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.