Calling Audibles Part XII: Reading Tea Leaves and Twitter Feeds

Chapel Hill is abuzz with predictions that a new football coach is on his way.  Twitter feeds suggest possible timetables and scenarios while everyone waits for some official word.

For my family and the other current coaches’ families we pretty much knew this day would come when they fired Butch Davis back in July.    

Many people came up to us when they fired Coach Davis and said things like “I’m so glad your husband didn’t get fired and that you all get to stay in Chapel Hill.”  It is hard to explain to people that, while John and the other coaches did not get fired when Coach Davis did,  firing the Head Coach in this situation simply meant death by a slower means for the assistants.  When the Head Coach goes it usually follows that all the assistants go, too.  In this situation, since they fired Coach Davis when they did, they needed people to coach the season so we were retained.  Everett Withers wasn’t the only one with an “Interim” tag before his name.  They could have put that before everyone’s title back in July.

Every game week there were tea leaves to read—how did the team look, what’s the talk around town, do we have a real shot at staying or will they clean house here no matter what?

Now the tea leaves and twitter feeds leave less and less to wonder about when it comes to what’s next.

Just five years ago it was my husband and the other coaches coming to UNC who were creating the same buzz.  People were excited about a new stage in Carolina football.  We were excited to be here and we were very touched by how kind and supportive everyone was.   The coaches have done what they were hired to do at UNC.  And there is a lot to feel good about.  Even so, as guess work gives way to predictions and predictions give way to rumors, which give way to some new reality, what is unfolding here does not feel good to us now.

One Twitter feed I saw yesterday, written by someone we have done business with in Chapel Hill, read something like “I am sorry to see the current FB staff to go, but I am excited about a new coach and ready for the healing to begin.”

I wonder whose healing gets to begin when the new coach gets here?  The players who have dealt with two years of upheaval and uncertainty and now face another season of transition and change—does their healing begin?  The coaches who are uprooted and wondering where the next stop is after doing a good job here and serving this university well—does the healing begin for them?   The coaches’ families who have friends to part with, houses to sell, and more unknowns to face–does our healing begin?

If there’s one thing I have learned about healing it’s that you don’t do it alone or in a vacuum.  If you are healing, but I am not, your healing will always be compromised.  We are that connected with each other.  The harm that has happened at UNC will not be healed simply by bringing in some new faces.  Healing is not a surface dynamic and it doesn’t stop with superficial wounds.  Deep healing gets to the places where the real harm has found a home.  And it keeps rooting out the offending source of infection and harm until real change occurs.   The healing may or may not begin here with a new football coach—it depends on how willing people are to look at the real wounds and the chronic diseases.

I doubt that kind of healing work is something that the “tweeps” and fortune tellers of the world are interested in at this point.  The adrenaline rush of a new face, a new day, a new reason to cheer and feel good about their school is enough to keep the twitter feeds feeding and the tea leavers reading.

Between the lines and behind the wonderment of it all, we’re all still here, living in this community albeit for the short term.   You might hear about where we’re headed before we do!  Just remember not to believe everything you read.  The real lives in college football are not reducible to 140 characters or to the rumor mill that rules the internet.

The most important information I got yesterday was not from any tweet or internet rumor.  The wisdom I received was from two different players’ fathers—they are the ones who really sent the healing balm our way.  More than the twitter feeds and tea leaves, these men spoke from real experience and from lives touched.  They reminded us about what’s true and good about the football life.   Both of them reached out in their own way to say thank you.  Their words mean more to us than anything else we could have received.  We came here to be a part of young men’s lives in a way that could make a difference.   And we came here to help usher in an exciting new day in UNC football at the same time.   The twitter-speak may not be able to put that into words that translate.  But these fathers sure did.

As far as the audible for big time football, when it comes to days like this, I am not sure what to call.  Whatever the play, we can’t escape the loss.

