CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A day after firing football coach Butch Davis, North Carolina also will start searching for a new athletic director.

Dick Baddour said Thursday he plans to step down after 14 years as soon as the school can hire a replacement. Entering the final year of a three-year contract that expires next June, Baddour said it’s important for his successor to name the next football coach instead of inheriting a hire.

“It is my responsibility to do what is in the best interest of the program, and this is my decision,” Baddour said in a news conference to discuss Davis’ firing a day earlier.

Chancellor Holden Thorp said Baddour will attend the school’s hearing before the NCAA infractions committee in October, then serve out the rest of his contract in another position. Baddour took over in 1997 after John Swofford left to become commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Baddour’s sooner-than-expected departure is the latest development in a bumpy year for the Tar Heels. NCAA investigators arrived on campus last July looking into improper benefits, but that probe late expanded to include academic misconduct and created a massive distraction for a program seeking to contend for the ACC championship and a BCS bowl.

In all, 14 players missed at least one game and seven were forced to sit out the entire season. The NCAA sent a notice of allegations last month outlining nine potential major violations within the program.

Thorp admitted Davis’ firing was “terrible” timing considering it comes with about a week before players begin preseason practice, but said he had been mulling the move for weeks and decided it couldn’t wait any longer. Thorp and Baddour had been publicly supportive of Davis for the past year, so much so that Davis said Monday at the ACC’s preseason media days that it had been “reassuring” to have their backing.

“We tried to hold things together and restore confidence in the football program, and I felt in order for us to have a fair chance for that, I would have to support coach Davis,” Thorp said. “I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve given that enough time and now it’s time for us to take the actions that we’re taking.”

Thorp said the university could owe Davis as much as $2.7 million in contractual obligations. He said he didn’t believe that Davis knew about any potential violations, but that the investigation was doing too much damage to the school’s reputation.

The school is interviewing internal candidates to serve as interim coach. Baddour said he hoped to have one in place by Friday.

Related:

Butch Davis dismissed as head coach

UNC gets notice of allegations

UNC identifies 317 parking tickets