For my family and the other current coaches’ families we pretty much knew this day would come when they fired Butch Davis back in July.
Many people came up to us when they fired Coach Davis and said things like “I’m so glad your husband didn’t get fired and that you all get to stay in Chapel Hill.” It is hard to explain to people that, while John and the other coaches did not get fired when Coach Davis did, firing the Head Coach in this situation simply meant death by a slower means for the assistants. When the Head Coach goes it usually follows that all the assistants go, too. In this situation, since they fired Coach Davis when they did, they needed people to coach the season so we were retained. Everett Withers wasn’t the only one with an “Interim” tag before his name. They could have put that before everyone’s title back in July.
Every game week there were tea leaves to read—how did the team look, what’s the talk around town, do we have a real shot at staying or will they clean house here no matter what?
Now the tea leaves and twitter feeds leave less and less to wonder about when it comes to what’s next.
Just five years ago it was my husband and the other coaches coming to UNC who were creating the same buzz. People were excited about a new stage in Carolina football. We were excited to be here and we were very touched by how kind and supportive everyone was. The coaches have done what they were hired to do at UNC. And there is a lot to feel good about. Even so, as guess work gives way to predictions and predictions give way to rumors, which give way to some new reality, what is unfolding here does not feel good to us now.
One Twitter feed I saw yesterday, written by someone we have done business with in Chapel Hill, read something like “I am sorry to see the current FB staff to go, but I am excited about a new coach and ready for the healing to begin.”
I wonder whose healing gets to begin when the new coach gets here? The players who have dealt with two years of upheaval and uncertainty and now face another season of transition and change—does their healing begin? The coaches who are uprooted and wondering where the next stop is after doing a good job here and serving this university well—does the healing begin for them? The coaches’ families who have friends to part with, houses to sell, and more unknowns to face–does our healing begin?
If there’s one thing I have learned about healing it’s that you don’t do it alone or in a vacuum. If you are healing, but I am not, your healing will always be compromised. We are that connected with each other. The harm that has happened at UNC will not be healed simply by bringing in some new faces. Healing is not a surface dynamic and it doesn’t stop with superficial wounds. Deep healing gets to the places where the real harm has found a home. And it keeps rooting out the offending source of infection and harm until real change occurs. The healing may or may not begin here with a new football coach—it depends on how willing people are to look at the real wounds and the chronic diseases.
I doubt that kind of healing work is something that the “tweeps” and fortune tellers of the world are interested in at this point. The adrenaline rush of a new face, a new day, a new reason to cheer and feel good about their school is enough to keep the twitter feeds feeding and the tea leavers reading.
Between the lines and behind the wonderment of it all, we’re all still here, living in this community albeit for the short term. You might hear about where we’re headed before we do! Just remember not to believe everything you read. The real lives in college football are not reducible to 140 characters or to the rumor mill that rules the internet.
The most important information I got yesterday was not from any tweet or internet rumor. The wisdom I received was from two different players’ fathers—they are the ones who really sent the healing balm our way. More than the twitter feeds and tea leaves, these men spoke from real experience and from lives touched. They reminded us about what’s true and good about the football life. Both of them reached out in their own way to say thank you. Their words mean more to us than anything else we could have received. We came here to be a part of young men’s lives in a way that could make a difference. And we came here to help usher in an exciting new day in UNC football at the same time. The twitter-speak may not be able to put that into words that translate. But these fathers sure did.
As far as the audible for big time football, when it comes to days like this, I am not sure what to call. Whatever the play, we can’t escape the loss.