UNC supporters want more on Butch Davis' firing

Supporters who help fund stadium expansion want to know more about coach's firing.

Staff WriterAugust 9, 2011 

A group of North Carolina football supporters who agreed to help fund Kenan Stadium's "Blue Zone" expansion project wants more information about why coach Butch Davis was fired.

Don Brown, one of five lawyers representing the group, had his Charlotte firm fax a public records request to North Carolina on Monday asking for all correspondence - including emails, text messages, letters and voice recordings - between the Chancellor Holden Thorp and various university officials.

The issue, according to Brown: Why was Davis terminated just nine days before fall practice, after repeated statements over the past year supporting him as coach? He said the group might explore legal action depending on the information it receives.

"I can tell you, everybody that we represent is furious about the timing of Butch Davis' firing," Brown said. "They feel like their investment was based on Butch Davis being the head coach ... and the public reassurances over the past year that he would remain the coach. ... They want answers."

Brown said he and the other lawyers - Mark A. Johnson of Marietta, Ga.; Matthew J. Dixon of Elizabethtown; Ray S. Smith of Atlanta and J. Scott Hampton of Greensboro - are North Carolina graduates and have taken the case pro bono. The group they represent wants to remain anonymous at this point, Brown added, but includes donors of differing financial contributions.

The request asks for correspondence dating to June 1, 2010, between Thorp and more than a dozen people including: Hanna Gage, chairwoman of the UNC Board of Governors; Wade Hargrove, chairman of the Board of Trustees; Art Chansky, a former employee at Tar Heel Sports Properties; William Friday, former President of the University of North Carolina System; Davis; and athletics director Dick Baddour.

The request also asks the school to produce:

Thorp's cell phone records over the past 13 months, as well as any emails during that timeframe responsive to the request that he might have deleted.

Notes, minutes and records in Thorp's possession from any discussions about Davis and the football program at the July 27 Board of Trustees meeting.

Any documents concerning any proposed self-imposed sanctions that are to be presented to the NCAA in connection with the football program, if applicable.

Correspondence between Thorp and the NCAA - or anyone else - concerning his self-reported violation of NCAA rules as a result of his public comments about a football scholarship offered to Davis' son Drew Davis.

The request asks for the information to be provided within one week of the date of receipt of the letter.

A North Carolina spokesman confirmed the university had received the records request but had no comment.

Brown stressed that a lawsuit has not been filed, and that the specifics of any potential legal action have not been discussed.

"At this point, we are seeking information. ... The law we are stressing now is the North Carolina Public records law," he said. "I can't speculate further than that ... what the law might be (in the case of donations) depends on ... what facts we find."

Half of the nearly completed $70 million "Blue Zone" project - which adds the Student Athlete Center for Excellence, and roughly 3,000 seats to the stadium's east end zone - is being funded by private donations. The other half is being raised by the sale of club seats and luxury suites.

To date, the Rams Club has raised about $22 million for the project, executive director John Montgomery said. The foundation has received calls asking for refunds, and to stop pledging since Davis was fired, but "we've been working with donors one-on-one, and asking them to reconsider, to stay with us, to support us," Montgomery said. "... We are assessing the situation."

Since July 28, the day after Davis was fired, 10 Rams Club accounts have been inactivated, Montgomery said, although 15 new members have joined. It has not granted any refunds.

North Carolina faces an Oct. 28 date with the NCAA Infractions committee to discuss nine alleged major violations by the football program concerning academic misconduct and impermissible benefits. The NCAA investigation began more than a year ago; 14 players missed at least one game last season, and seven sat out the entire season.

Thorp pledged his support of Davis throughout the investigation, saying there was no evidence Davis knew about any misconduct. But he abruptly fired Davis on July 27 and said the fallout from the NCAA investigation was damaging the academic reputation of the university.

"The chancellor's explanation doesn't ... pass the smell test," Brown said. "... It doesn't make sense why you would do such an about face, and it raises more questions than answers. People want answers."

robbi.pickeral@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8944

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service