by Mike Potter
The suspense is over around the UNC football program.
The university released an E-Mail late this afternoon with the news that football coach Butch Davis had been immediately relieved of his duties, following a months-long NCAA investigation of players’ receipts of extra benefits as well as academic cheating.
Chancellor Holden Thorp and athletic director Dickie Baddour will hold a news conference Thursday morning to discuss the transaction and the immediate future of the program.
“To restore confidence in the University of North Carolina and our football program, it’s time to make a change,” Thorp said in the press release. “What started as a purely athletic issue has begun to chip away at this University’s reputation. I have been deliberate in my approach to understanding this situation fully, and I have worked to be fair to everyone involved.
“However, I have lost confidence in our ability to come through this without harming the way people think of this institution. Our academic integrity is paramount and we must work diligently to protect it. The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change.”
The news came after Davis had appeared at a couple of well-attended media events, the Pigskin Preview for the Triangle/East Chapter of the College Football Foundation and Hall of Fame on Thursday as well as the ACC’s two-day media festival on Sunday and Monday in Pinehurst.
Thorp said the decision was not related to any change in the NCAA investigation, but that it was the result of the cumulative damage to the University’s reputation over the past year.
“Athletics and football are an important part of this University, and a successful football program is essential to the overall health of our athletic program,” Thorp said. “That’s why we have to put this behind us and move forward.”
Baddour said the last 13 months have been tough for the athletic department and the program.
“Some of the most difficult that anyone associated with the athletic department and football program have dealt with,” Baddour said. “At this time, a decision has been made to change the leadership of the football program to help the entire University community move forward.
“I want to thank Butch Davis and his family for their four-plus years of service and dedication to the University and the Chapel Hill community. My staff and I will work with Chancellor Thorp to transition to an interim head coach as soon as possible. It is critical that we do all we can to help our students and other staff members on the football team since preseason training camp begins in eight days.”
The Tar Heels, who finished 8-5, 4-4 in ACC play last season, will open their season Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m. against James Madison.