49 thoughts on “Calling Audibles Part XII: Reading Tea Leaves and Twitter Feeds”

  1. Erskine Betts says:

    Ms. Stoops, listened to your husbands interview on 99 the Fan this afternoon, my son was a DI athlete at another UNC system University, I wish he had played for a coach like John. Best wishes to you guys!

    1. Erskine Betts says:

      sorry for the typo Ms. Shoop!

      1. Marcia says:

        Thank you, Erskine, for reading and commenting. I wish you and your son all the best, too. And please don’t worry about the typo, one bit!

  2. Mac Bare says:

    Please say thank you to your husband from the many, many fans who have a clue. I have not always agreed with his offensive play calling (far from it!) but I have never doubted that he, and the other men on this staff including Coach Davis, had the best interest of their players at heart. It says a lot that the QB your husband mentored went through some very tough times on and off the field and has what it takes to start at the highest level–as a rookie–and lead his team to victory.

    May God bless you and your family on the next stage of the journey. “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril or sword?…” You know.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Mac. That Romans passage is a great one to carry with us through this. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord! We appreciate your thanks and your support. We are so proud of TJ. He’s a great person and working with him will forever be one of the great joys of John’s life and our family’s life. Blessings to you.

  3. Jonathan Childres says:


    You and John will be greatly missed. And I have seen first hand what John has meant to a number of his players. They talk about him with respect & affection. You have to look no further than T.J. to see how John prepared him for a future in the N.F.L. T’J’ constantly talks about how his time @ UNC prepared him for the NFL and how he grew as a person under John’s tutelage.But they also talk about how he has helped prepare them for life, not just football.

    You will be no less missed for your contributions to your church and your community. I count myself lucky to have known both of you and call you friends.

    I know football coaches and their families are nomads in the world of college & professional football. But many of us count ourselves lucky for the time you and your family have been in Chapel Hill. I hope you find fulfillment & happiness in all your future endeavers.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Jonathan, for reading and commenting. We appreciate your affirmations and your friendship. We have loved our time here in Chapel Hill. You’ve helped us make some of our fondest memories! We treasure our friendship wherever we may be.

  4. Rameses says:

    To be perfectly honest YES…the healing begins for all of us here at UNC who are disgusted and hurt by what happened with our football program under the direction of the coaching staff. Coach Davis can hide and say he didn’t know anything about John Blake or the tutor or the parking tickets or the….. You get the point. We all know what happened and so do you. Coach Davis wasn’t blind to all of this. And it wasn’t like he had a squeaky clean track record and John Blake certainly has a stinky closet.

    My point is that I am gonna hang here. Don’t wait on/expect me. this is surely a difficult time for you and your family it is time to heal for UNC most importantly. The scars left here at UNC are deep. This isn’t “the U” where thugs have roamed the sidelines for years and they just turn the other cheek to what was going on away from the field. This isn’t the NFL either – which is what Butch Davis seemed to sell more than UNC “I have sent this many players to the NFL” not “please come get your degree and enjoy football at UNC.”

    This is the University of North Carolina where there has been an impeccable track record of doing things the right way and winning. This university is way bigger than Butch Davis, agents, twitter, tutors, etc. Butch screwed up and the Chancellor got rid of him. I would have done the same thing – just not sure why he waited so long. So let’s take the time ro be thankful that we have all had the pleasure of being around the University of North Carolina and be thankful we are going to a bowl game – which we are very lucky to even have the opportunity to.

    Best of luck to you and John and your family. Thank you for your service to UNC.

