In the two weeks since Butch Davis' firing as UNC football coach there's been endless debate about what Tar Heel nation really thinks about the decision and the direction of the program. Here are the results of our scientific poll conducted over the weekend of self described UNC fans:
-UNC fans think that Butch Davis did a good job as coach, but they still support his firing. There's no doubt that Davis got the team headed in the right direction on the field after the dark days of the Carl Torbush and John Bunting years and Tar Heel partisans appreciate him for it. 41% approve of the job he did as coach to only 21% disapproving, with 39% not taking a side. Those describing themselves as 'hardcore' UNC fans are particularly supportive of the job Davis did with 65% approving and only 19% disapproving.
Despite the on field success though 36% of fans support Davis' firing with 27% opposed and 37% having no opinion. UNC alumni are particularly supportive of the decision, agreeing with it by a 50/32 margin. There is a significant divide though based on respondents' level of fandom. Those describing themselves as 'hardcore' fans disagree with Davis' firing by a 44/40 margin. They only account for 22% of the fan base though and those describing themselves as moderately big UNC fans (42/27) and casual ones (26/18) both support the firing.
-UNC fans think that Holden Thorp is doing a good job as Chancellor and should stay in the job...but they also think he's done a poor job handling the football team. The voices calling for Thorp's ouster are more loud than they are numerous. 31% of UNC fans think Thorp is doing a good overall to 19% who dissent with 50% offering no opinion. And 32% think he should continue as Chancellor to 23% who think he should resign or be fired with 45% unsure. Alumni are particularly supportive of Thorp. They give him good marks for the job he's doing by a 53/24 margin and believe he should stay on by a 55/20 spread. Even though they disagree with the decision to fire Davis, even 'hardcore' fans give Thorp a 40/29 overall approval and think he should keep his position 40/34.
Despite the overall support make no mistake though- UNC backers think Thorp has handled the football situation very poorly. Only 20% give positive marks on that front to 35% who think he's done a bad job. Alumni (31/37) and non-Alumni (17/35) alike are unhappy with his football related leadership and 'hardcore' fans (24/56) are particularly displeased. The Athletic Director hire is going to be huge for Thorp given these numbers- he has to hire someone who has credibility in the football arena because right now folks don't trust South Building on that front.
-Very few UNC fans are planning to pull back on their support of the team this year, and few think the program will be in a weaker position 5 years from now than it is today. There have been a lot of people saying they think the football program is doomed to mediocrity moving forward because of the Davis firing and that they plan to be less supportive of the team, but they're a distinct minority within the fan base. 68% of fans say there will be no change in their level of support for the team this year with only 13% saying they're likely to be less supportive and 18% actually saying that they will be more so. And only 16% of fans think the program will be worse off in five years than it is right now compared to 34% who believe it will be in a better position and 50% who are not sure.
-Support for Baddour, jury's out on Withers. Dick Baddour's taken a lot of abuse over the years but most UNC fans with an opinion about his overall work as Athletic Director give him a good review. 31% approve of the work he's done to 17% who disapprove and 52% with no opinion. Those describing themselves as 'hardcore' fans are more likely to have an opinion and they give Baddour good marks by a better than 2:1 margin, 46/21.
Very few fans have developed an opinion about interim coach Everett Withers yet, although the few who have are positive toward him. 23% have a favorable opinion of him to only 3% with an unfavorable one and 74% taking a wait and see approach. Even among hardcore fans 69% haven't formed an opinion about Withers yet.
-Fans think the football issues have hurt the university's academic reputation, but not that badly. 54% think the episode has hurt UNC's academic reputation to 43% who think it hasn't had much of an impact. But of that 54% only 23% say this has had a 'severe' negative impact on how UNC is seen academically compared to 31% who describe that effect as 'moderate.' The sense is that this hasn't been good for the university, but at the same time it hasn't been that bad.
Full results here