Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 told the UNC trustees Thursday that the NCAA investigation of the football program appears to be nearing its end. Lengthy presentations to the trustees by Thorp, Athletics Director Dick Baddour ’66 and Coach Butch Davis included a strong assurance from Thorp that Davis would continue as head coach.
“Through all of that work over four months, we have found no information that Coach Davis was involved in any of the problems that have surfaced, and I know that he feels a great responsibility for the situation because it happened on his watch, just as Mr. Baddour and I feel a great responsibility to address the problems,” Thorp said. “But we have found no reason to make any more changes in the football program other than the ones that we have already made in terms of changing assistant coaches and the student-athletes that we have had to process.
“That’s what makes me feel good about Butch Davis being our football coach, about Dick Baddour being our athletic director and about the football program.”
Baddour said: “Coach Davis, you have handled the most difficult times in a dignified and professional manner. I believe you were the right fit when we hired you, and I continue to believe that. In fact, I believe that even more strongly.”
Thorp said the fact-finding portion of the investigation is nearly concluded. “The University feels at this point that we’ve done nearly everything that we need to do and a lot of the most important interviews have taken place.
“Our review committee, in partnership with the NCAA, has conducted more than 60 interviews of students on the football team, athletic department staff, academic support staff and others. The NCAA has been to campus seven times. The [N.C.] secretary of state’s office has been here twice as part of its investigation into agents. We are not aware of an upcoming visit by the NCAA, so we think that they may have made their last visit.”
A two-pronged investigation into the football program, involving improper player contacts with professional sports agents and other outsiders and also possible academic misconduct, is in its fifth month.
Of 16 players initially mentioned in connection with the investigation:
Those who have been dismissed or suspended could have academic issues, outside contact issues or both.
The University plans to appeal the cases of two of the players declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA, saying Devon Ramsay and Michael McAdoo were punished too severely.
Associate Head Coach John Blake resigned shortly after the season started, just ahead of revelations that he had been taking money from a friend who is an agent.
UNC has identified six people, some of whom are former Carolina football players, who were found in the investigation to have given members of this year’s football team impermissible gifts and/or impermissible help with lodging, travel, transportation and entertainment expenses. The University sent letters of disassociation to two of those.
On Nov. 11, UNC also sent a letter of disassociation to Jennifer Wiley ’09, a former tutor who was found to have provided travel and transportation help to players in addition to being involved in possible academic misconduct on the part of players.
Baddour told the trustees on Thursday about some of the changes being implemented in the football program.
He said hiring and orientation practices would continue to be reviewed and that potential and current employees would be required to disclose relationships and associations with agents — at hiring and annually. He said new employees would be required to attend orientation sessions, including rules education.
Baddour said the program would hire an additional rules compliance person, which would free an assistant athletics director to devote to rules education and issues regarding agents and extra benefits.
Davis addressed the trustees, saying, “I want to make it perfectly clear to everyone that I am embarrassed and saddened and disappointed about the negative light that the things in the football program have shed on The University of North Carolina. As the head football coach, I take complete and full responsibility for everything that happens in the football program. It is certainly nothing that we are proud of. We are embarrassed by it. I am going to do everything as the head football coach to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”
Thorp added: “I don’t feel good that we’re in this situation, but I feel good about the way that we’ve handled it, and I feel good about where we’re headed. I particularly feel proud of the fact that we faced this head-on, we disclosed that we had issues that we needed to work on, and we erred on the side of caution with student-athletes.