By all accords,
John Bunting is a nice guy and a well-respected football coach. Midway
through his sixth year, Bunting’s charisma couldn’t save his job as he
was asked to resign by athletic director Dick Baddour on Sunday night.
UNC is downright awful. The Tar Heels rank last in the nation in
turnover margin, 93rd in total offense and 113th in scoring defense.
Following an embarrassing 23-0 blowout at Virginia, which was the sixth
loss in as many tries against Division I-A opponents, Baddour had no
“I am disappointed and of course I don't agree with the decision, but I
know I must accept it,” Bunting said in a press release on the team’s
Web site. “My love for this great university has not and never will
waver. I am proud of the many great things we have accomplished over
the past six years. We simply have not won enough games this year.”
Bunting’s 25-42 record in six seasons is substandard to the program’s
lofty expectations. Succeeding Carl Torbush in 2001, Bunting
orchestrated a turnaround that included blowout wins over Florida State
and Clemson, punctuating the seven-win season with a 16-10 Peach Bowl
win over Auburn.
He went 5-19 over the next two years, which included bad losses to
Miami (OH) and Duke. Bunting provided a ray of hope by going to his
second bowl game, finishing 6-6 in 2004 despite playing eight top-25
programs. With an unproven quarterback, Bunting finished a
disappointing 5-6 last season. Again with a novice quarterback, one
experienced receiver and a new offensive coordinator, Bunting’s team
hasn’t found a rhythm in 2006.
Frankly, it’s too bad. Not everyone can win. Too often in the
win-at-all-costs mentality of collegiate coaching, case studies like
Bunting’s become the norm. He was a tireless worker who made upright
ethical decisions, but was unable to meet expectations. With coaches
like Bunting who everyone was rooting for especially at his alma mater,
it makes the decision especially tough.
“Changing coaches is never a pleasant experience, but it is even more
difficult when you consider the character and integrity of someone like
John Bunting,” Baddour said in a statement released by the school.
He spoke at booster banquets, coddling influential alumni through
luncheons and one-on-one meetings. Bleeding Carolina blue, Bunting’s
passion for his alma mater emitted as he generously shook hands with
Unlike his conference neighbors to his east, he was in favor of
significantly upgrading the schedule by replacing cupcakes with high
profile out-of-conference opponents like Texas and Notre Dame. He
was unfortunate to play programs like Utah, Louisville and Rutgers that
experienced unprecedented success.
Bunting held his players accountable, suspending players for off-campus
brawls, underage alcohol possession and even excessive speeding
tickets. The disciplinary actions created a void of upperclassmen,
losing much of the 2002 and 2003 recruiting classes. Bunting believed
in redshirting players, preferring to let the player develop mentally
Bunting was dominating the state in recruiting, inking 16 three-star
recruits in the 2006 class including blue-chip linebacker Jarrell
Miller. In all, Bunting’s 28 recruits ranked 25th nationally according
to scout.com. Bunting was poised to have a better 2007 class, having
already received commitments from four four-star recruits while in the
running for several more.
With the recent momentum he established in recruiting, Bunting was
leading the Tar Heels towards success. Unfortunately for him, the
losses shortened his coaching clock before he could get there.