Carl Torbush, who became well-known in the late 1990s as the UNC football team’s defensive coordinator and led the squad for three seasons as head coach, passed away on Monday at the age of 72. Monday morning, East Tennessee State, where Torbush was the coach from 2015 to 2017, made the announcement.
“We lost a great man too soon,” said UNC head coach Mack Brown, who coached with Torbush during his first stint in Chapel Hill. “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.”
In 1988, Torbush moved to Chapel Hill with Brown to take on the roles of linebackers coach and defensive coordinator. Stars like Dre’ Bly, Vonnie Holliday, Greg Ellis, and Brian Simmons were born out of Torbush’s legendary defenses at Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels never allowed more than 20 points in a single game during the 1996–1997 campaign. During those 24 games, UNC had a 21-3 record overall.
Torbush’s first game as the head coach at UNC was the final one, a 1997 Gator Bowl matchup with Virginia Tech. Following the regular season, Torbush was named the game’s interim head coach after Brown took the position of head coach at Texas. After Carolina triumphed 42–3, Torbush was eventually appointed head coach for the 1998 campaign. He planned to remain in Chapel Hill until the 2000 season concluded.
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Carl Torbush,” the UNC program said in a statement on Monday. “Coach Torbush was a great man and a heck of a football coach. The Carolina Football Family sends its condolences to Coach’s loved ones during this difficult time.”