One day after firing North Carolina head coach Butch Davis, UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp and Athletic Director Dick Baddour held a nearly 30-minute press conference on the decision, as well as the future of the program, both immediate and long-term.
And while it’s crystal clear that it’s Davis who should be the one apologizing for allowing his own program to run unattended like a problem child , it was Thorp who began the press conference with his own apology.
Okay, it was more empathy than apology, but the point was taken.
“To our student-athletes, you have already been through a lot this past year, and I know this is adding to that. I want you to know the university is behind you,” Thorp said. “I know the timing is terrible.”
Indeed it was. North Carolina is on the verge of starting up fall camp, and a program that lost so much talent from last year now has to trudge through what looked to be a rebuilding year with this punch to the gut.
Some media have already prophesied 2011 as a lost season for the Tar Heels. Perhaps it will be, but it’s obvious that Thorp is looking toward greener — or, bluer — pastures. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on Davis when he did.
Carolina is transitioning. The NCAA’s investigation and allegations were going to end in Davis’ dismissal; any other outcome would have resulted in rioting on Franklin Street. The school just swore in a new Board of Trustees, and today, Baddour announced his resignation as athletic director. Baddour’s contract ends next summer, but the 45-year AD asked Thorp to begin a new search for an athletic director who will, in turn, hire a new football coach.
Whether Baddour asked to step down (like he claimed), to which Thorp “reluctantly” agreed, or the other way around, it matters not. UNC is starting new again.
And the first step is finding an interim coach. Baddour said he’s already interviewed candidates and a decision should be coming within the next day or so.
The program also still needs to buyout Davis’ contract, which will be very close to $2.7 million. Thorp said the athletic department — not university subsidies — would pay whatever amount necessary to separate themselves from Davis.
The four-year head coach at Chapel Hill will not be fired with cause. Amazing, considering clauses in Davis’ contract stipulate that he could be fired with cause despite not being targeted in the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations.
“There was no evidence that coach Davis was involved in the allegations,” Thorp said. “This is about a cumulative effect on the university.”
Firing with cause could have could result in a lawsuit from Davis, and at this point, Thorp appears ready to cut his losses and move on.
“This was an athletic issue that began to chip away at our university… there was no one incident that led to the decision,” Thorp explained. “But the reputation of this university has a value beyond any dollar figure.”
Or, apparently, beyond any concept of timing.
UPDATED 2:03 p.m. ET:WRAL Sports has laid out the specifics of UNC’s buyout of Butch Davis. Below is an explanation of that buyout that actually states Davis may not get all $2.7 million:
Coach Davis’ Employment Agreement calls for the University to immediately pay him $270,417. Before the end of the calendar year 2011, the University will pay Coach Davis (a) an additional $13,083, which is the pro rata share of his retention bonus, plus (b) an additional $650,000 in supplemental compensation payments. That’s a total 2011 payment of $933,500.
The University will owe Coach Davis an additional $590,000 each January 15, starting in 2013 and concluding in 2015.
These amounts would be reduced by any compensation that Coach Davis might earn for coaching in a college or professional program.
The maximum total that Coach Davis could receive is $2,703,500.
All payments to Coach Davis will be made by the Department of Athletics. No state funds will be involved.