Davis says firing a 'total surprise' in first on-camera comments since termination

Former UNC football coach makes first on-camera comments since termination was announced July 27.

ktysiac@charlotteobserver.comOctober 5, 2011 

Former North Carolina football coach Butch Davis said during an ESPNU interview Tuesday that his firing in July was "a total surprise."

Davis appeared as a guest college football analyst on "The Experts," and told host Anish Shroff he had no idea he was going to get fired by Chancellor Holden Thorp.

"We'd gone through spring practice, through recruiting, all the summer time preparations for this season, and ultimately the decision totally rested with the chancellor," Davis said. "It's within his right, and I certainly respect his authority to be able to make that decision, but obviously I totally disagree with the decision."

Davis' interviews Tuesday with Shroff and with ESPN's Jesse Palmer on Monday marked his first on-camera reaction to his firing since its announcement July 27. Although Davis taped some guest analyst segments, ESPN publicist Gracie Blackburn said there are no plans for Davis to serve as a regular on-air personality for ESPNU.

Davis told Shroff he was proud of the way his team responded last season, when 14 players missed at least one game and seven were held out the entire season during the NCAA's investigation of impermissible benefits and academic fraud in the football program.

North Carolina went 8-5 and defeated Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.

"But you look at it and all the players that didn't get a chance to play, it certainly was a tragedy," Davis said. "It's one I didn't want to have to go through, another university didn't want to have to go through, and hopefully those are the kind of things that don't happen to any other institution in the country."

UNC officials will appear in front of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on Oct. 28 in Indianapolis to answer charges of nine major violations. The school already has self-imposed two years of probation, vacated its wins from the 2008 and 2009 seasons and cut three football scholarships for each of the next three academic years as it waits to learn if the NCAA will impose harsher penalties after the hearing.

Davis said the violations occurred even though UNC officials took a lot of pride in educating athletes about NCAA rules.

"Some of the things that transpired in our program are things that we felt like we were doing everything we could to explain those kinds of things," Davis said. "I think maybe additional background checks on people that had access to your athletes, that's really a critical and important aspect of it."

Tysiac: 919-829-8942

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