    1. Marcia says:

      Dear Rameses,
      Am I really writing to the mascot?? Since that is the name you are using I am going to assume that’s who I am talking with here. My kids have always been so delighted to see you. Do you remember my daughter at women’s basketball games? You and she were on the jumbotron together once? We have a picture that she loves looking at.
      I guess I didn’t realize that as the mascot you were so involved in the inner workings of the university. I am sure Chancellor Thorp appreciates your support. I think it’s fair to say that that’s an important vote of confidence that the mascot would have handled things the same way.
      As far as you telling me what I know about Coach Davis, please with all due respect know that you do not know what I know. If only the world were as uncomplicated as you have described it things might be a little easier to take. In the larger picture, alas, even the institutions we love and the places we call home can disappoint us. It’s a harsh lesson to learn, but we get through it as we grow up and live in the world.
      We will forever be thankful of our time here in Chapel Hill. My husband especially loved working for this university.
      All the best to you, Rameses. Thanks for the joy and delight you’ve brought to my kids and so many others.

  5. Cindy Bolbach says:

    Marcia — Thinking of you and your family, and, more important, praying for you all during this time.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Cindy, we certainly appreciate your thoughts and prayers. We trust that God’s hand is already at work inviting good to come from all the struggle and uncertainty.

  6. Brian says:

    I have lived in this town for 31 years! And everything your family and every other coaches family under Butch has done to the REAL people of chapel hill will always be remembered!!! I am forever grateful fir the class you all brought to my town and this great university! To me you set a great standard for others to strive to meet!! Thank you! – Brian Fox

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Brian. We appreciate your affirmation and your support. We will forever treasure and be grateful for our time here and for the wonderful people here. All the best to you.

  7. Lyn Hawks says:


    The ram doth protest too much, methinks. 🙂

    I’ve never served in an institution with an “impeccable” record, probably because fallible people like myself were/are involved. Like the ram, I wish our schools, churches, and government agencies were free of sin. Turn over rocks everywhere (no doubt at my beloved alma mater, Stanford, which seems to balance academics and athletics well) and we’ll find error, corruption, sin. All have fallen short. Try to deify an institution (or take on the icon or mascot) and you’ll only be disappointed when the investigations start and the costumes come off.

    That said, one person’s error or a small group’s doesn’t and shouldn’t color the whole picture. There are so many coaches like John Shoop who do things right every day without fanfare and who keep integrity in the midst of the storm. Or players like Devon. I am grateful for your blog that is helping paint the full picture.


    1. Beverly Rudolph says:

      Beautifully written, Marcia, AND your comment, my dear Lyn, as well!

    2. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Lyn and Beverly.

  8. Jody says:

    First, thank you for an incredible series of reflections. They have been heartfelt, faithful and provoking in the best way.
    Second, and most important, know we are grateful for you and John for your ministry in the church and university. You have made a significant impact on our lives and that will not change.
    God bless you in the journey to come.


    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Jody. The blessings are mutual!

  9. Terry Rudolph says:


    I know this is a extremely difficult time for you and John. But know this: Beverly and I have been blessed to have you come into our lives, and we will be with you wherever you go.

    John was great on the radio yesterday, and UNC is all the better for having him among the players for the last 5 years. T.J.’s success and testimony will lead to great things for him, I have no doubt.

    Blessings to you both and the kids, and keep writing!


    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Terry. We are so grateful for your support. I will keep writing–I hope you keep reading and commenting!

  10. Robby Oakes says:

    You and John and the rest of the coaches and families will be greatly missed. The healing process referred to is for the UNC ALUM/fans who poured their heart, souls and yes money into supporting Butch Davis and this coaching staff only to have that support thrown back into our faces by Chancellor Thorp. As I have always stated while I don’t agree with the firing of Coach Davis I understand why the Chancellor did what he did. However the timing and the way it was handled was completely unacceptable. In my 32 years in Chapel Hill I have never seen this University so divided. For those of us who have no choice but to claim UNC as our Alma Mater the healing process must begin.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Robby, for reading and commenting. I appreciate where you are coming from. I know this is the school you love and the community you call home. This has been painful for all of us, each of us for unique reasons. Healing can be a painful process and it can only take hold in the deepest places when the truth is told and acknowledged. That’s the way God calls us–to tell the truth and the truth will set us free!
      I will be praying that there can be real, deep healing here. I trust that we will experience deep healing in our lives from all of this, too, no matter where we are. We all will if we are not afraid to be honest even when it is hard.
      The truth is that this process has hurt people who have poured their heart, time, talent, and resources into a place they love–you are one of those people and so are John and the other coaches. That’s the hard part–people who’ve done nothing but serve this place well are hurt. You have no choice but to be an alum of this place. We have no choice but to find ourselves moved to the outside now. Lots of loss there. Thankfully there is a loving force in the world faithfully at work in all things calling us down a healing road. We’ll go where that takes us.
      Peace to you, Robby.

