Willingham Blasts NCAA For Academic Improprieties

CHAPEL HILL – UNC clinical instructor and academic advisor, Mary Willingham said the academic problems at Carolina and at colleges and universities across the country start with the NCAA. 

“This NCAA cartel machine is doing us wrong in this country and doing our young people some damage,” Willingham said. “Meanwhile, these folks are in Indiannoplis—and around the country, coaches and administrators—are making tons of money off the backs of these young people, and it’s got to stop.”

Those comments were made during an interview Friday on the WCHL Morning News.

***Watch the Full Interview***

***Correction from the interview: The IRB is the Institutional Review Board, not the Internal Review Board.

She said the admission of guilt by the university, and namely UNC Provost Jim Dean, that there were holes in the academic system is not enough.

“I really encourage (Provost Dean) to talk to us about what we know—Jay and I and others in the Athletic Reform Group—and open the door and have a real open conversation, because that has yet to happen at our university,” Willingham said. “It’s a university for crying out loud. We should all be able to sit around the room and have honest conversation and debate about what we know.”

Provost Dean was quoted in a Bloomberg Business Week article saying “We made mistakes. Horrible things happened that I’m ashamed of. Student-athletes and other students, too, were hurt. The integrity of our university was badly damaged.”

History professor Jay Smith was in the interview as well and announced that he—in collaboration with Willingham—is writing a book that talks about the history of the academic scandal at UNC in the African and Afro-American studies department and the illiteracy problems at UNC and at colleges and universities across the nation.

Smith said he, too, wants to see something more than just words come from the recent allegations of UNC’s academic improprieties.

“There’s nothing qualitatively different from any number of statements Holden Thorp made over the past several years before he left,” Smith said. “Holden, too, was willing to acknowledge mistakes had been made and that we had to be held accountable for them. Though, at least it does, on their part, signal a new willingness to look at the past and consider which lessons need to be derived from the past. So that’s…that is somewhat heartening.”

Willingham has been seen by many as an enemy to the university when she shared her research. She received death threats and was even called a liar by Provost Dean when he said in a Business Week article “she’s said that our students can’t read, our athletes can’t read, and that’s a lie.” Later in the interview for the article with Business Week’s Paul Barrett, the Provost said he had misspoken and doesn’t think that she’s a liar.

Willingham said she didn’t release the information with the intention of taking down the university.

“I really am a Tar Heel,” Willingham said. “I know what’s heard to believe, but I love this place.”

She said she wants to see a change in the way student-athletes are taken care of at the university and how they are viewed within the system.

“We had a countless number of athletes that I worked with during my tenure—nearly seven years—in the program that left without a real degree,” Willingham said. “We still don’t talk about those guys. They took all these bogus paper classes, and they left the university still woefully underprepared for probably even a high school. That’s wrong, and we owe them. We need to bring them back, and we need to offer them the possibility of a real, legitimate education. That’s what we promised them in the first place.”

She said that she’s not even saying that students who can’t read at a college level don’t have a place at UNC, but that those who are at a disadvantage need to be protected.

“I’ve never said that athletes or any students at Carolina don’t belong at Carolina,” Willingham said. “It’s a public university; it’s a university of the people. But I think if we’re going to take students in, then we need to meet them where they’re at academically and bring them along. That’s all students.”

“I think we still have this, some sort of arrogance or some level of problem—I don’t know exactly where it comes from—because in 1795 we had an academy at the University of North Carolina for young men from the state who weren’t able to read in Greek and Latin,” Willingham said. “That academy lasted for a decade or a little bit more. Why don’t we just reopen the academy, and we could have the best football team and the best basketball team in the country. We could recruit whoever we wanted, and we could provide a real education.”

Thursday evening the News and Observer shared a letter that former interim dean of UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and current Kenan Professor Emerita of Slavic Literatures, Madeline Levine wrote to Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Jim Dean expressing her disappointment in the attack of the information shared by Willingham.

In the letter, she said she, too, saw evidence of students that’s were just pushed through the system and weren’t given a proper education.

Willingham said she expects this is just the first of many to follow in her push for academic reform.

“I have more than 2,000 emails,” Willingham said. “I’m hearing from people all over the country. They’re embarrassed; they feel some shame, because they don’t want to speak publically, and I’m certainly not going to bring anyone under the bus with me, because it’s not too pretty under here. But, nevertheless, I think that coming out and talking openly has given some people permission, and I think you’re going to hear from more people. I don’t think Dr. Levine’s going to be the only one stepping forward.”


