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UNC begins search for athletic director

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The search committee looking for North Carolina's next athletic director met for the first time Friday under a tricky timeline.

The 13-member committee will assist chancellor Holden Thorp in finding a replacement for Dick Baddour, who will step down sometime after the school appears before an NCAA infractions committee in October. His successor would quickly have to hire a permanent football coach after the firing of Butch Davis last month amid an NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct.

And that hire would have to come in time for a new staff to establish itself in recruiting before national signing day in February.

"We have to hire the very best athletic director in the nation for the University of North Carolina," committee chairman Lowry Caudill said. "We need to be very thoughtful about it, we need to be very thorough, but we also need to do it in very up-tempo fashion because we recognize the connectivity to the (football) selection."

Baddour has guided the school's athletic department since taking over when John Swofford left to become Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner in 1997. The department has 28 varsity sports.

Thorp addressed the committee briefly at the start of the meeting, saying he wanted someone "who fully embraces the 28-sport program." Thorp -- who has heard criticism for Davis' dismissal from a vocal group of Davis and football supporters -- also offered his vision for a football program tarnished by the NCAA probe for more than a year.

"I am completely committed to sustaining our momentum in football on the field, to be competitive for the ACC championship and go to a BCS bowl game," he said. "I think with the facilities and the university we have to sell, we'll be able to find somebody who can take us to that level and ... also conduct a program that succeeds off the field in every respect as well."

Committee members discussed the wording for the official job notice, which must be finalized then posted for a university-required 30 days before a hire can be made. In addition, former Houston and Florida athletic director Bill Carr, and Todd Turner, the former athletic director at Connecticut, North Carolina State, Vanderbilt and Washington; addressed the panel.

Both Carr and Turner lead search firms for college coaches and administrators. The committee plans to choose one for its search.

Turner, a North Carolina alumnus, also encouraged committee members to consider an early review of internal candidates as well as those at other schools with ties to the university.

"If your athletic director is someone that doesn't have an intimate knowledge of North Carolina, they're going to need a lot of time to assess that football coaching requirement and what really will fit here," he said. "It's going to take them some time."

He also pointed out that the lingering uncertainty about NCAA sanctions and "instability" in the football program could present challenges for the search. But Carr offered a rosier view when committee member Don Curtis asked about the desirability of the job.

"A jewel," Carr said. "Your job is a jewel."

The committee includes Eric Montross, the starting center for the UNC team that won the 1993 NCAA men's basketball championship; longtime field hockey coach Karen Shelton; as well as members of the school's board of trustees, faculty members, former athletes and athletic department staff.