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Chancellor Holden Thorp to Step Down

The University of North Carolina has announced that Chancellor Holden Thorp has tendered his resignation and will step down from his post in June, 2013. The resignation comes just three days after Thorp was publicly backed by the NC Board of Governors.

Thorp became UNC's tenth chancellor in 2008 after having been head of the College of Arts and Sciences and member of the faculty. Within two years of his term beginning, UNC was beset with the first of several scandals when the NCAA launched an investigation into the violations committed by members of the football team and assistant football coach John Blake.

A year after that investigation began, Thorp made the controversial decision to fire head football coach Butch Davis a week before the beginning of training camp drawing the ire of UNC fans and heavy criticism concerning the timing of the move. AD Dick Baddour also announced he would step down then which set in motion a change in leadership for both the athletic department and the football team. Ultimately UNC was able to hire a new AD in Bubba Cunningham who in turn hired Larry Fedora to head the football program. The NCAA investigation wrapped up and the football program was duly punished. Normally the effective resolution of the NCAA issues plus the hiring of Cunningham and Fedora should have been enough to insulate Thorp and in some ways vindicate him on his decision to fire Davis.

Unfortunately for UNC and Thorp the PR hits to the University kept coming. The discovery of suspect classes taught or supervised by African studies department head Julius Nyang'oro gave birth an academic scandal that refuses to go away. At present those academic issues are currently being investigated by former NC Governor Jim Martin with a report still forthcoming. In addition to the academic issues, Vice Chancellor of Advancement Matt Kupec stepped down last week after his travel expenses came under scrutiny. It was then revealed that Kupec was in a relationship with Tami Hansbrough, mother of UNC basketball great Tyler Hansbrough. Tami Hansbrough had been working at UNC as a fundraiser. Kupec and Hansbrough had apparently been taking trips unrelated to university business and expensing those trips to the school.

While it is not clear that the Kupec/Hansbrough revelations were the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back concerning Thorp's status, it certainly had to be a factor. There are only so many PR body blows an organization can take before serious questions about that organization's leadership arise. For many those questions have existed for over a year. As a result, there seemed to be little confidence in his ability to publicly manage the constant stream of scandals. In addition, the AFAM issues as well as the recently discovered issues with Kupec will be perceived as failures in Thorp's leadership, more so than the football scandal.

There is no word on the timetable for naming a new chancellor. Since Thorp will be serving out the rest of the academic year that gives the powers that be plenty of time to conduct a thorough search for his replacement.