Art Chansky

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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Shot of His Life

Time waits for no one, not even Pete Brennan the strappingly handsome second-banana on the undefeated 1957 UNC national championship team. Brennan has been a folk hero in North Carolina since the shot of his life saved the NCAA semifinals against Michigan State, allowing the Tar Heels to go on and whip Kansas the next night to complete what is still the most cherished sports story in the history of a state that has had so many. Pete Brennan But today, the shot of his life for Brennan is what he calls a “miracle drug” named Lupron, which he is taking to slow down and contain the prostate cancer that has spread to a nearby bone mass. Brennan, 6-7 and 220 pounds in his playing days, is in tough shape at UNC Hospitals as he also fights to recover from severe Diverticulitis that has caused leakage and requires heavy-duty antibiotics. Brennan has been back in Chapel Hill for the last few years after having some major ups and downs in business and his personal life. He stays in touch with other surviving members of the Carolina dream team, particularly All-Everything forward Lennie Rosenbluth who also settled here after losing his first wife and getting married again to the former Diane Stabler. The young Brennan was a tough guy, a former Marine who still looked roughish and invincible into his...

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Nyang'o-Who U?

Although the deposed Julius Nyang’oro had been teaching at UNC for 20 years, during which time taking Swahili had become somewhat of an inside joke among athletes, the period about to go under the microscope of the SBI is the summer of 2007 through the end of 2009.   Julius Nyang’oro Coincidence, or precisely between when Butch Davis began coaching at Carolina and his program fell under investigation by the NCAA? The very first piece of this so-call academia was Marvin Austin’s “B” grade in an upper level course he took the summer before enrolling as a freshman at UNC in 2007.   Nyang’oro was supposed to have taught that course, but it is still unclear whether it was one of the 45 that the former department chair arbitrarily turned from accelerated summer lectures into, “There will be no classes, just come back at the end of the semester with a paper about a prominent black leader.”   Or some such non-sense.   Austin then enrolled as a full-time student. One of his first-semester courses in the fall of 2007 had the adjective “remedial” attached to it. From advanced to remedial in one easy lesson, which is that a number of unqualified “student-athletes” Davis signed should have been at lesser schools or junior college somewhere.   Austin, of course, was the centerpiece of Davis’ first freshman class, for which fired assistant head coach and...

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3-Point Shooting Star

Hubert Davis, Carolina’s new assistant basketball coach, was a 3-point shooting star as a Tar Heel player from 1989-92. Here, Davis poses with adoring students and fans holding up his favorite number before his senior season. Davis remains the most accurate 3-point shooter in UNC history with a .435 percentage on 197 of 453 attempts. Davis was always greeted by Carolina fans with the cheer, “Huuuuubert!” (Photo by Bob Donnan from Carolina Court,...

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'Wow!' And 'Why?'

My first two reactions to what is being called a home run hire of Hubert Davis joining the Carolina Basketball staff were “Wow!” and “Why?” Huuuuubert is a near-legendary figure in Tar Heel history since the nephew of former UNC great Walter Davis came in as a lightly recruited guard out of Virginia who Dean Smith discouraged from accepting his scholarship offer because Smith doubted Davis could play in the ACC. After Davis’ very first practice as a freshman in 1988, long-time assistant coach Bill Guthridge said, “Hubert is a lot better than we thought.” Davis’ Tar Heel love story began at 6 when he sat on his uncle’s lap in the back seat as Walter and Phil Ford drove back from the 1976 Olympics in Montreal after Smith’s UNC- and ACC-dominated USA team had recaptured the Gold Medal. He went on to become Carolina’s all-time 3-point marksman (so maybe some of that can rub off on Bullock-Hairston-McDonald-Strickland & Co.). His career best percentage of .435 was capped by an incredible performance as a senior in the 1992 regular-season finale at Duke when Davis drained 6 of 8 treys on his way to 35 points. The second-team All-ACC guard was the 20th pick in the NBA draft that June by the New York Knicks and went on to a 12-year pro career in which he reportedly earned more than...

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Bubba Breaks In

When Bubba Cunningham was hired as Carolina’s new athletic director last October, his first task was to find a football coach that would separate UNC from the scandal-plagued Butch Davis era.   Cunningham did not act like it was such a daunting task. “Identify great coaches and find out which one is the best fit for your school,” he said.   Sounds simple and, although the process was far more deliberate and detailed, it sure looked that way when a month later he named Larry Fedora of Southern Miss as the Tar Heels’ new coach.    Two days after...

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On The Fast Track

The way Larry Fedora likes to play football is the way Roy Williams wants to play basketball: Fast.   For the first time in 15 years, or since Mack Brown and Dean Smith ran things, Carolina may have compatible football and basketball programs. Fedora has no national championships and, to this point, has only won on the mid-major level, but he operates with the same confidence and speed as our hoops hall of famer.   Red Bull is Fedora’s drink of choice. Ol’ Roy downs caffeine-laced Coke at about the same rate.   But, early in the game, it just seems right. Butch Davis, with his pro background and million-dollar dowry, seemed in a different kind of hurry to get where he was going. And at the end, the $100 million or so he extracted from UNC to raise the Football Center and build the Blue Zone rubbed some of the other UNC coaches the wrong way.   Fedora is the beneficiary of Butch’s demands, if not the roster Davis left behind. And the new coach’s style is so NFL-unlike that it just smacks of good old boy Southern football. His staff wears jeans and works around the clock, just like their boss. No one is too small or unimportant for a stop and a handshake.   And the way Fedora wants to speed up the game, as he...

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The 'Swahili Scandal'

One of the reasons you never want an NCAA investigation – and certainly not probation – hitting your campus is because of the residue it leaves.   UNC is trying to move forward from the football mess that put it in the national headlines for the wrong reasons. We have a new athletic director and new football coach, so hopefully the oversight problems that existed will be corrected.   But the residue makes you part of a larger conversation and debate, which at this point in time is raging due to the numerous schools that have been in trouble before and since Carolina. The issue of paying athletes is back on the table. The entire existence of the NCAA is being questioned. Voices from near and far, from on the field and off the court, from people to whom athletics is no more than a passing thought, are being heard.   Joe Nocera, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, has decided to take on college athletics and all what’s wrong with it. So sweeping generalizations are being made in undocumented writings, some of which directly target UNC because Nocera has spent time in Chapel Hill interviewing athletes and lunching with faculty members.   How does Carolina respond to the more outrageous claims being made by Nocera via his sources? Does the university say “this too shall pass” and...

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