CHAPEL HILL — The abrupt - and financially costly - dismissal of Tar Heels football coach Butch Davis on Wednesday leaves UNC-Chapel Hill searching for its third head coach in six years.
The university also must hire a new athletic director entrusted with finding a permanent coaching replacement for a troubled program shaken by an NCAA investigation.
UNC athletic director Dick Baddour, who has held the post for 14 years and who has worked at UNC since 1967, announced Thursday that he is retiring. He will continue as athletic director until UNC makes a new hire, then will move to another role until his contract ends.
With university chancellor Holden Thorp on hand to discuss the decision to fire Davis, Baddour told reporters that although his contract runs through June 2012, he is stepping aside. UNC officials would like Baddour's successor to be in place in time to hire a permanent replacement for Davis at the end of the 2011 football season.
"I've given my heart and soul for 45 years to the University of North Carolina," Baddour said. "... As someone who has hired coaches for the past 14 years, I know that it is even more imperative that my successor be able to name the next permanent head coach."
Thorp said UNC is prepared to pay Davis his full buyout, which is worth $2,703,500. All money will come from athletic department funds, and no state money will be involved, according to UNC officials.
Thursday evening, the university named defensive coordinator Everett Withers, who served on Davis' staff the last three seasons, the team's interim head coach.
Davis has four years remaining on a contract stating that the school would not owe him a buyout if it was determined he reasonably should have known about violations of NCAA rules within the program. Last month, the NCAA delivered a Notice of Allegations detailing nine alleged major violations involving improper benefits from agents and academic misconduct.
The NCAA has instructed university officials, including Thorp and Baddour, to attend an Oct. 28 hearing on the allegations in Indianapolis.
Davis not aware
Since late last fall, Thorp and other university officials have maintained that Davis did not know about the violations in the program. Thorp echoed that stance Thursday morning.
"This was a very difficult decision, compounded by cost and timing," Thorp said. "But the integrity of our football program and the reputation of this university have a value beyond any dollar figure."
Thorp explained the peculiar timing of the decision to fire Davis nine days before the scheduled start of preseason football practice. Since an NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits and academic misconduct began in June 2010, Thorp had consistently expressed support for Davis.
But over the last two months, UNC has endured several embarrassing episodes. The NCAA sent the school a letter on June 21 alleging nine major violations. Also last month, a Wake Superior Court judge ordered UNC to turn over to the media records showing that fewer than 12 football players received a total of 395 parking tickets worth $13,125 in fines over 31/2 years.
This month brought news that university officials had failed to detect plagiarism in a term paper turned in by former football player Michael McAdoo, an African Studies paper that had been reviewed by the school's student-run honor court.
"This was really about the cumulative effect on the university's reputation, nine NCAA allegations and persistent questions to our commitment to academic integrity," Thorp said. "The best way for the football program to move forward is to make a change."
Board no factor
Thorp said the change in the Board of Trustees roster that took place Wednesday had no impact on his decision to fire Davis. Three new trustees joined the board, and lawyer Wade H. Hargrove of Raleigh was sworn in as board chairman.
Hargrove, who replaced Bob Winston, said in a statement that the board supports Thorp.
"This was not an easy decision for the chancellor, but it was the right decision," Hargrove said. "It was reached after long and thoughtful deliberation."
Thorp said Baddour's sterling reputation with the NCAA has helped UNC cooperate throughout the 13-month investigation.
When asked how difficult it was for him to step down, Baddour held back tears and politely declined, saying he didn't have the emotional wherewithal to answer the question.
He expressed concern for the players in a tumultuous time and encouraged supporters to continue backing UNC's players and athletes.
"Our fans will rally around our student-athletes and our programs and the coaches that we have and understand that these are difficult times, and that this is when we need them the most," Baddour said. "This is when we need our Tar Heels to step up and help us."
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