The fumigation of North Carolina's football program was inevitable and long overdue. It also has roots in, and will ripple through, our fair commonwealth.
The school turfed coach Butch Davis on Wednesday, months after his colossally poor judgment and management had driven the Tar Heels into a ditch. A day later, athletic director Dick Baddour resigned.
NCAA sanctions for academic fraud, improper benefits and employment of a patently corrupt assistant coach (John Blake)? How did a school steeped in athletic success and integrity careen so far off course?
Perhaps most curious, how did Thorp merit an invite to NCAA president Mark Emmert's August retreat on reforming college sports?
Those are unknowns. This much we do know: The most immediate effect in Virginia will be recruiting.
At least four acclaimed 2012 prospects -- receiver Joel Caleb of Clover Hill High near Richmond, linebacker Trey Edmunds of Dan River High outside Danville, linebacker Ken Ekanem of Centreville High in Northern Virginia and running back Wes Brown of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Olney, Md. -- are considering Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
Unless such talents are extraordinarily patient and willing to wait until the Tar Heels name a permanent replacement after this season and learn their NCAA fate -- they appear before the infractions committee Oct. 28 -- Davis' demise can't hurt the Hokies and Cavaliers.
That said, the NCAA scandal didn't prevent Carolina from signing at least two priority Virginia Tech/Virginia targets in February: linebacker Travis Hughes of Virginia Beach's Kempsville High and offensive lineman Landon Turner of Harrisonburg High. Moreover, quarterback Marquise Williams of Charlotte's Mallard Creek High chose the Heels over the Hokies.
Long-term, how Davis' departure resonates in Blacksburg and Charlottesville hinges on whether Carolina butchers another coaching search. For all of the raves about the progress Davis allegedly brought to the Tar Heels, he was 1-3 against Tech and Virginia, 0-4 versus North Carolina State.
Since Mack Brown left Carolina for Texas in 1997, the Heels are 1-6 against the Hokies and 3-10 versus the Cavaliers. This under Carl Torbush, John Bunting and Davis.
How different ACC football would look if Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer had accepted Baddour's offer to replace Torbush in 2000.
"I think he came very close," former Carolina tailback and long-time Tech assistant coach Billy Hite told me recently.
Now a senior advisor to Beamer, Hite knows. He was the Hokies' running backs coach at the time, and he huddled with Beamer the day of his fateful decision.
Despite his Tar Heels pedigree, Hite wanted Beamer to remain at Virginia Tech. So did most of the other Hokies assistants.
Hite feared Beamer would decide otherwise.
Tech had just concluded a 10-1 regular season with a 42-21 victory over Virginia in what proved to be Michael Vick's final game at Lane Stadium. The Hokies' only loss had been at Miami, then coached, coincidentally, by one Paul Hilton "Butch" Davis, in a game Vick missed with an injured right ankle.
Bound for the Gator Bowl, Tech was ranked sixth nationally, and Beamer believed that after losing five NFL draft picks from the 1999 squad that played for the national title, his staff had excelled like never before.
He wanted them compensated, and as the regular season concluded, negotiations were under way.
Less than 24 hours after that win over Virginia, Beamer interviewed in Chapel Hill, and many Carolina faithful still claim he accepted the job before jetting back to his alma mater. The next day, Monday Nov. 27, Beamer and Tech athletic director Jim Weaver agreed to raises for Beamer (more than $250,000) and his assistants ($100,000 combined for the nine).
"It's very important to me that the staff and people I work with here are compensated in a manner that they deserve," Beamer said at a news conference that day. Carolina "was a very good opportunity, but when it gets down to the nitty- gritty, I want to stay at this university and keep building this football program. This is what I want to do in life."
In 10 subsequent seasons, Virginia Tech is 99-34, Carolina 55-68.