  11. Darlene Young says:

    My husband and I both enjoyed the opportunity to get to know you and John better the evening you came to Greensboro to speak at First Presbyterian. It was clear that both of you had genuine and deep feelings for the players under your husband’s care. I also know that your positive effect on those players will last far beyond your time in Chapel Hill.
    There is nothing fair about the processes related to big-time college football programs, and nothing I can offer will ease the hurt in your lives and those of the rest of the staff. I do know that wherever you and your family go from here you will continue your good influence on those associated with the sport that your husband so loves.
    God bless you.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Darlene. John and I sure enjoyed the evening at First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro. We appreciate your prayers and your good wishes. We know God’s hand is in all of this and that good will come of it. Blessings to you, your family, and your congregation.

  12. Emmett Gill says:

    Dear Marcia:

    I love your blog. It’s rare we have theological and moral conversations about sport. I can only imagine the upheaval that will begin with UNC naming a new head coach. Your work is wonderful. Keep up the outstanding work. I would love to chat with you about our Student-Athlete Human Rights Project.


    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Dr. Gill. I look forward to talking to you about the Student-Athlete Human Rights Project and all the important work you are doing.

  13. Rev. Philip Setzer says:

    Dear Rev. Shoop,
    As a longtime Carolina fan the past two years (of UNC football) have been extremely disappointing to many. In a broken world we look to find perfection all of the wrong places. But after years of mediocre football, Coach Davis brought a sense of hope that many desparately needed. You are entirely right about institutionsbeing fallible; if people are included there will be shortcomings. But hope that was not realized was misguided in the first place. If only we would hope in the Lord!
    To a degree we are all at fault for the shortcomings of the NCAA system. Winning is so important over and above academics and relationships that each of us have contributed to the pressure placed on coaches, even if we do not care to admit it.
    I pray for all of the coaches and their families, that the memories and relationships you have all developed will bring you comfort. I pray also that the presence of the Holy Spirit will fill your hearts with all hope for the future.
    And as one UNC fan, I thank you for the blood, sweat, and tears your family and the other families have put into the student-athletes and UNC.

    1. Marcia says:

      Dear Rev. Setzer,
      Thank you for reading and for your helpful comments. We are leaning on God and trusting the Spirit to guide us in the days ahead. God has been faithful and ever present through all of the blessings and challenges here. We have so very much to be thankful for even as we grieve how much is lost. We came to UNC with high hopes and with thankful hearts for this opportunity. And we leave with the same. Many of the things we hoped for have been realized here–through God’s grace and wisdom. Thank you for your prayers and for your appreciation. Blessings to you and your family and the people you serve.

  14. Pete Peery says:


    What a powerful, gracious, witness to the ways of the Realm of God, theologically challenging groups of offerings you have made on this website out of the crucible of the pain you and John and your dear children are experiencing! I am humbled to know you and honored that you are a colleague in ministry.

    Margaret and I as well as I am sure our UNC educated children (and children in law) will keep you and your family in prayer.

    And may this culture learn and be bent more toward love and justice through what you share.

    Grace and peace,

    Pete Peery

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Pete. I am thankful for your prayers and the prayers of all the Peerys. I am honored to be your colleague and am thankful for the work you’ve helped me do at Montreat while we’ve been here in Chapel Hill. We also give thanks for our friendship with you all and for our renewed connection with Montreat. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

  15. Susan Steinberg says:

    Dear Marcia,

    Your insights on the beginning and end of healing are profound, as always. I just wish you were at different place on that continuum! May the healing you and John have brought to so many of us be returned to you multiple times over in the days ahead. God will continue to do good things in your lives, wherever you go–this I know.

