North Carolina fired football coach Butch Davis on Wednesday, saying the past year of turmoil amid an NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct was doing too much damage to the school's reputation.
The school issued a statement announcing Davis' dismissal nine days before the start of preseason practice. Chancellor Holden Thorp said the decision was not prompted by any changes in the ongoing NCAA investigation but said he "lost confidence in our ability to come through this without harming the way people think of this institution."
"Our academic integrity is paramount, and we must work diligently to protect it," Thorp said in a statement. "The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change."
The school has scheduled a news conference for this morning in Chapel Hill to discuss the change. Team spokesman Kevin Best said plans for an interim coach would be discussed today. North Carolina's players report for training camp Aug. 4 and start practice the following day.
The news caught current and former players off guard, including T.J. Yates — the quarterback who served as de facto team spokesman last season during the height of NCAA scrutiny.
"In shock about coach Davis, that man put Carolina football back on the map," Yates, a Texans draftee, posted on Twitter. "And to do it right before training camp starts is just wrong."
Davis compiled a 28-23 record in four seasons with the Tar Heels after taking over for John Bunting. His program looked ready to contend for an ACC championship and a BCS berth last year before NCAA investigators arrived on campus last July.
In all, 14 players missed at least one game and seven were forced to sit the entire season. Last month, the NCAA sent a notice of allegations to the school outlining numerous potential major violations, though none connected to Davis.
'noles, 'canes on preseason team: Florida State and Miami each have four players on the preseason All-ACC team, in a vote of media members at the league's preseason media days.
Quarterback EJ Manuel, cornerback Greg Reid (as a specialist), defensive end Brandon Jenkins and offensive tackle Andrew Datko represented the Seminoles, the favorite to win their first ACC title since 2005.
Miami landed linebacker Sean Spence, safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, guard Brandon Washington and center Tyler Horn on the team.
Pac-12 to launch networks: The Pac-12 will launch national and regional conference television networks next year.
Commissioner Larry Scott announced that the Pac-12 had partnered with cable companies Comcast, Cox, Time Warner and Bright House. There will be a national network along with six regional channels: Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Southern California, Arizona and Mountain.
Once the channels launch in August 2012, they will broadcast about 850 sporting events a year — 350 nationally and 500 regionally. The conference already had a 12-year contract worth about $3 billion with Fox and ESPN.
Top QB recruit commits to IU: Gunner Kiel of Columbus (Ind.) East High, widely considered the top quarterback prospect in the 2012 recruiting class, orally committed to Indiana in what could be a major coup for a program with just 17 Big Ten wins in the past decade.
The 6-foot-4 220-pound Kiel is the nephew of former Notre Dame quarterback Blair Kiel. MaxPreps has him ranked as the second-best high school player in the country. His brother Dusty is a redshirt sophomore quarterback at Indiana.
If the signing occurs — oral commitments are not binding; signing day is Feb. 1 — a key reason would be coach Kevin Wilson, who took over the Hoosiers this year after being an assistant at Oklahoma since 2002. Wilson had a track record of grooming quarterbacks at Oklahoma, including Sam Bradford of the Rams.
vols violations: Tennessee, which has said it agrees with most of the dozen allegations made against its football and basketball programs by the NCAA, argued in its response that some of the violations should be considered secondary instead of major. The Vols' response to the NCAA was filed May 20 and released recently to the media. They are awaiting the NCAA's final ruling on the allegations.
Baseball: In a move praised by coaches, the NCAA plans to use instant replay on an experimental basis to review certain calls at the College World Series next year. Reviewable plays would be limited to deciding if an apparent home run is fair or foul, whether a batted ball left the playing field for a home run or a ground-rule double, or whether there is fan interference on apparent home runs. "Baby steps are good," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "Like anything else, we have to grow with it."