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The Daily Tar Heel

Decision Shocks Tar Heel Players

The team meeting on the second floor of the Frank H. Kenan Football Center started at 2:15 p.m. like it does every Monday.

Members of the North Carolina football team watched highlight film from their victory against Duke on Saturday. The players later voted on offensive and defensive MVPs for the season.

UNC coach Carl Torbush went in front of the team to tell his players he was lobbying for a bowl berth. Torbush wanted them - when asked - to say they thought they deserved a spot in a postseason game.

Then he broke the news.

Torbush, with a composed and straight-forward look, told his team that he had been fired as its head coach.

"A lot of us were stunned," UNC junior Kory Bailey said. "We didn't think that decision was even being discussed. Dick Baddour had to do what he had to do, that's his job as the athletic director, to make those kind of decisions.

"As a team we didn't agree with it, we didn't like it, but we respect that that was his decision."

Bailey sat with teammates Merceda Perry and Alge Crumpler on a leather couch in the Bowles Room with that same stunned expression when Baddour made the official announcement before 5 p.m.

As Baddour made his opening statement, the three players stared at the back of the room and at surrounding photographers.

Crumpler and Perry had gone through this before when Mack Brown left after the regular season in 1997 and Torbush was appointed the head coach.

All three players remember what happened last season, when the Tar Heels put together two wins at the end of the season and lobbied for Baddour to retain Torbush.

The players succeeded last season and didn't think they would have to take such measures again this year.

"After last year, we thought we were done with all this and thought we'd have a couple more years with Coach Torbush," said Perry, who will return for a fifth season next year.

"This year, it was shocking to know that he would be gone."

Especially considering the Tar Heels won their final three games and finished the regular season with a 6-5 record.

Perry said one win during UNC's four-game losing streak in the middle of the season could have made a lot of difference in helping Torbush keep his job.

Even though the Tar Heels couldn't pull out any of those games, the players thought Torbush was leading the program in the right direction.

"In past years we've had our number of problems, but I think the program was in a good situation," Bailey said. "I'm not going to say it was great because if it was great, you'd be winning nine or 10 games."

Of course, Torbush didn't accomplish that feat in any of his three seasons at the helm. And as a result, North Carolina will be looking for a new head coach for the second time in the last four years.

"What this program needs right now is stability," Crumpler said. "And we haven't had it."

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