Holden Thorp sends e-mail explaining decision to fire Butch Davis

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And considering the UNC Chancellor did it with fall camp right around the corner, he probably does have some explaining to do.

In a letter sent to UNC students and faculty, Thorp explained his reasoning behind letting Davis go after giving what seemed like a year-long vote of confidence. You can read the letter below, but it really doesn’t deviate too much from Thorp’s explanation a week ago during a press conference.

Thorp continues to push that this was not a “one incident” decision, but rather a “cumulative effect”. But it seems pretty clear that Thorp was waiting for the results of the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations before making a decision.

Here’s the letter:

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.

Sincerely,

Holden

Division II, Division III and NAIA title games set while FCS heads into semifinals

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Outside of a thrilling Army-Navy game and the Heisman ceremony, it was an empty Saturday at the highest level of college football.

But no so at the lower levels.

The divisional playoffs are cranked into high gear. Let’s take a brief look at where everything stands in each division.

FCS

Top-seeded and defending champion James Madison needed a last-second field goal to survive visiting Weber State, 31-28, on Friday night, while No. 5 seed South Dakota State routed New Hampshire, 55-14.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed and winner of five of the last six national titles North Dakota State walloped Wofford, 42-10 in Fargo. No. 6 seed Sam Houston State outlasted upstart Kennesaw State, 34-27, to send the Bearkats into their fifth semifinal game in the last seven years.

Semifinals: No. 5 South Dakota State at No. 1 James Madison — 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPNU; No. 6 Sam Houston State at No. 2 North Dakota State — 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2.

Division II

No. 4 seed West Florida traveled north and upset top-seeded Indiana (Pa.), 27-17 on Saturday, to send the Argonauts into their first championship game. No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce fended off the option attack of No. 3 Harding (Ark.), 31-17, putting the Lions in their first title game as well.

National championship: No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. No. 4 West Florida — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Division III

In a similar dynamic to FCS, the defending champion is on a collision course with the traditional champion. In the first semifinal, defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) blanked Brockport (N.Y.), 24-0. The Crusaders will make their third trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, looking to win their second title.

In the other semifinal, Mount Union (Ohio) overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 43-40. The Purple Raiders will play in their 20th Stagg Bowl — all of them coming since 1993, and 19 of them since ’96 — with a shot at their 13th national championship. However, Mount Union has won just — “just” — two national championships since 2009.

National championship: Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) vs. Mount Union (Ohio) — 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN at Salem Stadium in Salem Va.

NAIA

The NAIA was off this weekend, taking a break in between last week’s semifinals and Saturday’s national championship. Defending champion Saint Francis (Ind.) out-gunned previously-undefeated Morningside (Iowa) 43-36 in the first semifinal, while Reinhardt (Ga.) held off undefeated Southern Oregon, 37-34 in double overtime.

National championship: Saint Francis (Ind.) vs. Reinhardt (Ga.) — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3 at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Minnesota lands commitment from 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle

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P.J. Fleck is going to need a bigger boat.

Minnesota has landed a commitment from the largest recruit on record, as 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle Daniel Faalele has committed to the Gophers. Faalele made the announcement on his Twitter page on Saturday night.

A 3-star recruit, Faalele is rated as the No. 29 offensive tackle in the country, according to 247Sports. He listed 20 offers, including from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.

As the story goes, Faalele did not find football; football found him. He was discovered by a recruiter from Hawaii working out at a gym in his native Melbourne, Australia. He attended a Michigan satellite camp in Australia and played this season — his first season in pads — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

In making the trip from the Land Down Under to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Faalele will be joined by a pair of IMG Academy teammates in offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap, Jr., and quarterback Zack Annexstad, who also committed to Minnesota on Saturday.

Those pledges now give Minnesota the 26th best recruiting class in the country and the sixth best in the Big Ten — but the No. 1 class in the Big Ten West — in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Minnesota’s class may not be the best in the country, but it’s among the biggest — both in size (the Gophers have 25 pledges thus far) and stature.

Texas A&M suspends DT Zaycoven Henderson amid felony gun charges

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Texas A&M defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson was suspended amid multiple felony charges on Saturday.

As detailed by Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News, witnesses say Henderson pointed a rifle at one person outside College Station’s Campus Village Apartments and threatened to kill two others and allegedly threw the gun out of a fleeing car as police arrived on the scene. The car was later tracked down by College Station officers, who discovered marijuana in the car.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, tampering with evidence and marijuana possession. The first charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in a prison. The second is a third-degree felony and the third is a misdemeanor.

He was booked into the Brazos County (Texas) jail at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Texas A&M has suspended Henderson indefinitely, which really only lasts one game as the senior from Longview, Texas, was set to close his Aggies career in the Belk Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 29 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Henderson made 35 tackles with five TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 12 starts this season. He was honored as a member of Texas A&M’s senior class at the annual team banquet earlier this weekend.

UCLA reportedly hires Paul Rhoads as defensive backs coach

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Chip Kelly has reportedly hired one of the most respected men in the business to his staff. According to a report from Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman, Paul Rhoads is on his way to Westwood to coach UCLA’s defensive backs.

Rhoads spent the past two seasons at Arkansas, the first as defensive backs coach and the second as defensive coordinator in addition to his duties with the secondary. He’s best known, of course, for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, where he took the Cyclones to three bowl games and created this viral moment before any of us knew what “going viral” went.

In addition to Arkansas, Rhoads also owns defensive experience at Auburn, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, Pacific, Ohio State and Utah State.

UCLA finished last season ranked 74th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 57.1 percent completion rate for 7.3 yards per attempt with seven interceptions against 18 touchdowns.