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The Daily Tar Heel

Coach Declines Baddour's Offer To Step Down

On Nov. 22, 1999, UNC Director of Athletics Dick Baddour sat in the Bowles Room at Koury Natatorium and announced his support for Carl Torbush as the school's head football coach.

On Monday, 364 days later, Baddour found himself in the same place. This time, however, he was there to announce that Torbush had been fired.

"I have completed a review of the football program, and the decision has been made not to retain Carl Torbush as the head football coach at the University of North Carolina," said Baddour, who sat beside Chancellor James Moeser at a press conference. "This decision is not based on a single game or solely a single season but rather on evaluation over a three-year period."

Moeser is the man ultimately responsible for the decision, but it was Baddour who recommended the change. Baddour made his recommendation after completing his annual evaluation of the football program Sunday.

The Tar Heels improved from a 3-8 record last year to finish 6-5 this season and become eligible for a bowl game.

But it wasn't enough to save Torbush, who compiled a 17-18 record in three seasons at the helm. UNC never got off to a good start under his leadership, something that disturbed Baddour and fans of the program. The Tar Heels started 0-3 in 1998 before bouncing back to finish 7-5, stood at 1-8 last year before winning their last two games and closed out this season with three victories after being 3-5.

"It seems that the current state of the program seems to rest on a game-by-game, year-by-year, season-by-season situation," Baddour said. "That is not an atmosphere for success or potential success."

The atmosphere of Kenan Stadium on Saturdays also hurt Torbush. The Tar Heels averaged 50,500 fans at home this season, too far below the stadium's capacity of 60,000 for Baddour's liking.

North Carolina went 3-3 at home this year but lost three consecutive ACC games at Kenan Stadium in the middle of the season. The Tar Heels were just 7-10 at home during Torbush's career.

Even with that fact, Torbush believed his program was on the way to better days. It is the reason he declined to resign when Baddour offered him that option sometime after 9 p.m. Sunday night.

Torbush emphasized all of last season and this season to his players that they should never quit, no matter how much adversity they encountered. He stuck to that principle in his own situation.

"The University has made a decision to change the leadership of this football program," Torbush said in a statement released by the University. "The decision for a change was in no way mine, and while I respect their right to make a change, I deeply hurt for the players, staff, families and friends of this program who have devoted their heart and souls to building a team of winners in every aspect of life."

Although he was fired, Torbush will remain at the school as a consultant until June 30, when the third year of his five-year contract officially ends. Torbush will collect his annual salary of $152,000 in 2001 and 2002, Baddour said.

In his statement, Torbush said he "will continue to lead this program through the initial stage of this transition period."

He might also get to coach one more game.

Baddour said if UNC gets invited to a bowl game, the school will accept the bid and that Torbush will coach the team. UNC becomes a less-attractive option in the eyes of bowl committees now that Torbush has been fired, but the players are still hoping for a chance to play one more game.

"I think it's not the most positive situation for a bowl game, but this team desperately wants to go to a bowl game," senior tight end Alge Crumpler said. "I think he'll be the same guy he's always been if we go. It will be a little awkward, probably emotional as we walk off that field."

But once that game ends - if in fact it ever begins - UNC will get ready for the 2001 season with its third head coach in five years. Baddour said he would begin the search for Torbush's replacement immediately, but he offered few details.

"I do searches in the most confidential way that I can construct," Baddour said. "I would not tell you what my list is, who I've contacted and who I've not contacted."

The fact that Baddour even needed a list came as a surprise to UNC's players. Most of them were around last season when he sat in the Bowles Room and gave Torbush another chance following North Carolina's 3-8 nightmare.

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The coach and his team had responded by doubling that win total and posting a winning season.

But a lot can change in a year.

"They hit us with this news, and it's a little disappointing," junior wide receiver Kory Bailey said. "We felt like with the way the season went, it wasn't even an option. It just hit us hard."

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