Chancellor Holden Thorp announced Wednesday night that Butch Davis had been dismissed as head coach of the football program.
“To restore confidence in the University of North Carolina and our football program, it’s time to make a change,” Thorp said. “What started as a purely athletic issue has begun to chip away at this University’s reputation. I have been deliberate in my approach to understanding this situation fully, and I have worked to be fair to everyone involved.
“However, I have lost confidence in our ability to come through this without harming the way people think of this institution. Our academic integrity is paramount and we must work diligently to protect it. The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change.”
Thorp elaborated on the coaching change Thursday with Athletic Director Dick Baddour during a news conference.
The chancellor said the decision was not related to any change in the NCAA investigation.
“This is really about the cumulative effect on the University’s reputation—nine NCAA allegations and persistent questions about our commitment to academic integrity,” Thorp said. “The best way for the football program to move forward is to make a change.”
Thorp said the dismissal was a very difficult decision, compounded by cost (up to $2.7 million under the terms of Davis’ contract – all of which would come from the athletics department) and timing (the start of training camp for the football team is days away).
“But the reputation of this University and the integrity of our football program have a value beyond any dollar figure,” he said. “As we move forward, I am committed to maintaining our place as one of the top public universities in the nation – both in academics and athletics.”
The chancellor announced that he had reluctantly accepted Baddour’s decision to step down before his planned retirement at the end of the year. Thorp and Baddour named Everett Withers interim head football coach on Thursday. The new athletic director will hire the next head coach.
“He felt strongly that our ability to recruit a new coach was dependent upon an A.D. being in place,” Thorp said. “I agree with that.”
Baddour will serve out his contract through June of next year, but will step aside and assume other duties when a new athletic director arrives. The University is currently putting together a response to the NCAA’s notice of allegations due Sept. 19. A hearing with the NCAA infractions committee is scheduled Oct. 28.
“Dickie’s made a 45-year contribution to this University and our community,” Thorp said. “In athletics his legacy is unparalleled: 13 national championships in four sports, and competitive success across all the sports programs. (And) 15 top 10 finishes in the Director’s Cup.
“There is nobody in the world I’d rather have next to me when we go before the NCAA in October than Dick Baddour.”
In a statement Thursday, Board of Trustees Chair Wade H. Hargrove supported Thorp and said the board remained committed to the success of Carolina football.
“This was not an easy decision for the chancellor, but it was the right decision,” he said. “… We are proud of Carolina’s tradition of academic and athletic excellence and its long-standing commitment to fundamental ethical values.”