The University issued a seven-paragraph news release just before 6 p.m., following the Board of Trustees’ regularly scheduled meeting that afternoon. In that meeting, Thorp briefly mentioned the NCAA investigation of the football program in his regular report; he said he regretted UNC had not discovered plagiarism issues related to dismissed player Michael McAdoo, and reminded the trustees of the October date of a meeting with the NCAA. The board did not discuss the issue in an open session in which it dealt with routine University business. The board went into a closed session at about 2:30.
“To restore confidence in The University of North Carolina and our football program, it’s time to make a change,” Thorp said. “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.”
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.
The statement did not mention a successor to Davis. At a press conference the next day, Everett Withers was named interim head coach. Withers was Carolina’s defensive coordinator and coach of the defensive secondary for the past three years.
Davis said he did not see this coming. He gave the following statement to The News & Observer of Raleigh the night of July 27:
“My family and I were surprised and saddened to learn that I have been relieved of my duties as head football coach at Carolina. I am not naive enough to have ever considered this situation anything less than a serious matter and a significant priority. I have worked as hard as possible to address all aspects of the program that have been questioned. I fully believe we were on our way to getting past these issues and moving ahead in a positive direction.
“My family and I have been able to endure this difficult period in our lives for several reasons: First and foremost, as a family we have known all along that I personally did nothing wrong. That is the truth. Second, we have also had remarkable support from friends, family, the players, our coaching staff and so many others within the Tar Heel community. That these players and coaches were able to achieve the success they did last season, under such circumstances, makes me enormously proud.
“Moving forward, I wish only the best for the current team and coaches. For the players in particular, I wish them nothing but success on the field and in the classroom. The coaches already know how I feel about them. I couldn’t be more proud of their hard work and dedication. In fact, during the past year or so, my respect and love for our players, the coaching staff and the football administrative staff has grown enormously. It’s a wonderful group of people and I will miss them all.”
Thorp said, “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. That’s why we have to put this behind us and move forward.”
Baddour said, “The last 13 months have been some of the most difficult that anyone associated with the athletic department and football program have dealt with. 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,” Baddour said. “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 just eight days.”
On Aug. 4, in an interview with The News & Observer, Thorp said he had learned about two months earlier that Davis had offered Davis’ son, Drew, a football scholarship without consulting with Thorp or Baddour.
“I was disappointed that neither the athletic director nor I knew about that,” Thorp told The N&O. Thorp did not elaborate on how he learned of the scholarship offer. Also on Aug. 4, Thorp sent an email to campus colleagues and students explaining his decision to fire Davis and noting that he has asked Faculty Chair Jan Boxill to form a faculty committee to consider changes or improvement to the University’s honor system. His email did not mention Davis’ son.
Davis later issued a statement, according to The N&O, saying that he was “disappointed Chancellor Thorp has chosen to mention our son publicly as a part of his explanation for the decision to terminate my job.” Davis said that he had first heard of concerns about the recruiting of his son to UNC on July 22. He added that his son already had decided that, if he were to come to UNC, he would “do so as a walk-on in order to give someone else a scholarship opportunity to make the team.” Davis said that he and his wife also had decided to contribute a scholarship through the Carolina Family Scholarship fund, which provides need-based tuition scholarships to the children of qualifying Carolina employees who wish to attend any of the 16 UNC System campuses or community colleges in North Carolina.
Thorp told The N&O: “Drew is a good kid and I feel bad for him in all this … and for all I know, we would love to have him on the football team. But with everything going on, it would be good for the athletic director and the coach to talk about that and probably for all three of us to talk.”
Three of the allegations in the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations involved former tutor Jennifer Wiley ’09, who also was hired by Davis as a tutor for his son. Wiley has been accused of providing extra benefits worth about $3,500 to players in the form of expenses for travel ($150) and parking ($1,789) and for tutoring ($1,562); committing academic fraud; and refusing to provide information to the NCAA and to UNC.
Julius Nyang’oro has resigned as chair of the department of African and Afro-American studies over his involvement in multiple aspects of the investigation. Nyang’oro, who has been at UNC since 1990, is the professor who missed McAdoo’s plagiarism. In August, Nyang’oro was found to have hired Carl Carey Jr. ’00 (PhD), a registered sports agent who was representing some former Carolina football players, to teach a course this summer called Foundations of Black Education. Carey taught the same course in 2000 and 2001. Karen Gil, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said she approved the appointment, unaware Carey was an agent. At Baddour’s direction, athletes were advised not to take the course; an Olympic-sport student was permitted to, since agent contact was not an issue with her.
Thorp said in a prepared statement, “The University has been reviewing academic issues related to some courses in our Department of African and Afro-American Studies. The questions that we have concern possible irregularities with courses that included undergraduate students. We will continue to review the facts to determine whether there have been any violations of university policy and to determine what additional actions are necessary.”