- Associated Press - Thursday, July 28, 2011

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina is now looking for a new permanent football coach and athletic director.

A day after the school fired Butch Davis amid an NCAA investigation into his program, Dick Baddour said Thursday he will step down after 14 years running the 28-sport department. In the final year of a three-year contract extension that expires in June, Baddour will stay until the school can hire a replacement because he wants his successor to select the next coach instead of inheriting a hire.

“It is my responsibility to do what is in the best interest of the program, and this is my decision,” Baddour said in a news conference to discuss Davis‘ firing.

The school also promoted defensive coordinator Everett Withers to interim head coach later Thursday.

Chancellor Holden Thorp said Baddour will attend the school’s hearing before the NCAA infractions committee in October, then serve out his contract in another position once the school hires a replacement.

Baddour’s departure adds to a bumpy year for North Carolina as the NCAA investigated improper benefits and academic misconduct within a program seemingly positioned to contend for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and a BCS bowl.

Fourteen players missed at least one game, and seven were forced to sit the entire season. The NCAA’s notice of allegations outlined nine potential major violations last month, though none tied to Davis.

Thorp said he fired Davis after four seasons because of cumulative damage to the university’s reputation in a year of embarrassing revelations. Some were serious, such as the $31,500 in financial transfers from late NFL agent Gary Wichard to former associate head coach John Blake, though Blake’s attorneys have described them as loans from one friend to another during financial trouble. Other issues appeared more trivial, such as key players racking up thousands of dollars of campus parking tickets over a four-year period.

In the end, however, the reports just kept piling up.

Thorp admitted the firing was “terrible” timing as players open practice next week, but said he had mulled the move for weeks and decided it couldn’t wait any longer. Thorp and Baddour had publicly supported Davis for the past year, so much so that Davis said Monday at the ACC preseason media days in Pinehurst that it was “reassuring” to have their backing.

“We tried to hold things together and restore confidence in the football program, and I felt in order for us to have a fair chance for that, I would have to support coach Davis,” Thorp said. “I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve given that enough time, and now it’s time for us to take the actions that we’re taking.”

Thorp said the university could owe Davis as much as $2.7 million in contractual obligations that run through 2015. That could be voided if the school found he was involved in the violations, though Thorp said he anticipated the school wouldn’t dismiss Davis “for cause.”

Thorp said he didn’t believe Davis knew about potential violations, but would only repeat that statement when pressed on whether Davis should’ve known as head coach.

“We recognize that $2.7 million may be what this ends up costing us,” Thorp said. “I’ve reached the conclusion that … the athletics program will need to pay whatever it is we need to pay to make the separation happen.”

Wade H. Hargrove, chairman of the school’s board of trustees, said Thursday the board was “fully supportive” of Thorp’s decision.

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