North Carolina defensive coordinator Chizik steps down

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina defensive coordinator Gene Chizik is resigning after two seasons with the Tar Heels.

In a letter to North Carolina fans, Chizik said he was stepping away from football to focus on his family. Chizik's wife and three children still live in Auburn, Alabama, where he was head coach of the Tigers from 2009-12. The 55-year-old has twin daughters and a son.

''Personally, it has been extremely difficult on my family and me,'' Chizik said in the letter. ''We have been apart for the past two years for the first time in my 30-year coaching career. I have been a long-distance husband to my devoted wife, Jonna. I missed my twin daughters' entire senior year of high school, along with sending them off to college. My son, Cally, is a high school football and baseball player. I have only seen two of Cally's baseball games and two of his football game in two years. As every parent can imagine, being a long-distance dad to my children has been extremely difficult on everyone.''

Linebacker coach John Papuchis is being promoted to defensive coordinator. Before joining North Carolina in 2015, Papuchis spent seven seasons as an assistant with Nebraska, including three seasons as defensive coordinator.

''John is a natural fit to take over our defense given his role the last two years and his previous experience as a coordinator,'' head coach Larry Fedora said. ''He knows our players and staff and will seamlessly transition into an expanded role.''

Chizik joined North Carolina in 2015 and helped turn around a defense that was one of the worst in the country the season before. He was a finalist for the Broyles Award given to college football's top assistant coach.

''I hate to lose Gene but certainly understand the reasoning behind his decision, I know it's been hard on him and his family,'' Fedora said.

Before joining North Carolina, Chizik was head coach at Auburn for four seasons. He led the Tigers to the 2010 national championship, but was fired after a winless Southeastern Conference season in 2012.

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