“Bill Friday: In His Own Words” Remembers 3-Decade UNC System Pres.

CHAPEL HILL – William “Bill” Friday, the UNC System President for three decades, is being remembered in a special way by the University. It’s been a year since Friday passed away, and the Wilson Special Collections Library is dedicating an exhibit to the leader who guided the system through a period of rapid growth and expansion.

“Bill Friday: In His Own Words” is on display through Dec. 31.

Biff Hollingsworth, the programming archivist with the Southern Historical Collection who spearheaded the project, said that some exhibits which visitors can see include a correspondence with Vice President George H. W. Bush and video clips from Friday’s UNC-TV show North Carolina People.

“The library contained a great wealth of resources that documented his life in a very unique way—from photographs, his personal papers, and presidential records that were in the University archives,” Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth explained that the opening of the exhibit was meant to coincide with Chancellor Carol Folt’s installation and the one year anniversary of Friday’s passing.

“We really think that the highlights of the exhibit are some of the more personal and family features, from a scrapbook that was created by his mother that includes baby pictures of Mr. Friday, a photograph of his high school graduation, and things of that sort,” Hollingsworth said. “I think those are the things that really touch people as they see the exhibit.”

Friday was a central figure in many statewide and national issues concerning higher education. He served on the President’s Task Force on Education and was an advocate for access to education, federal student aid and the reform of big-time college sports.

In North Carolina, he championed economic development, literacy, and access to health care, and led the system as it expanded from three campuses to 16.

“We certainly understood the challenge from the outset: How are we going to tell the story of Mr. Friday?”  Hollingsworth said. “It was a huge challenge, as we know Mr. Friday was the face of higher education and public service in the state for so long and was so influential in many things.”


Hodding Carter: Thorp Wrong on Athletics Oversight

CHAPEL HILL – Former President and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation which funds the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, Hodding Carter, III says shifting the oversight of athletics back away from the office of a college’s or university’s president like UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp recently suggested is not the answer.

“He’s wrong on almost every count,” Carter says. “First, of course, the reason that the recommendations came down—and they were a long time ago—was precisely because everything was being run by athletic directors and being run into the ground in some instances in terms of the integrity of the university.”

The Knight Commission was formed in 1989 in an effort to make sure colleges and universities are functioning in the way they were designed and not falling victim to the negative effects of Big Time College Athletics. Carter says the decision to put the president ultimately in charge of the athletic department wasn’t recommended by people outside the system who didn’t know what they were talking about.

“They were largely people who were themselves college presidents and chancellors,” Carter says. “Well, and of course the two who led it were Bill Friday—who knew something about academics—and Father Ted Hesburgh of Notre Dame.”

During an athletic forum with members of the national higher education community and sports media last week, Chancellor Thorp said it has taken him all five years of his tenure as chancellor to become ready to run the athletic department.

He said that his comments were made knowing he’s leaving Division I athletics and knowing that his successor—Dartmouth College’s interim president, Dr. Carol Folt—will need to know what he knows coming in.

However, Carter says there’s no way that a person in that position could not know that athletics was going to be such a major part of the job.

“Whether or not it has worked as was planned is of course a function of whether or not the presidents have the guts and the sense to go forward and run the athletic side the way they try to run the academic side,” Carter says. “If they fail, they may wish to blame the system, but they ought to be blaming themselves.”

He says that’s not to say that the role of Chancellor is easy, but the person in that position can make the choice whether or not to make athletics as big a part of his or her university as it is.

“Once you drink the Kool-Aid and decide Big Time Athletics is a proper function for your university, and he has decided that, then it is your responsibility to see to it—as with everything else with the university—that it is run straight,” Carter says.

Carter says the Knight Commission put this process in place because the old system was a “total failure”, and it’s important to understand that the new system is not the perfect answer. However, he says one process could greatly help the system that is currently in place.

“Take the athletic department—or the director—out of a separate little institution over here on the side sort of running itself, and bring that person directly up into the chancellor or president’s office,” Carter says.

And, he says without following one simple formula, no system will work.

