Art Chansky

The Blue 'War' Zone

When UNC football lurched into trouble with the NCAA in the summer of 2010, and the probability increased of probation and that head coach Butch Davis might actually get fired, a slow panic began to grow among alumni and fans. Those who had seen so much promise in Davis’ last three years wondered how all this would affect recruiting. Davis, himself, said the bad publicity was the subject of every home visit and becoming an obstacle to signing another stellar freshman class. The real panic, however, was at the Rams Club, which was in the middle of constructing the $70 million Loudermilk Center for Excellence, more commonly known as the Blue Zone. Enough seats had been sold to secure financing, but those loans had to be paid off by selling the rest of the suites and club seats. If Davis were fired, the Blue Zone would open in a deep debt, perhaps one that could never be paid. So much of the initial money coming in was from donors who supported Davis and believed he would survive. Left: Ken Mack Right: Don McCauley   “There was a lot going on before the firing, with anxious phone calls every day,” said Ken Mack, Major Gift Director for the Rams Club. “Much like it is now, for another reason, there was seemingly a story in the news every day that mostly...

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King Of Coaches

The “K” in Mike Krzyzewski‘s nickname could also stand for “King.”   The Duke basketball coach has climbed to the top of his own personal and professional mountain as the highest-paid employee at his university and, metaphorically, overseeing his empire on the top floor of the six-story tower that sits next to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Coach K at the Olympics Most wins of any major college men’s coach. Four NCAA championships and numerous other ACC titles. Two Gold Medals as coach of the USA Basketball Dream Team.   Entering his 33rd season as coach of the Blue Devils, there are now calls for a higher calling for Coach King. Former Duke Coach Bucky Waters says he has accomplished all he needs to on the bench and should go to Washington to provide the kind of leadership he has demonstrated throughout most of his career.   If not Washington, then certainly to the NCAA, which does not have separate “commissioners” for football and basketball. If it did, Krzyzewski would be the perfect candidate to lead his sport – help rewrite the rules book, negotiate the age limits imposed by the NBA and generally bring order to a billion-dollar sport that has been rocked by recruiting chaos and off-court scandals.   It may look easy for Coach K these days, with private Duke, USA Basketball and his own corporation funding an...

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Dirt Bags We Know

Gregg Doyel first got my attention when he was a punk sports writer for the Charlotte Observer, obviously trying to make a name for himself. At the time, he wrote a story claiming the problems surrounding UNC’s basketball program in the early 2000s were all Dean Smith’s fault. Smith had been retired for five years but Doyel insisted Smith was still behind the scenes pulling the strings like some puppeteer. As with numerous columns he has written since as the loosest cannon at CBSSports.com, Doyel was dead wrong. In fact, Smith had just about wiped his hands of his former program after Chancellor James Moeser foolishly vetoed the hiring of Larry Brown in 2000. Carolina’s brief basketball swoon was on Matt Doherty, the coach Moeser did approve, who of course lasted three years before getting fired, which allowed Roy Williams a second chance to come back and return the Tar Heels to national prominence. When the UNC football scandal broke in the summer of 2010, Doyel jumped in with both feet, calling Butch Davis something like the “turd in the punch bowl.” His opinion that Davis had to go, if not his characterization, turned out to be true after UNC decided its reputation was more important than keeping Davis. As you know, I agreed with that move. Doyel (who went to Florida) says he is hesitant to talk trash...

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Kupchak's Living Legacy

Of all the quality kids who have come through the Carolina Basketball program over the last half century, none was any more real than Mitch Kupchak, the Tar Heels’ star center and ACC Player of the Year in 1976.   Kupchak faked nothing. He came from a blue collar background in the middle of Long Island, where wealth abounded to the north, south and east. He admired Dean Smith and entrusted the to-be Hall of Fame coach with his future as an underdeveloped basketball player.   Kupchak with Jerry West (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) As a freshman in 1973, Kupchak was lost and admitted it. Things got better as a sophomore starter during a second straight season when despite winning 47 games over two years Carolina remained overshadowed by N.C. State’s national championship team. Then the worm turned for Kupchak and the Tar Heels.   In 1975, junior Kupchak, sophomore Walter Davis and freshman Phil Ford led the Tar Heels back to the ACC Championship, defeating David Thompson and State in a taut title game in Greensboro. Kupchak shed tears of joy that night and, two weeks later, tears of heartbreak when Carolina lost in the Sweet Sixteen to an inferior Syracuse team.   Kupchak faced career-threatening back surgery in the off-season and remembered lying in the operating room ready to take a massive needle in his spine when Smith...

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The 'New Way'

While other athletic departments put Band-Aids on the ills of big-time college sports and some coaches and administrators may be sitting on secrets in the wake of the Penn State scandal, UNC finds itself with a golden opportunity.  No one wanted it to happen this way, but Carolina now has the chance for the Square One start a lot of schools with baggage would like to have. As the athletic-academic scandal drones on, with the media hound dogs sniffing at our Heels, UNC now has leadership with the wisdom and toughness to start anew and, truly, become the model athletic department we have only claimed to be for years.   Bubba Cunningham carries none of that baggage, beholden to no one, and with the smarts and class to evaluate before he excavates. We must trust the method to his madness of the recent athletic department restructuring, that it will be a self-weeding-out process resulting in a combination of retrained Carolina Way clones, old-schoolers that go their own way, and new blood that Bubba brings in to restore UNC’s image off the playing fields while maintaining excellence on them.   The cloud of controversy will still be there, hovering somewhere west of the Bell Tower, but the football playing field has been greened up with new coaches that have boosted the energy level and committed themselves to winning with what...

