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Bunting tenure coming to end at UNC-Chapel Hill

From a news release and staff reports

A new coach will be at the helm of the North Carolina football program when the Tar Heels visit East Carolina next season.

UNC-Chapel Hill Director of Athletics Dick Baddour announced Sunday evening that John Bunting will not return as head coach of the Tar Heels in 2007.

The announcement was somewhat at odds with previous pronouncements by Baddour that no decision would be made about Bunting’s job status before the end of the season.

Bunting, a 1972 graduate of the school, is in his sixth year as the Tar Heels' head coach. He will continue to coach the team through the rest of this season, according to the announcement.

The news comes in the wake of the Tar Heels' 23-0 shutout by Virginia on national television last Thursday night. The loss dropped North Carolina's record to 1-6 heading into perhaps the toughest part of its schedule. The Tar Heels face Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and N.C. State over the next four Saturdays, before closing the season at Duke on Nov. 25.

North Carolina's only win this season came in a 45-42 squeaker on Sept. 16 over a Division I-AA Furman team.

Bunting took over his alma mater's football program in December 2000. He led the Tar Heels to a Peach Bowl win following the 2001 season and wins over No. 5 ranked Florida State in 2001 and No. 4 Miami in 2004.

North Carolina defeated East Carolina on each of the two occasions the teams have faced off during Bunting's tenure. The Tar Heels prevailed in a 24-21 thriller in Chapel Hill in 2001, a season that culminated for North Carolina with a Peach Bowl championship.

In 2003, each team was winless heading into a midseason matchup in which the Tar Heels beat the Pirates 28-17 in their first-ever meeting in Greenville.

In addition to North Carolina's trip to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 2007, ECU has a future home date with North Carolina in 2011 and will meet the Tar Heels in Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill in 2009 and 2010. [View East Carolina's future football schedules.]

Baddour informed Bunting in a Sunday meeting that he would be relieved of his duties at the end of this season. The team was told Sunday evening at a meeting after the players returned from fall break.

Names that have surfaced in the media as potential successors to Bunting include some with area ties: Washington coach Tyrone Willingham, a Kinston native and Jacksonville High School alumnus; former East Carolina coach Steve Logan, who has been successful as an offensive coach in NFL Europe and carved a niche as a popular broadcaster since his departure from the Pirates; and Navy coach Paul Johnson, a native of Newland and graduate of Western Carolina.

Bunting, whose departure may jeopardize a North Carolina recruiting effort for the freshman class of 2007 that has been characterized by online services as one of the most fruitful in the nation, has three seasons remaining on his contract at $286,200 per year.

The school's announcement, which indicated that Baddour and Bunting will meet with the media today at 11 a.m. on the fifth floor of the Kenan Stadium North Box, included statements from Baddour, Bunting and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser.

Statement from AD Dick Baddour:

"Changing coaches is never a pleasant experience, but it is even more difficult when you consider the character and integrity of someone like John Bunting. He and his wife, Dawn, have given so much to the University, to Carolina athletics and to the local community. John led us to some of the most exciting wins in Carolina football history, put character and academics first, and never once compromised his or the University's principles. This is simply one of those times when it is in the best interest of the football program to make a change. I appreciate and applaud John's commitment to his alma mater, to our football program, and most important, to his student-athletes and coaches.

"I have an extraordinary amount of respect for John and have thoroughly enjoyed the relationship we have forged over these six seasons. We've gone through great highs and disappointing lows, but John always remained focused on the next game, the next practice, the next recruit. He cares deeply for the university and the game of football and takes great care to see that the game is played with unbridled passion and enthusiasm. He is a Tar Heel for life."

Statement from Coach John Bunting:

"I am disappointed and of course I don't agree with the decision, but I know I must accept it. My love for this great university has not and never will waver. I am very proud of the many great things we have accomplished over the past six years. We simply have not won enough games this year.

"Dick Baddour has supported Carolina football and me in every possible way. I appreciate the opportunity he gave me six years ago. We've developed a very strong working and personal relationship that I value very much.

"My thoughts and concerns are for my players, coaches and staff, and my focus for the next five weeks will be on helping them. I will do all I can to prepare them for our remaining games, challenge them to accomplish all they can academically and ensure that they continue to represent this university in a first-class manner.

"My staff and I are committed to maintaining our current recruiting class. We currently have a strong recruiting class and we will work hard to continue to impress upon them the many incredible aspects of the University of North Carolina and the Tar Heel football program. We have many components of a winning program on the right track and I am confident Carolina football will reach great heights in the future.

"I want to thank our many great supporters that have hung in there with us through thick and thin. That includes those faculty and staff with whom I have developed a strong bond as they helped us strive to reach our goals on and off the field."

Statement from Chancellor James Moeser:

"John Bunting is a great Tar Heel, and he has run our football program with integrity and honor. We have utmost respect for John, his passion for the university and his commitment to his student-athletes and staff. We are pleased that he will coach the rest of the season and hope that this decision will put to rest some of the questions surrounding the future of the program, and allow the team its best chance to be successful in the remaining games."

©2006 All rights rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. A UNC-Chapel Hill Athletics press release contributed to this report.

02/23/2007 11:32:53 AM


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