“What comes first is the student; what also comes first is integrity; and that is an absolute requirement,” Carter says. “If you don’t say that, it doesn’t matter what the system is, it’s going to be, in terms of integrity, a failure.”

College athletes are paid a small amount in the form of a scholarship to play for colleges and universities—small in comparison to what professional athletes are paid. While money is at the heart of the issue, the idea of making players employees of their respective institution is becoming more and more prevalent. Carter says he’s never been a proponent of the pay-for-play model, but with the way the system works now, it’s time to call it what it is.

“Since the NCAA and many offices of presidents across the country are not straight when it comes to the kids and their futures, then you might as well go ahead and say, ‘hey guys, you’re a separate little think called pros playing for us and we really are going to cheer you on, and we’re going to pay you as well.”

The idea of Big Time College Athletics is not new, although national interest is constantly growing. But Carter says it’s important to realize there’s no way to instantly change the way things are functioning in college athletics.

“It is like a huge tanker—you know you always use this cliché, but it happens to be true—you cannot make abrupt changes in direction no matter how hard you change the wheel,” Carter says. “You can apply, however, steady pressure over time to change the direction, and that’s what’s got to be done.”


Heels-'Nova Have History

Carolina and Villanova have played 14 times in men’s basketball, with the Tar Heels holding a 10-4 record, 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament. But almost all of the games have been significant. To wit:
Their first meeting was in 1956, when Frank McGuire’s eventual (1957) national championship team was playing together for the first season. The Tar Heels, who finished 18-5 that year, defeated Villanova in their Dixie Classic opener in December. Carolina won by 23.
Their next meeting was in the final Dixie Classic in December of 1960, before UNC President Bill Friday shut down the eight-team holiday tournament due to the point-shaving scandal that emerged after the season. Carolina beat the Wildcats in the second round by 20 this time.
The teams met again in what had become the most famous Christmas tournament, the Holiday Festival in Madison Square Garden. Dean Smith succeeded McGuire and by December of 1968 had built the second-best program in the country behind UCLA. The Tar Heels and four-time national champion Bruins were in the Festival field, along with Villanova, St. John’s and Princeton. Carolina defeated Villanova in the opening game, 69-61, in a rough-and-tumble affair that included near fisticuffs between UNC’s Charlie Scott and Villanova’s Howard Porter. The Heels missed their chance to face-off with Lew Alcindor and UCLA when they were upset in the semifinals by hometown St. John’s before a roaring capacity crowd at the Garden.
The Carolina-Villanova rivalry really got interesting when the schools next met 12 years later. The top-ranked Tar Heels with freshman Michael Jordan, sophomore Sam Perkins and junior James Worthy, played  Rollie Massimino’s Wildcats in the Elite Eight game of the NCAA Tournament in Reynolds Coliseum. In a regional where all five UNC starters scored in double figures in both games, Carolina held off freshman star Ed Pin   ckney and ‘Nova, 70-60, and moved on to New Orleans where they defeated Houston and Georgetown for Smith’s first national championship.
The following year, the teams played a regular-season game at Carmichael Auditorium. No. 12 Villanova stunned No. 1 UNC, which had won 18 in a row   going in. The 56-53 shocker turned the season around for the Tar Heels, who lost three straight and dropped to No. 11 in the rankings. Carolina went 7-5 over its last 12 games, including two upsets to Cinderella N.C. State and a loss to Georgia in the Elite Eight of the 1983 NCAA Tournament, which denied them another shot at the Cardiac Pack in the Final Four. And you know what happened there in Albuquerque.
The most historic loss to Villanova came in the South Regional final in Birmingham two years later. The Tar Heels, who had rallied through the 1985 NCAA Tournament without injured guard Steve Hale, actually led the Wildcats by eight and were holding the ball for the last shot of the first half. Kenny Smith got tied up for a jump ball, Villanova took possession and Harold  Jensen made an old-fashioned three-point play at the buzzer. Unranked ‘Nova outscored Carolina by 17 in the second half, moved on to the Final Four in Lexington and pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA history by shooting 79 percent for the game (22 of 28) and beating “unbeatable” defending champion Georgetown and Patrick Ewing for the school’s only national title.
Carolina defeated Villanova in the 1989 Maui Classic and at home during the 1992 season. In between, the Tar Heels beat the Wildcats in the 1991 East Regional on the way to the Final Four. The top-ranked Heels won the next meeting at the Smith Center in 1995, but then dropped TWO games to  Villanova the following season, one in Maui and the other in Philly.
Who can forget the East Regional sweet Sixteen at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse in 2005? Certainly not ‘Nova fans. With Carolina clinging to a three-point lead late, Villanova’s Allan Ray drove, scored and appeared to be fouled by Melvin Scott. But Tom O’Neill’s whistle was not to signal the “and one” that could have tied the game. It was for travelling on Ray, which when looking at the clip  does not appear to have occurred.