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Shut Up And Teach

A few years ago, Dick Baddour returned from a national faculty meeting where he received widespread praise from other schools for how much the UNC faculty loved the affable Carolina athletic director.   Some of those other professors did not get along so well with their athletic departments. Baddour was held up as a model of how the faculty should have a voice about athletics on campus.  At most other schools, athletic directors don’t come from the faculty and have no problem marching across campus to say “button it up” if someone speaks publicly out of turn.   That’s the problem. At UNC, the faculty has long had too much of a voice on athletics. Although there is always a natural adversarial relationship between those who teach and make six figures and those who coach and make seven figures, the faculty at Carolina (in general) has never really gotten the point.   The athletic department is a self-sustaining business, a private ad-hoc corporation, that generates multi-millions in revenues and disperses pretty much the same amount (with a little held in reserve) to balance the budget that pays coaches and staff, funds scholarships and improves facilities in the so-called arms race.   During the recent and ongoing football scandal, I have been branded as an anti-football faculty apologist who helped get Butch Davis fired. Neither is even close to the...

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Same Old, Same Old

The 208-page report released by UNC this week pertaining to the football scandal revealed few new facts and fewer names – thanks to heavy redaction in almost every document. What it did underscore was the gross lack of oversight in the entire mess. From the first $67,000 paid to a Kansas law firm that was hired and still could not prevent loose lips that sunk some scholarships, to the naïve “c’mon in” attitude of the athletic department toward the NCAA, it has mushroomed into an academic scandal whose stench will last long after the three-year probationary period ends. And more legal bills will be coming for sure. The media is – and continues to be – dogged in seeking the release of every public document pertaining to the scandal. That UNC won’t give up any of the names of players, tutors and others involved, citing FERPA privacy laws, is like dangling raw meat in front of a Tiger. That’s how hungry the so-called traditional media is to prove that it still has a place in the Internet-social media society of today. Most of the impermissible benefits remain pretty petty. One case involves a couple of players who slept on a former teammate’s couch after a heavy night of partying instead of making it back to the hotel room they had paid for with their own money. Hotel, no violation;...

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The Pros and Cons

What was Larry Fedora thinking when he agreed to give one of his “preferred” walk-on slots in the UNC football program to Drew Davis? • Maybe he actually needed another quarterback, since the Tar Heels had only four on their roster – three on scholarship and one walk-on. Davis, who was a record-breaking passer at East Chapel Hill High School, makes five. • Maybe it helped his relationship with East Chapel Hill coach Bill Renner, the father of Fedora’s starting quarterback, Bryn Renner, and Drew Davis’ coach for four years. • Maybe it boosted the morale of the players he inherited from Davis, many of whom were expecting to have Drew as a teammate before his father was fired. Bryn Renner and Drew Davis are close friends. • Maybe it was an attempt to close the divide with those fans who are still sore over Butch Davis’ firing and need to get behind Fedora and Chancellor Holden Thorp 100 percent. • Maybe, after meeting with the young Davis, he was convinced that having him could help field a competitive scout squad and that Drew Davis would not be a distraction to his program. • Maybe he thought the fair thing was to give the kid a shot, and if he doesn’t live up to the new standards Fedora has set on and off the field for his entire team...

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The Site That Knew The Score

UNC Athletics is re-launching its official website under the url of GoHeels.com, which is hardly a new name to Tar Heel Internet junkies. In the early days of the web, about 15 years ago, GoHeels was the website of choice for Carolina fans because it was the first out of the gate with news and edgy commentary about everything light blue.   GoHeels.com, the Site that Knows the Score – that was the slogan we used.   I say “we” because GoHeels was birthed by VilCom, which at the time also owned Tar Heel Sports Marketing and the Tar Heel Sports Network. Invented by a brilliant young Carolina grad named Chris Boulton, GoHeels caught on with its currently updated news and its band of columnists writing, basically, what all the fans were talking about around water coolers and on the streets.   In 1999, VilCom President Jim Heavner sold the Tar Heel Sports Marketing multi-media rights contract to Learfield Communications. Smartly, he held GoHeels out of the sale because it already had millions of page views and thousands of dollars in advertising from having been promoted non-stop on the UNC statewide radio broadcasts. . . . the Site that Knows the Score.   Many readers still regarded it as the official UNC website, because Woody Durham, Mick Mixon and Lee Pace, along with yours truly, continued writing for it....

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Remembering a Good Dad

This Father’s Day has an extra special meaning for me. It was 40 years ago that I left home for good, and I am thinking about my dad more than usual this week. He died 13 years after I last lived with him, and I never said a proper goodbye. He succumbed to heart failure in the Bahamas while on vacation with my mother. Had he been stricken in the U.S., faster and better medical care might have saved or prolonged his life. So I did not have any “last days” or weeks or months with my dad to thank him for characteristics that I now know he gave me: a quick wit and sense of humor, good salesmanship and the support he provided while other aspects of his life were falling apart. “Don’t go to strangers,” was his regular advice. Despite a gambling problem that caused strain in his marriage and with the family, my dad never missed one of my little league, junior high or high school football and baseball games. At some point, I noticed him sitting off to the side in the folding beach chair he carried in his station wagon. It was not uncommon for us to be playing catch in the backyard on a spring or summer Sunday morning, when he said, “You want to go to the ball game?” So we hopped in his...

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