Carl Torbush, who succeeded Mack Brown as North Carolina’s head football coach in 1997 after serving as Brown’s defensive coordinator, has died. Torbush was 72.
Torbush was in college coaching for more than 40 years and helped Brown and UNC build one of the ACC’s strongest programs by establishing one of the nation’s best defenses. When Brown left for Texas after the 1997 season, Torbush was promoted to head coach and led the Tar Heels to a 42-3 win over Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl for an 11-1 finish.
“We lost a great man too soon,” Brown said Monday in a statement. “Coach Torbush touched so many lives in a positive way. He loved the game of football, especially defense. He was the architect of one of college football’s greatest defenses during the ‘96 and ‘97 seasons here at Carolina. We send our deepest condolences to Carl’s family and friends. He will be missed.”
Torbush was head coach for three seasons, going 7-5 with a win in the Las Vegas Bowl in 1998. But UNC was 1-8 and Torbush’s job in jeopardy before UNC beat N.C. State and Duke to close the 1999 season.
Those two wins and the support of his players earned him another season, but Torbush was fired in 2000 despite ending the year with wins over Pitt, Maryland and Duke to close 6-5. John Bunting, who played at UNC and in the NFL, was hired to replace Torbush.
Torbush, who had a 17-18 record as head coach at UNC, will be remembered as the man who hired an N.C. State head coach soon after beating the Wolfpack. Mike O’Cain, fired as the Pack’s coach after the 1999 season, soon joined Torbush’s staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in an unusual twist that surprised State and Carolina fans
After leaving UNC, Torbush was a football assistant coach at six schools before becoming head coach at East Tennessee State in 2015 when the program was restarted after 12 years. He retired in December 2017.
Torbush also was head coach at Louisiana Tech for one season, leaving after the 1987 season to join Brown’s new staff at UNC. Torbush, on Brown’s UNC staff for 10 years, was a finalist in 1997 for the Broyles Award given to the nation’s top assistant coach.
Torbush, a native of East Spencer, recently was diagnosed with ALS, according to media reports.