Anyway, Carolina won the game, went on to win the national championship and, four years later, beat Villanova easily in the Final Four at Detroit on the way to Roy Williams’ second NCAA title. The rich, and controversial, series between the two schools resumes Friday night in Kansas City. My guess is that O’Neill, who was voted 2012 national official of the year, will not be calling the game.


Still Grieving and Remembering

All over North Carolina, people are still grieving the loss of UNC President Emeritus William Friday.

At the same time they are enjoying sharing memories of how Friday touched them.
I want to be a part of the storytelling by sharing a few things I remember about visiting him in his office about three years ago to see if a heart incident and follow-up surgery had slowed him down.

“He’s slowed down a little bit, but not much,” his long-time assistant Virginia Taylor told me then. “He’s in the office two or three days a week, at least, for telephone calls, meetings and correspondence—and preparing for his television show. And he still goes places for events and to see people.”

Every week for more than 40 years, Friday interviewed important North Carolinians on UNC-TV’s “North Carolina People,” even recording a program this summer just a few weeks before he died. Recently he recorded most of his television near his office on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, but missed traveling to the far reaches of the state where he did some of his best interviews.

During my earlier visit, which was shortly before his 90th birthday, Friday told me his routine for regaining and maintaining his good health.

“Stay active—and exercise,” he said, and then told me about his twice-a-week workout. “For one solid hour I lift weights, exercise my legs, arms, chest, and biceps. I have even seen muscles growing, which is a terrifying thought at 89 years of age.”

He kept to that routine into his 90s.

Friday and his wife, Ida, were also regular walkers. One neighbor said, “The way they care for each other is heartwarming.”

At his office, Friday spent a lot of time on the telephone, Taylor told me when I made the earlier visit.

“He really knows how to work the phones,” she said.

Friday’s calls often went to people who shared his concern for the future of North Carolina and the health of all 17 UNC campuses. He projected optimism even as he said, “There is so much more to do or we will fall behind.”

To the end, Friday continued to enjoy the university community, where he and Ida lived when he entered the UNC School of Law after serving in World War II. They never left.

Until recently, most every Saturday, you could find the Fridays shopping at the local farmers market. I remember that he had told me, “If you’ve gone through the medical routines that I have been, you understand one thing: the fresh food is the best food. That’s why I work so hard to go and get tomatoes and beans and corn and all that.” 

Friday was proud of his three daughters. Fran, a nurse, is the mother of the Fridays’ two grandchildren. Mary, a successful businesswoman, lives in Singapore. Betsy, a talented Broadway performer and producer, died in 2002.

Friday was buried next to Betsy in the family plot in the old Chapel Hill Cemetery, where Friday visited regularly to tend to her gravesite, with its green lawn and growing flowers that make it one of the loveliest places in Chapel Hill.

Close to his desk is a framed quote from 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13.

Love is patient, and kind;
Love is not jealous or boastful;
It is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way;
It is not irritable or resentful; It does not rejoice at wrong,
But rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
Hopes all things, endures all things.

“It was Betsy’s,” Taylor told me a few years ago. “He reads it every day. It is what he lives by, everyday, too.”

I bet Mr. Friday would recommend that passage for daily reading by each of us.


A UNC Basketball Coaches Respect, Connection and Relationship with Bill Friday

My Tribute to W.C. “Bill” Friday

After hearing the sad news of Mr. Friday’s death last Friday, University Day, I found the following tribute I began writing 2 years ago on the top of my desk.

I write this for two reasons (maybe three).

First, I recently attended a 90th birthday party on July 13, 2010 for W.C. Friday.

The second reason is because I just received a call on July 23, 2010 that my aunt Catherine, had passed away.  Catherine was my dad’s sister who lived on Cloninger Road in Dallas, N.C., about a mile down the road from W.C. Friday Middle School where W.C. “Bill” Friday grew up as a boy.

