UNC's Holden Thorp stands his ground

Chancellor vows to stay on, lauds university's support, prestige

Staff WritersAugust 12, 2011 

— Holden Thorp said Thursday that he has no plans to step down as the UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor and that the UNC system's Board of Governors "has been great" through the NCAA investigation of the university's football program.

"Carolina is a great research university," Thorp told reporters after updating the Board of Governors' Committee on University Governance on the investigation, which has prompted allegations of nine major rules violations related to improper benefits and academic misconduct within the football program. "We're getting a great class next week coming in. We have great students coming back. We'll have the faculty continue to make discoveries. Our research grants continue very, very strong, and fundraising continues very, very strong. This is a great, great public university.

"I feel inspired by the way our faculty has responded to the economic crisis, and I'm proud to be their leader."

Thorp spoke publicly in front of the Board of Governors committee for about 90 seconds before the board moved the meeting into closed session to discuss personnel matters.

Thursday's meeting of the Board of Governors, the group that oversees all of the UNC system schools, was the first since Thorp fired Tar Heels football coach Butch Davis.

Though UNC system board members declined to comment on what was said during the hourlong, closed-door session, Board of Governors Chairwoman Hannah Gage said afterward that Thorp had her support.

"He did the right thing," Gage said. "He made the right decision, and I think it took a lot of courage. He's the first one who said the timing wasn't perfect, but it took a lot of courage."

UNC must respond to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations by Sept. 19. University officials will take the full 90 days allotted to respond to the June 21 delivery of the notice of the alleged rules violations, Thorp said. He and other university officials are scheduled to appear in front of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on Oct. 28.

When Thorp fired Davis last month, he said he could not stand for the damage sustained by UNC's reputation because of the NCAA investigation. Many Tar Heels fans have since called for Thorp's ouster, saying Davis was not directly responsible for the violations and that nine days before the start of preseason training camp was a bad time to fire a football coach.

Earlier this week, a Public Policy Polling survey of 317 UNC fans in North Carolina found that 36 percent agreed with Davis' firing, while 27 percent disagreed.

Board of Governors member Brad Wilson, while also cautioning that he was not speaking for the entire board, said he supports Thorp.

"There's a question between 'Do you support the coaching decision and the timing of that?' and 'Do you support his leadership?'" Wilson said. "The important question is supporting his leadership. He leads more than athletics. . . . That's the way I made my decision. I fully support Chancellor Thorp."

John Montgomery, executive director of the Rams Club athletics booster group, said 10 people have canceled their memberships since July 28 in protest over the decision to fire Davis.

But 15 new members have joined since July 28. The Rams Club has about 16,000 members.

"People love Carolina athletics. They love Carolina. And they will continue to support us."

ktysiac@charlotteobserver.com or 919-829-8942

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