Which is the opposite of what generally happens with head coaches of major football program. Usually winning keeps you employed but in this case, with UNC facing major NCAA scrutiny, things get muddled. Despite the outstanding job Butch Davis has done keeping the team focused on the field to a 4-2 record(which could easily have been 6-0) it is the off the field mess that might see Davis out of Chapel Hill. 99.9 The Fan's Adam Gold points out that with potential NCAA sanctions looming UNC success on the field has no bearing on what could happen next.
I don't know the ins and outs of Butch Davis' coaching career apart from the fact that he built the University of Miami machine that seemingly stocked the NFL draft for about a half dozen years in a row. But, if there's a better coaching job in his past I'd love to see it. Yates has been better than anyone could have ever imagined, Johnny White has come out of mothballs to more than cover for the early suspensions of Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston, Bruce Carter and Quinton Coples have been monsters on defense and Davis has gotten plenty out of a freshman class that wasn't supposed to be major contributors in year one.
For all that, Davis receives and deserves very high marks. However...
Despite what so many want to believe, the mounting wins don't make it more likely that Davis will survive the NCAA frying pan. Nine wins and a solid bowl invitation doesn't make go away the fact that your hand-picked Associate Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator was waist-deep in an unethical financial relationship with an NFL agent. Potentially challenging for the Coastal Division title and a berth in the conference championship game doesn't change that the NCAA's hung a shingle in Chapel Hill as they conduct an investigation that could be 18-months from conclusion. Rallying from an 0-2 start is great but, the people that will make the call on the status of Butch Davis -- and potentially, Athletic Director Dick Baddour -- aren't interested in the recruiting bump from the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
I don't know what is going to happen when this season comes to an end. I've heard all sorts of crazy rumors. I've heard that Davis and Baddour will both be fired for having this happen under their watch. I've heard that everyone is sold on Butch being the right man to see this clean-up job through and he has the 100% support of the entire university community. I've even heard that Carl Torbush and John Bunting will be fired again, just as a diversionary tactic. Truthfully, the rumor mill is almost overheating from the activity.
However, the one thing that I'm absolutely certain of is that the decision to maintain status quo or cut Davis loose will have nothing to do with the win-loss record and everything to do with whether or not the Board of Trustees feels comfortable holding on to a regime under which NCAA sanctions were levied. Make no mistake, there will be NCAA-related penalties. Still, for many, the decision is not an easy one. In spite of the potential punishment, and whatever blame should be assigned to the head coach, Davis has brought name-recognition and legitimacy to the UNC program that others didn’t – at least since Mack Brown’s departure for Texas. However, the scale will be tipped one way or another based on just how much value the university places on its reputation as a school at which these types of things don’t happen. If North Carolina chooses to hold on to Davis, they would be saying that The Big Time rates higher on the pecking order than The Carolina Way. My sense is that the people who make those decisions will have a hard time forfeiting that reputation.
There is this notion among a segment of Tar Heel fans that victories will somehow trump UNC doing whatever it needs to do with Davis in response to NCAA violations. These are the same fans who for some reason think the NCAA violations are happening in a vacuum and will not slow down the momentum Davis has built, that the direction of the program is fine, recruiting will keep rolling and a year from now everything will be a-okay. As I have stated many times before, I am not sure how that is supposed to work nor can I grasp how anyone expects the Board of Trustees, Holden Thorp or anyone else to give Davis a pass if major NCAA sanctions fall even if Davis is determined not to have known anything. As Gold points out, Davis hired John Blake and whatever happens with Blake is going to be the real show here. The reputation of the university means someone is going to die, figuratively speaking. While Blake was a nice sacrifice, I am not sure it was enough. As Doc pointed out, this is as much about conventional wisdom as anything else and the UNC administrators do not strike me as the kind of people who regularly buck that.