will enjoy success from the start with virtually no drop off in recruiting. So in one respect, yes as Tar Heel fans we will all be happy to see winning football in Kenan Stadium.
However, speaking for myself, I will always regard Davis as someone with one eye on the classifieds for at least the first five seasons. One fear I have is that in 10 years we will be enduring a horrible football season under another coach and the question will be asked: How did UNC end up with this guy? The answer will be that the powers at UNC fired John Bunting and decided to go after the big name in Butch Davis instead of playing for someone like Paul Johnson who probably would have stayed longer and brought winning football anyway. Davis brought a lot of success but left after his fourth season for another job and UNC proceeded to botch the hiring of the next guy who has since run UNC into the ground. What will smart even more is that Paul Johnson will be in his ninth season at NC State being hired after the 2007 season to replace Chuck Amato and not only will UNC be back in the same place it is now but once a year they play the Wolfpack and see what they could have had in Johnson.
So, if it is Butch Davis, I will enjoy the success of UNC football, even if it is for a little while. However, it will be very difficult to not expect Davis to leave and the program to dive again. As a UNC fan that has generally been my experience and therefore my expectation.