After a meeting with the UNC Board of Trustees to discuss the future of the football program, Chancellor Holden Thorp announced his decision to relieve the football coach of his duties just eight days before training camp begins.
"To restore confidence in the University of North Carolina and our football program, it's time to make a change," Thorp said in a statement released by the university.
"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 no new evidence in the NCAA investigation motivated the action, but rather a result of damage sustained to the university's reputation during the past year.
Staples: Firing Davis now doesn't make sense
Raleigh lawyer Wade Hargrove was elected as the board's newest chairman on Wednesday in its first meeting since May 26. The board, chancellor and athletic director Dick Baddour had long stood behind Davis during the biggest scandal to hit the university in a half-century. On Nov. 18, the board confirmed Davis would be the head coach for 2011.
In June, NCAA investigators visited Chapel Hill to interview players and coaches about potential improper agent benefits. During the course of the investigation, improper academic assistance between players and a former tutor was also uncovered. In all, the NCAA hit UNC with nine violations in the notice of allegations sent in June.
"The last 13 months have been some of the most difficult that anyone associated with the athletic department and football program have dealt with," Baddour said in the statement. "At this time, a decision has been made to change the leadership of the football program to help the entire University community move forward."
There is no official word who will succeed Davis as head coach, but the promotion of offensive coordinator John Shoop or defensive coordinator Everett Withers is possible. On Friday, Davis promoted offensive line coach Sam Pittman to associate head coach, the position left vacant when associate head coach John Blake resigned from the program amid his involvement with the NCAA investigation and agent Gary Wichard.
Thorp and Baddour will hold a news conference Thursday at 11 a.m.
Davis compiled a 28-23 record in four seasons with the Tar Heels after taking over for John Bunting. His program looked ready to contend for an Atlantic Coast Conference championship and a BCS berth last year before NCAA investigators arrived on campus last July.
In all, 14 players missed at least one game and seven were forced to sit the entire season. Last month, the NCAA sent a notice of allegations to the school outlining numerous potential major violations.
That included unethical conduct of Blake, whom the NCAA accused of trying to steer players to late NFL agent Gary Wichard.
But Thorp and athletic director Dick Baddour had remained publicly supportive of Davis over the past year, including at a joint appearance with the school's board of trustees in November.
Davis' dismissal comes just two days after he fielded questions about the aftermath of the investigation from reporters at the Atlantic Coast Conference's preseason media days in Pinehurst.
Davis said he found the university's public support "reassuring" and said he had never considered quitting. He also talked about how the coaching staff and university had taken steps to correct past mistakes.
"Anything we can do to make sure this doesn't happen again, that's part of my responsibility," Davis said. "I regret greatly that these things have transpired and these things have happened. I don't take them lightly. This is a very, very serious issue. It's caused a tremendous amount of embarrassment and a tremendous amount of hard times for Carolina alums and fans. But we're going to get through this. And because of it, we're going to come out of it, and we're going to be better than we were before."