    Peace, Susan

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Susan. I so appreciate your blessings and your assurances. All a comfort to us right now.

  16. It is rare and so very crucial that we have fearless theological conversations about sport, about work, about ethics, and about loss. Your blog is about all of those and so much more! I am grateful for your voice, Marcia, ‘crying in the wilderness’ with passion, truth, compassion, and insight. As someone who has been through the very crux of what you are describing now, in your own experience, I am receiving deeper healing than you may know from your writing. By His wounds, we are healed.

    Peace, Susan

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Susan, for reading and commenting. It is a gift to have your affirmations and your understanding spoken from your own healing journey. I am thankful for your beautiful voice! I hope you will keep reading and commenting.

  17. Jim Groome says:


    Thank you for your insight. I greatly admire those who have made shaping and caring for young people their life’s work. although your husband’s is “Coach”, he is no less a teacher than any faculty member. His (and your’s, too!) Christian example will not be overlooked by his players/students. He teaches not only a game, but lessons that will be used every day in their lives after football. Thank you and John for sharing a great “playbook” with our youth!

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Jim, for your affirmations. We appreciate your comments very much. Coaching is a form of ministry, that’s for sure. Blessings to you and yours, Jim. Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment.

  18. Alex Gottschalk says:

    Rev. Shoop,

    I am a current Carolina student, and earnest football fan. I will be the first to say that I have, on many occasions, criticized your husband for his play calling. That said, I also want to say that I hope for nothing but the best for him and you, and your family going forward. I have no doubt that your husband is an honorable man, who has had an positive influence on his players in their actual lives. As a former player (albeit not at the college level), and aspiring coach, I understand both the challenges faced with the profession, and how the day-to-day impact of a coach is far different than what the rest of us see on Saturdays. From a pure Saturday perspective, I feel that our offense has grown stale and could be more effective. Nevertheless, I appreciate all the time and effort that your husband has placed in the service of this university and most important in helping those student-athletes in every way he can. As disappointed as I am that this era of Carolina football did not work out, I harbor no ill-will towards anyone involved, and will always hope the very best things come to them in the future. Hopefully, Mr. Shoop finds employment in the industry soon, and that your family enjoys your next home, wherever that may be.

    Go Heels, and thank you again for the sacrifices that you have made in your life, as being the wife of a Coach is not an easy task.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Alex, for taking the time to read and comment–especially during finals. I appreciate your perspective and your aspirations. I hope you are able to pursue work that you love someday and that you will find it rewarding and satisfying.
      Coach Shoop has enjoyed his time coaching here at Carolina. He’s proud of the players and all the great offensive milestones they have accomplished. In the last three years alone they have set almost 100 school records. It was exciting to watch Gio Bernard set records for rushing and Dwight Jones set records for receiving–the first time in Carolina history to have a 1000 yard rusher and a 1000 yard receiver in the same season. He is also proud of all the quarterbacks he’s coached–as you know TJ Yates is now playing for the Texans, and Bryn Renner was the top rated quarterback in the ACC this year in efficiency I believe. There are many other great accomplishments by the offensive players this year and over the last five years that I hope you won’t overlook for their sake. We’re praying for all the players and hope the Carolina fans find a lot to cheer about because these young men deserve your support and the support of this whole community.
      We look forward to whatever God has in store for us next. Blessings to you as you finish school and find your way in the world, Alex.