You see, a couple of months after I became the women’s basketball coach at UNC in July 1986, I made an appointment to meet with then-President Friday, head of the entire UNC campus system. 

I remember it like it was yesterday.  His office was on the top floor of the new Kenan-Flagler Business School.  Upon my arrival into his office, President Friday- in his southern gentlemen gracious way-greeted me as the new women’s basketball coach and asked what he could do for me.

I pulled out a picture that my aunt Catherine had given me when she learned that I had been hired at Carolina and handed it to him.  As he looked at the picture, his eyes got big, his mouth fell open and he said, “Where did you get this?!”  I explained that my aunt had given it to me after I got the UNC job and that she told me to give it to him.

You see, the picture was a team picture of the Dallas High School championship basketball team in 1937, and in the picture was Bill Friday with my uncle Ralph, his best friend, standing beside him.  Ralph was my Dad and my aunt Catherine’s older brother who was killed in World War II.

As President Friday gazed at the picture, he started to tell me about his connections to Dallas, N.C., and my family.  He said as a boy he would visit with my uncle Ralph and my dad’s family, Quincy and Maude Rhyne and their eight boys and two girls.  He remembered playing basketball out behind the house and next to the outdoor shed by the barn.  He remembered eating meals with the Rhyne family on various occasions and all the fun he had spending time with my family.

We had a very pleasant visit and he thanked me for the picture and for the visit.  Ever since that day, President Friday has called me his “home girl from Gaston County.”  He always mentions what a good friend my uncle Ralph was to him, how much fun they had playing on a championship basketball team together and how much my grandparents and my family meant to him when he was growing up in Dallas, N.C.

The third reason I wanted to write this was because as I write this I’m in France on a Junior World Championship recruiting trip near where my uncle Ralph died in World War II in the Battle of the Bulge fighting for our country and our freedom.

My aunt Catherine had told me stories about how the older boys (Bill Friday and Ralph), they were eight or nine years older, would play and kid around with her.  She would look up to them and think they were so very special.  Even back then, Bill Friday was showing his leadership style and his courtesy, treating everyone with respect and treating them the way he would want to be treated.

Bill Friday had a way of making everyone feel special, even if he didn’t agree with them.  Every time my team would win an ACC Championship, a NCAA Championship, or I received a coaching award, I always received a phone call and a handwritten note (not an email) from Mr. Friday.  He always referred to me as his “home girl from Gaston County”.  He always told me that he was proud of me for doing things the RIGHT WAY.

On July 13, the day of his 90th birthday celebration, it was the last day of our 2010 summer girls’ basketball camp.  I had about 600 girls in Carmichael Arena on campus waiting on me to give out end of camp awards.  I put them on hold while I ran over to the Carolina Club (Alumni Center) to wish President Friday a happy birthday. 

For his birthday, I took him a mini Carolina backboard basketball hoop and ball and a Carolina Women’s Basketball coaches shirt.  He graciously hugged my neck and kissed me on the cheek, and turned to his beloved wife Ida and said, “This is our women’s basketball coach, my home girl from Gaston County.  Her family is from Dallas, N.C.”  Ida looked at me and said I hope you’re a good basketball coach.  I said I try hard to make Mr. Friday proud of me.  She said, “I know he is.” 

On that day (his 90th birthday), it was said that W.C. “Bill” Friday was the most respected person in N.C. I don’t know anyone who would disagree.

This being said, my challenge to the legislature of North Carolina and Governor Bev Perdue is to implement a class in every school in N.C. where the character, qualities, manners and leadership style of W.C. “Bill” Friday be taught to our young people.  Our young people are not being taught the same lessons on character and leadership the way W.C. “Bill” Friday was taught.  Call it Friday’s Character Building and Leadership.  And even if it is only offered every Friday, it would be a Friday well spent. 

P.S. – July 30th, 2010

As I just returned from my long recruiting trip to the Junior World Championship in France, I went by the office to check on some things, guess what; I had a note in my campus box from whom else but 90 year old birthday boy, Bill Friday, thanking me for attending his birthday celebration and for the gifts.  Even at 90 years of age, he still showed that gracious southern style of respect and leadership that makes him the most respected person in North Carolina.

The world would be a much better place if we had more people like Bill Friday.

