After Notre Dame fired Charlie Weis, there was a small amount of speculation that North Carolina coach Butch Davis might be a candidate with the job.
Anyone familiar with the Notre Dame-Miami rivalry during the 1980s and early 1990s would scoff at a Jimmy Johnson disciple getting the Notre Dame job. Sure enough, Davis didn't emerge as a target of the Golden Domers.
But the fallout from the Notre Dame coaching turnover did reach Chapel Hill late this week, to the Tar Heels' benefit. First, highly touted running back Gio Bernard of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., committed to North Carolina. He had been committed to Notre Dame.
"I don't know why North Carolina wasn't in my thinking last fall," Bernard said.
Then wide receiver/cornerback Tre Boston of North Fort Myers High in Florida committed to North Carolina on Friday. Boston had been committed to Cincinnati. But then Bearcats coach Brian Kelly left to take the Notre Dame job, and Boston reopened his recruiting.
"He wouldn't have even considered North Carolina if there hadn't been a change," said Barry Goettemoeller, Boston's high school coach.
These weren't the only commitments the Tar Heels have received from recruits who balked at the coaching carousel. After Lane Kiffin left Tennessee for Southern California earlier this month, defensive tackle Brandon Willis of Byrnes High in Duncan dropped the Volunteers and picked North Carolina.
This is why athletics directors often pay amounts that seem obscene to keep coaches from leaving for other jobs. Changing coaches can lurch a program into instability that takes years to recover from. When top recruits leave a team this close to signing day, a program is bound to suffer.
That doesn't justify having coaches like Nick Saban and Mack Brown earn salaries that would make many captains of industry blush. But it does help explain the phenomenon.
After a huge week in recruiting as signing day looms Wednesday, North Carolina has rocketed up in the recruiting rankings. The Tar Heels' class was ranked 48th in the nation last weekend by scout.com.
It was up to 29th as of Friday night. And after the coaching turnover, Notre Dame and Cincinnati didn't have any right to complain that their committed players went elsewhere.
Goettemoeller summed it up best.
"That's all part of the game," he said.
And Butch Davis is playing it as well as anyone.
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