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As the Axe Falls...

The season's first coaching head rolls at North Carolina, at least figuratively, where beleaguered John Bunting was finally penciled in Sunday night for the chopping block at the end of UNC's disastrous season:

Bunting, whose Tar Heels have yet to beat a Division I-A team this fall, will finish the rest of the season. He has three more years, worth $858,600, on his contract; it was not immediately known whether a deal to buy him out had been reached. UNC has scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. today.

"I am disappointed, and of course I don't agree with the decision, but I know I must accept it," Bunting said in a prepared statement. "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."

Interesting that Bunting focuses on his team's failure to win games "this year," rather than in the past four, during which stretch the Heels never won more than they lost and eked their way into a single bowl game; this string is already mathematically ensured to reach five. So, right, foregone conclusion.

In the long run, SMQ imagines, Bunting's from-nowhere 8-5 debut in 2001, when his team ushered in the grand fall of Florida State by crushing the Noles 41-9 and later beat Auburn, along with job-saving wins over Georgia Tech and Miami in 2004 and eventual bowl teams NC State, Utah and Virginia last year, hurt more than they helped, because Bunting's teams showed in them some real potential to compete on the same level.

But UNC was 5-19 from 2002-03, 2-14 in the ACC, and a shutout at the hands of flailing Virginia to fall to 1-6 is a little too reminiscent; no coach anywhere, but certainly at UNC, could survive such hopeless sentiment expressed by "surprised" UNC freshman David Brandl : "I feel like a Duke fan." Hey, man, Duke almost beat Miami!

Dead coach walking