North Carolina’s coaches thought Dick Baddour deserved better.
After 45 years at the university, including the last 14 as athletics director, Baddour announced his early retirement at the same press conference in which he and chancellor Holden Thorp explained the firing of Butch Davis.
They are now inextricably tied, and that doesn’t sit well with the leaders of other UNC athletics programs.
“I hate that this is the way it ends for him,” UNC field hockey coach Karen Shelton said after the press conference. “It’s killing him. We just have the greatest respect for him, everyone. To have it end, for him, under a cloud, it’s not fair.”
UNC baseball coach Mike Fox said his overwhelming emotion after attending the press conference was sadness at the way Baddour had to announce his early retirement.
“I think that’s the most disappointing for me,” Fox said. “We would all want it for him, to celebrate his legacy here and throw a big party and have it be more light-hearted and fun an atmosphere than it was today.
“I think Dick’s a great man. I could tell that when I first met him. To me, that’s his greatest quality: he’s a man of truth and honesty and integrity. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Baddour. I’m sad for him and his family.”
Baddour was visibly choked up during his announcement and could be seen fighting back tears later while Thorp praised him from the podium.
“I don’t know that I have the emotional wherewithal right now to tell you how hard it is on me,” Baddour said.
Baddour’s contract is up in June 2012, but he decided to retire as soon as a replacement can be found so that his replacement can hire Carolina’s new football coach.
“It was pretty evident to me as the decision unfolded that that's in the best interest of the football program,” Baddour said. “That's a realization that if you're in this business, your head football coach needs to know who the athletic director is going to be. With me knowing this is going to be my final year, you want the field to be as best as possible and the way to do that is to do what I'm doing.
“(Thorp) and I have had conversations about staying beyond that date to help stabilize the program after the NCAA made its ruling. However, as someone who has hired coaches for the past 14 years, I know that it's even more imperative that my successor be able to name the next permanent head coach."
While Baddour will eventually finish his contract in another position with the school once the new athletics director is hired, he will stay in his current role at least until UNC’s hearing with the NCAA infractions committee in October.
“The NCAA has extraordinary respect for Dick Baddour,” Thorp said.
But after the press conference, it wasn’t clear the same could be said for UNC’s administrators.
If they respected Baddour more, they would have acknowledged his retirement in a way more befitting his decades of service to Carolina instead of lumping that announcement together with the explanation for Davis’ firing.
“I’m very sad, very disappointed,” Shelton said. “There’s not a better man to lead this department, and there’s not a man at this university who cares more about the integrity of this program. So he doesn’t deserve this in my opinion.”