Interim UNC football coach Everett Withers has a lot on the line in the court of public opinion over the next 3 weeks. Tar Heel fans are generally reacting positively to him- 39% approve of the job he's doing to 8% who disapprove. And those who've made up their mind think he should get the permanent coaching job- 34% think the interim tag should be removed to 14% who have already decided he should be replaced. But for the most part the jury's out. 53% of those describing themselves as UNC fans haven't formed an opinion yet on whether Withers should keep the job for good- as far as fan support goes he has a lot on the line in the last 3 games of the regular season, particularly in Saturday's tilt with NC State.
More than 3 months later the UNC fan base remains pretty divided on the decision to fire Butch Davis- 32% agree with the decision to let him go with 26% dissenting and 42% still undecided whether it was the right thing to do or not. Those numbers are similiar to a poll we conducted the first week of August that found 36% of fans supported the decision with 27% unhappy.
Chancellor Holden Thorp continues to get tepid reviews for his handling of the football program, with 26% of fans approving of his leadership on that front and 26% disapproving. But overall he gets a positive review (27/19) for his work as Chancellor and only 19% of the fan base thinks he should be fired, down from 23% in August right after Davis was let go.
There's a big divide in our polling between those describing themselves as 'hardcore' fans and those labeling their fandom as 'moderate' or 'casual.' Hardcore fans disagree with the decision to fire Davis by a 53/18 margin, give Thorp a 19/50 approval rating on his handling of the football program, and think by a 37/24 spread that Thorp should resign or be fired. Despite their unhappiness about the decisions that have been made to date, they're still pretty supportive of Withers though. They approve of him by a 43/15 margin and think he should get the permanent gig 38/20. (Caveat: only about 60 respondents interviewed described themselves as hardcore fans, so the margin of error on this subgroup is large.)
The opinions expressed by 'hardcore' fans are more reflective of the discussion on message boards and talk radio about the UNC football situation than the overall numbers on this poll. But it's important to remember that the folks identifying as 'hardcore' account for only 26% of all people who consider themselves to be UNC fans and the 74% who are more moderate to casual fans are more likely to have accepted the decisions that were made and moved on.
Other findings from the poll:
-44% of UNC fans think the NCAA has been fair to the school over the course of the investigation to 23% who believe it has been unfair. This is another issue where there's a divide between 'hardcore' fans and everyone else- they believe the NCAA has been unfair by a 41/36 margin.
-Among all voters statewide- not just UNC fans- only 23% think college athletes should be paid to 66% who think they should not.
Full results here