August 23, 2004 * If UNC stumbles out of the gate this fall, reporters on the Carolina beat will be forced to face a very difficult task: understanding and explaining the decision-making hierarchy in Chapel Hill these days. Athletic director Dick Baddour and chancellor James Moeser are huge Bunting supporters, and they have absolutely no desire to terminate a hard-working, well-liked UNC alum who represents the university well and (in popular Carolina terminology) does everything the right way. At the same time, they understand the inevitable realities (including sluggish ticket sales) that come with losing, especially at a time when the athletic department is having a hard time balancing its $40 million budget.
Baddour received a three-year contract extension through June 2007 earlier this year, suggesting that Bunting's future rests squarely in the AD's hands. But several UNC sources said the extension came with the understanding that Baddour, whose hiring record always will be tarnished by the Carl Torbush (football) and Matt Doherty (basketball) disasters, will have to be deferential to others on the Bunting matter. Beyond that, at least for now, the details of the situation remain fuzzy. That's where mainstream media members, who almost completely whiffed on the details and severity of Doherty's behind-the-scenes problems two years ago, may be asked to deliver the goods.
Everyone in and around the UNC program was impressed this summer by the leadership of senior quarterback Darian Durant. Amidst the massive frustration that followed last year's 2-10 finish, Durant reportedly stepped forward with a few other veterans and helped minimize the blame game. He later organized offseason workouts for his teammates, a huge help at a time of year when coaches are prevented by NCAA rules from directing or supervising their players.
Durant, who in February 2002 announced plans to transfer from UNC, gradually has come around to his coaches' way of thinking. After regularly butting heads with Bunting and offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill on matters ranging from leadership to work ethic to practice habits, he has been hammering his younger teammates on many of those same issues. He has improved his conditioning, dramatically increased his film study, and worked to improve his ball security, game management and decision-making. In a sign of team unity, he also nixed plans to be featured on the cover of the Carolina media guide.
That's just a little thing I did to remind everybody that we're all in this together, Durant said. I'm the starting quarterback, but everyone on this team can either help us win or help us lose. The only way we're going to win is if we all sell out for each other coaches, players, everybody.
(Durant) has always been very talented, and he's done some good things, Tranquill said. Now he has a much better understanding of the importance of the little things. In this game, the little things add up, especially at quarterback. He's a lot better at those things now. We expect him to play his best as a senior, and we expect him to help everyone else (on offense) play better, too.
According to sources close to the coach, former Duke/Florida/Redskins leader Steve Spurrier has absolutely no interest in coaching the Tar Heels. (News flash: There's no shortage of people at Carolina who wouldn't want him anyway.) Spurrier, who's still living in Northern Virginia, where he has a child in high school, is expected to return to college football at some point, and UNC meets many of his requirements: major conference, warm weather, east of the Rockies, good facilities, golf availability, etc. But the sources said the list of college jobs Spurrier would consider is very short, and that this Carolina isn't on it.