Pressure on UNC Huge
by Eric Gilmore

Dick Baddour knows his job in on the line. As the UNC athletic director, his impending football hire is the make-or-break decision of his Carolina legacy. Now with the basketball program on solid footing, the fans’ focus turns on a struggling football program.

Baddour knows it. Along with consultant Chuck Neinas, who helped ECU place Terry Holland in its athletic director role, the duo is on the search for a coach who will unify the faithful while re-instilling an immediate respect lost since Mack Brown left for Texas.

The $1 million (or more) question remains. Who is the best choice? As Caulton Tudor wrote in his column released recently in The News & Observer, the new coach needs to have head coaching experience, offensive expertise, regional familiarity and stability.

Dick, are you listening? Before you sit in Lee Fowler’s lap amid six rejections and public embarrassment, try to heed some advice.

Tulsa Head Coach Steve Kragthrope fits the criteria, but declined any interest in the job Monday. As college football’s hottest choice, Kragthrope made the right decision to veer away from the Carolina job. With high profile jobs like Miami (FL) and Michigan St. possibly opening up, Kragthrope might want to go bigger, but would be smarter to wait another year. There will be abnormally few coaching vacancies in the off-season so staying at Tulsa for another season could mean a bigger job in the future.

Greg Schiano would be silly to leave his perch at Rutgers. An excellent recruiter, Schiano should stay in the Big East where he can gain more national recognition in an easier conference. His Rutgers team already manhandled the Tar Heels so any move would be lateral at best. If his team continues their success, he will be also be tabbed for a bigger job.

Navy Head Coach Paul Johnson would be a poor fit. Johnson’s triple option is one-dimensional and boring. Nebraska was forced to the spread offense following years under Tom Osbourne and Frank Solich. Why would UNC revert to last decade’s offense? Johnson’s dry personality probably wouldn’t mesh well in liberal Chapel Hill.

Baddour needs to focus on either former head coaches or current NFL assistants with decades of coaching experience.

Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe would be a great hire. The former Ole Miss head man has rejuvenated the stagnant Tennessee offense, forcing quarterback Erik Ainge’s into Heisman chatter. He was successful with the Rebels, getting canned after an eight-win season following Eli Manning’s departure.

Aside from Cutcliffe, there are few solidified candidates. Butch Davis’ name has been rumored, but the former Cleveland Browns coach would probably be smarter to wait for another job, namely the Miami (FL) job. Davis has the premier name that UNC covets, but doesn’t quite what the Tar Heels are looking for.

Top flight college assistants include Florida assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. As a strong recruiter, Strong would likely further inroads made by Bunting in the ladder part of his tenure. Strong doesn’t have the head coaching experience or the offensive roots, but he did spend three years as South Carolina’s defensive coordinator.

Norm Chow doesn’t have the head coaching experience, but he makes up for it with his offensive schemes. As a former N.C. State coordinator, he understands the region and would bring an instant credibility. Chow’s 32-year coaching career has provided him with the proper contacts to hire a first-rate staff. The question is whether he can he be pulled away from the dollars of the NFL.

Green Bay offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski would be a good fit. He recruited the area having coached at ECU from 1989-1996. Though his name lacks starpower punch, he is well respected within the coaching fraternity. Being 43, he could bring instant energy to the UNC fan base. He knows offense and would require the Tar Heels to be tougher in the power running game.

Ravens offensive line and assistant head coach Chris Foerster’s name has been rumored for numerous college openings, but has yet to be hired. He has coached in the NFL since 1993, including stints with the Vikings, Bucs, Colts, Dolphins and Ravens. He is only 45 and has an offensive mind.

Dom Capers, the first Carolina Panthers head coach could fill in the opening. As a detail freak and workaholic, Capers had decent success in starting up separate franchises. The Dolphins special assistant to the head coach is a defensive specialist and could be looking to get back into college, something he left in 1983. Capers, 56, might find college easier and less taxing.

Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher would all be good hires.

So Baddour, if you want to keep your job, you might want to hire the right man. Somebody who will make you look good.

Eric Gilmore