University of North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp explained in an e-mail to students and colleagues today that changing football coaches was the only way for the school to move forward.
Thorp fired coach Butch Davis on July 27. The full text of Thorp's e-mail is below:
Dear Carolina Colleagues and Students:
My decision last week to ask head football coach Butch Davis to step
down was difficult. I think it was the right decision, and I wanted to
let you know why I made that call.
Throughout the NCAA investigation of our football program, I said that
we would take all accusations seriously and that we would face issues
head on. We apologized, and we pledged that the athletic department and
the University would be stronger as a result of the investigation. We
have cooperated fully with the NCAA and we have moved deliberately,
resisting the urge and pressure to make snap judgments.
Early on, I thought that it was important to support Coach Davis and to
allow time for improvements in the football program. But in the past few
months, I became increasingly concerned about the damage being done to
our University's integrity. When we received the NCAA letter of
allegations a month ago, I began to think about the need to make a
change. After 50 years without any major violations, we are now facing
nine allegations. And there are persistent questions about our
commitment to academic integrity. In the final analysis, there wasn't
any one thing that tipped my decision. It was the cumulative effect of
the football-related events of the past year on the University's
reputation. The only way to move forward and put this behind us was to
make a coaching change to restore confidence in the University as well
as our football program.
The difficulty of my decision was compounded by cost (up to $2.7 million
under the terms of Coach Davis' contract - all of which will come from
the athletic department) and timing (just before the start of training
camp for the team). But the reputation of this University and the
integrity of our football program have a value beyond any dollar figure
or any timeline disruption. I am committed to maintaining our standing
as one of the top public universities in the nation - both in academics
and in athletics.
Athletic Director Dick Baddour and I named Everett Withers, a member of
the current staff, as the interim head football coach. His top priority
is to help our student-athletes succeed on and off the field and in the
classroom. Dick also announced his decision to step down as athletic
director before his planned retirement later this year. He offered to
leave his job sooner because he feels strongly that our ability to
recruit a new head coach depends on having a new athletic director in
place to make that hire. I agree with that and reluctantly accepted
Dick's offer. He will serve out his contract through next June, but will
step aside and assume other duties when a new athletic director arrives.
Right now, we're putting together our response to the NCAA that's due on
September 19. Then we'll go before the NCAA infractions committee on
October 28. We need Dick Baddour with us when we go to Indianapolis to
meet with the NCAA. There is no other person I would rather have by my
side than Dick.
One additional issue requires attention this year. I've talked to
several faculty members recently, including new Faculty Chair Jan
Boxill, about the role of the Honor Court. Jan has agreed to pull
together a group of respected faculty members who will help us consider
changes or improvements to the honor system. We have a long tradition of
a strong student-run Honor Court, and of course, we'll involve students
and Student Government representatives in our analysis. Regardless of
the situation with football, it just makes good sense to seek ways to
improve our commitment to honor and integrity.
I hope you'll continue to support our student-athletes and the Tar Heel
football team. They will play their hearts out, just like last year.
Thanks to those of you I've heard from on this issue since it began.
I'll share more updates as developments warrant. In the meantime, best
wishes for a great fall semester.
David Scott has been with the Observer for 28 years and has written about ACC, SEC and other college sports in the Charlotte region. He covers Wake Forest, South Carolina and college soccer for the Observer and (Raleigh) News & Observer.
J.P. Giglio covers the ACC for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1997, and the Observer.
Andrew Carter covers the North Carolina Tar Heels for the Observer and News & Observer.
Laura Keeley covers the Duke Blue Devils for the Observer and News & Observer. Follow her on Twitter.
Chip Alexander covers the Carolina Hurricanes and college football for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1979, and the Observer.
Luke DeCock has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist for the Observer and News & Observer in August 2008.