Two games plus a bowl appearance remain for North Carolinas football team, but the final door almost certainly closed on the Butch Davis coaching era with Saturdays 13-0 loss at N.C. State.
Interim coach Everett Withers, formerly Davis defensive coordinator, needed to snap the programs four-game losing streak to State in order to generate substantial support in the fan base.
The odds were heavily against Withers anyway. Incoming athletic director Bubba Cunningham said Withers would be considered, but a complete staff overhaul seemed likely from the moment Davis was fired in late July.
At 6-4 overall and 2-4 in the ACC, Withers team could still make a splash with an upset at Virginia Tech on Nov. 17. But realistically, the entire coaching staff will likely spend some time checking the job market between the finale against Duke on Nov. 26 and bowl time.
With a couple of more wins, Withers will be mentioned for other jobs. But the Heels hollow offensive performance against State had to hurt his resume, even though assistant John Shoop has handled the offense all season.
Where Cunningham will go with the hire is anyones guess, but much mentioned South Florida coach Skip Holtz isnt exactly aflame these days.
With an overtime loss at Rutgers on Saturday, Holtz team dropped its fourth straight, slid to 0-4 in the Big East race and may not be favored in any of the remaining four games.
After beginning the season with a win at Notre Dame and then averaging almost 55 over the ensuing three games, South Florida had the look of a top-10 challenger. Then a 44-17 loss at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29 prompted a nosedive that could now lead to a 4-8 meltdown.
The X-factor in Cunninghams search is the NCAA case. If the NCAA takes until mid-January to hand down its penalty, Cunningham may be forced to move more slowly than widely expected.
Its reasonable to assume at least a few targets/candidates might want definitive information about scholarship losses, bowl bans and recruiting restrictions before committing to the job.