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August 7, 2011

Blue Zone donors retaliate

Boosters who contributed to the construction project at Kenan Stadium known as the "Blue Zone" are seeing red.

They have retained attorneys to explore legal action against Chancellor Holden Thorp, citing misrepresentation, possible fraud and unfair trade practices by firing football coach Butch Davis a week before practice started.

"Based upon the chancellor"s public reassurances," said Don Brown, a Charlotte attorney and UNC alumnus. "Davis would remain as coach. Our clients and many others who relied on the chancellor's own words invested their hard-earned money into the Kenan Stadium expansion project."

"Then Thorp did an abrupt about-face and fired Davis out of the blue, admitting that the coach had done nothing unethical or in violation of NCAA rules and regulations."

If the donors win their case, damages could vary, depending on what is learned through a Public Records request that will be filed early this week. (Click on accompanying link to read the Public Records Act request that will be submitted.)

Public Records Request to Chancellor Thorp

Thorp pledged his full support of the Davis -- until the day he fired him.

Then the chancellor cited academic integrity as the reason for firing Davis, but coaches from no sport at Carolina oversees tutoring.

The College of Arts and Sciences, led by Thorp before he became chancellor, is charged with supervising athletes' academic support.

"When the firing came down," Brown said, "everybody was waiting for Thorp to give a reason, such as maybe they had caught Butch in a lie, or he"d paid off an athlete or something such as that. But Thorp says not only has Butch done no wrong, but they're going to pay him the full $2.7 million left on his contract, which proves they have nothing on him."

Davis was not named in any of the nine NCAA allegations of misconduct.

The chancellor's errors, on the other hand, continue to multiply.

"A couple of days [after firing Davis]," Brown said, "the chancellor himself does something Butch has not done -- committed a NCAA violation. He publicly complained about the recruitment of Drew Davis, who is just a kid in high school.

Drew Davis is Butch's son.

"The chancellor has done a lot of talking, and our clients relied on what the chancellor said publicly," Brown said. "They believed him. But he misled a lot of folks. And the chancellor"s bait-and-switch with Coach Davis has hurt a lot of people. They never would have made this kind of investment had the chancellor been straight up from the beginning."

During this past year, the money needed to pay for the multimillion dollar Blue Zone has been raised.

The seating part of the structure is connected to a building that has 30,000 square feet dedicated to academic support. There will be a strength-and-conditioning center covering 13,600 square feet.

Retaining Davis was critical raising the money.

"Very few coaches in America would have had the kind of drawing power that Coach Davis had and has to raise that kind of money for that kind of project in a down economy. It now appears that they used Butch"s name to raise the money, and then dumped him once the money was raised."

The Public Records Request is designed to elicit information on whether Thorp purposely waited to terminate Davis until after he had the money for the project.

"Our clients feel like they"ve been duped by Chancellor Thorp," Brown said.

Now the Blue Zone is nearly finished, but the coach whose name was used to raise the money is gone.

"Thorp's actions do not pass the smell test," Brown said.

"Coach Davis was and is one of the biggest-name coaches in college football and by far the biggest name coach in the ACC. They needed to keep Coach Davis long enough to raise the money for the expansion project and could not have done it without him."

"Substantial sums of money were in fact invested into the Blue Zone project based upon Thorp's repeated assurances that Davis would be the coach."

With academic reforms already implemented and the NCAA investigation nearing conclusion, the worst would seemed to be at an end.

"Of course, everyone knew about the NCAA investigation," Brown said. "But all along the chancellor repeatedly indicated his public support for Coach Davis and led everyone to believe, barring some unknown fact that may have led the NCAA to cite Coach Davis personally, Davis would remain the head football coach at Carolina."

The first action in the process will be to serve a Public Records Act request on the University under the North Carolina Public Records Law. (See the attached link to read the entire Public Records Act request).

Public Records request to Chancellor Thorp

The attorneys working the case, all UNC alumni, will file this request sometime this week.

The request will demand correspondence between Thorp and other individuals, including Board of Trustee members, Board of Governor members and other influential people, such as Art Chansky, Jim Heavner, and former UNC Presidents William Friday and Erskine Bowles.

Brown said all the attorneys working this case are UNC alumni and are working on this matter pro bono, which means they are working for no fee.

"We"re handling this matter free of charge because of our love for Carolina, and our concern about these investors who were misled," Brown said. "We intend to get to the bottom of what really happened."

Attorneys handling this action on behalf of investors include Brown, of Charlotte, Matthew J. Dixon of Elizabethtown, J. Scott Hampton of Greensboro, Mark A. Johnson and Ray Smith III.

The people they represent are still furious about what has occurred.

This is a copywritten story. The use of it must be agreed upon by the publisher of www.TarHeelIllustrated.com

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