Butch Davis jumps to top of list for North Carolina job

The North Carolina head coaching job has been tacitly offered to Butch Davis, several sources in the coaching business have told ESPN.com.

"It is Butch Davis if he wants," one source said via e-mail Friday. North Carolina, he continued, "would like a commitment soon, [in] two to three weeks from Butch."

The Tar Heels fired sixth-year coach John Bunting, effective at the end of the season, on Oct. 22.

Davis has begun assembling a coaching staff from the ranks of NFL and major college programs should he decide to accept the North Carolina coaching job, according to a coach who has spoken to Davis and two agents whose clients are interested in jobs at Chapel Hill.

"Some of the coaches that would be on Butch's staff have been calling [coaches] in the [Atlantic Coast] Conference, asking questions about players, facilities," one source said.

In Chapel Hill on Friday night, North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour declined to comment on the search through sports information director Steve Kirschner.

Davis has been performing due diligence on the North Carolina job for several days, inquiring about issues from the administrative (how has the salary structure of assistant coaches changed since he left college football in 2000 to coach the Cleveland Browns?) to the qualitative (how much can he win at Chapel Hill?).

Davis coached the Browns for nearly four seasons, going 24-36 before resigning late in the 2004 season. He coached at the University of Miami from 1995-2000, going 51-20 as he rebuilt the Hurricanes into a national power.

Davis had expressed interest in a return to Miami in the past, but sources said on Friday night that the coach dismissed the possibility of a return to the university.

Davis also is near the top of the list of candidates to replace John L. Smith at Michigan State, but a source close to Davis says he considers North Carolina to be the more attractive position.

Larry Coker, an assistant to Davis, replaced him as head coach and led Miami to the 2001 national championship and to a double-overtime loss to Ohio State in the 2002 championship game. However, the Hurricanes' power has slowly ebbed over the past four seasons. They are 5-3 going into their home game Saturday against No. 23 Virginia Tech.

Ivan Maisel is a senior college football writer for ESPN.com. ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad also contributed to this report.