  19. Larry Smith says:

    Mrs. Shoop,
    I have had the pleasure of talking to John on multiple occassions and meeting you before as well. I don’t have a son of my own,if I had I would have been proud to have him coached by John not only in football but in the game of life as well. I was connected with Coach Shoop through Cam Sexton. My very first meeting with your husband left a very positive impression on me. I’m sure that you don’t remember but I sat with you guys in Carmichael to watch UNC/Duke women’s basketball with a recruit that I took to Chapel Hill. Obviously I have no idea what the future holds for your family but I do know that God holds the answers. I will be pulling for you guys no matter where you all land.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Larry, for reading and for commenting. We have fond memories of Cam. We’ll never forget the Notre Dame game. One of our favorite pictures of all time is him leaping into the end zone in that game. I appreciate your affirmations and your good wishes for us. We are blessed to have had this time here and to have your support. Peace and blessings to you.

  20. Joe says:


    I have to say that this blog series is very well written and informative. It’s easy to forget about how assistant coaches and their families are affected when there is a head coaching change. I know the past two seasons had to be tough for you, but your husband and the coaching staff deserve a lot of credit for not letting the team fall apart during tough times.

    As an alumnus of UNC and someone who grew up in Chapel Hill, thanks for all you have done for the University and the community. Chapel Hill is a special place and I hope you and your family will hold that view, too. I’m sure you’ll find yourself in a good situation.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Joe, for reading and for commenting. Chapel Hill is a wonderful place and we will always treasure the time we had here. Thank you for your affirmations and good wishes. All the best to you and yours.

  21. Golden_Lion_007 says:

    +1 Ramses—Good riddance to the scoundrels and cheaters. Lets turn the page and revert to a once clean program.

    1. Marcia says:

      Dear Golden Lion,
      What an honor to hear from the King of the Jungle! Isn’t the internet amazing!
      I’ve always wanted to ask a real live lion if it is true what they say about you guys on the Discovery Channel. Do you really spend most of your life asleep? And do you really mate with several females and let them do all the work of the pride including hunting and caring for your offspring? What untoward behavior for such a majestic creature. If the scoundrels and cheaters are getting thrown out, sounds like you might be the first in line, Mr. Lion.
      The great thing for all of us is that God is good and Jesus loves you and me. I’m thankful for that in times like these.

    2. Golden Lion–Are you so naive as to believe that not one athlete previous to this at our beloved UNC has cheated on a test or paper, and that everyone attached to football are “scoundrels and cheaters”? You think that of all our players and all our coaches are cheaters? What a ridiculous and unintelligent position. You live in some all or nothing, clear cut world that does not exist. I feel badly for you.

  22. Chris Clemmons says:

    Marcia, this is a great blog…..I am thankful to have found it. I am also thankful that good people like the Shoops have become part of the Carolina family. I wish you and your family nothing but the best and I hope Coach Shoop lands a great position soon…..I am sure he will because he is great at what he does. It is apparent that you are great at what you do too!

    Merry Christmas to the Shoops!

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Chris. We are thankful for our time here and have enjoyed the work both of us have been able to do here. We trust that all will be well even as we grieve the ending of something about which we have cared so deeply. I pray that you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!

  23. Sam Harp says:

    Your so right about assistant coaches. My son is going through the same thing as his head coach was fired. He has worked the past month keeping things together with the players, recruiting, etc., just to have the newly named head coach come in and release him and the rest of the staff. There is no audilble we can call here. Rameses and the Golden Lion are animals of a cartoon nature. They must live in “make-believe” since they cannot even use their real names. Hope all is well for you.
    Sam Harp

    1. Marcia says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting again, Coach Harp. These days we are hearing more stories of friends in coach being let go, told to clean out their desk, etc. after hanging on through the first wave of firings as a new coaching staff gets assembled. It’s a brutal business that way. And there is a lot of loss for these guys who have been building relationships with recruits and their families. All of the sudden, they can’t talk to them, say goodbye, explain anything that is going on. It is heartbreaking. And then they are left wondering if the recruits have all the information they need to make sound decisions. Seems like universities would realize the damage that does to the way recruits feel about the school.
      Thank you again for reading and commenting, Coach.

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