–UNC Women’s Basketball Coach, Sylvia Rhyne Hatchell

Turning defeat into victory the William Friday way

By dying on October 12, the 219th anniversary of the university’s founding, UNC President Emeritus William Friday once again turned a seeming defeat into a victory.

It was, some were saying, just like Presidents Jefferson and Adams, dying on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the nation’s founding.

Friday’s death leaves the state with a vacancy in the role he played as the state’s public elder who was wise and energetic, our trusted prophet and pastor.

Friday did not become our state’s prophet by divine ordination. He earned it through hard years of bruising struggles in the public arena. He did not always win, but he had an amazing ability to do two things: (1) turn apparent defeats into important and lasting victories, and (2) after even the bitterest battle, reach out and turn his opponents into friends and allies in common endeavors.

Here are some examples:
1. The 1961 crackdown on athletics. Some hard-core athletic fans may not have forgiven Friday for cancelling the Dixie Classic basketball tournament after several N.C. State players were implicated in a point-shaving scandal. Friday’s controversial decision signaled that no matter how popular and profitable university athletics may be, they cannot be allowed to corrupt or supplant the university’s mission of education and service. Friday’s action also gave notice of his decisiveness and resolve.

2. The Speaker Ban Law of 1963. For all his friendships and political savvy, Friday was unable to stop the General Assembly from enacting the law that prohibited “known members” of the Communist Party from speaking on university campuses. Nor was he able to persuade the state’s leadership to make a quick turnaround. But, in the end, his behind-the-scenes maneuvering helped bring down the law, leaving a widespread consensus on the value of free speech.

3. The 1971 merger of all the state’s public colleges and universities into the University of North Carolina. People forget that bringing campuses into one state agency was not Friday’s idea. In fact, he and his board fought against it. But when the decision was made, Friday demanded excellence and provided the strong leadership that made our multi-campus state university the envy of every state in the union. His actions in taking charge after the restructuring showed an effective administrative style. According to his biographer, William Link, “That style embodied the qualities of Friday’s personality: gregariousness and sensitivity, idealism and cold-hearted efficiency, and unassuming accessibility and constant communication with the state and national power structure. Friday had an innate interest in people and an inherent ability to relate to them.”

4. The establishment of a medical school at East Carolina University. Friday initially fought a new medical school there, but when he recognized its inevitability, according to Link, he determined to make it “as fine a school as you can make it.” While pushing for adequate funding for ECU’s medical school, he used the legislature’s enhanced attention to health education to fund expansion of the Chapel Hill medical school and the establishment of “the most ambitious AHEC (Area Health and Education Centers) program in the nation.”  Link writes that the ECU controversy demonstrated “Friday’s ability to adapt to new circumstances.”

5. The long controversy with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare over desegregation. Almost forgotten today, Link writes, “Managing the desegregation controversy became the greatest challenge of Bill Friday’s leadership and certainly one of the gravest tests the University of North Carolina had encountered in its two centuries of existence.”

Once again, Friday’s resiliency in responding to what could be characterized as a series of defeats, resulted in strengthening the university and solidifying his reputation for steady leadership.

William Friday’s victories are too numerous to mention.  But it is his powerful example of turning defeats into lasting achievements that will always inspire me.

“They are trying to eat Big Bird”

The hundreds of William Friday’s friends and fans who gathered to hear him speak last week might not have guessed that the institutions he worked so hard to build were threatened by the just-released legislative budget proposals.

But he gave them a big clue when he opened his remarks with, “They are trying to eat Big Bird.”
The luncheon gathering, hosted by UNC-TV, celebrated the 40th anniversary of Friday’s television program, “North Carolina People,” and the approximately 2,000 people who have been his guests, one of them every week on UNC-TV since 1971.
Friday is 90 years old. So people are wondering how much longer the program will continue. But, as Friday has scaled back some activities, his enjoyment of and commitment to the program has increased. Folks at UNC-TV say that they are already planning for a 45th anniversary party five years from now.
But it was not always that way. Friday told his audience that it all started when his friend and colleague Jay Jenkins persuaded him, over his objections, to host a program with four living governors. That program was a success. Jenkins and UNC-TV director John Young pushed him to do a one-on-one interview. He did, and did it again and again every week, ever since.
His comments last week were vintage “Bill Friday,” self deprecating and so respectful of the people he was addressing.
“This occasion is about you and is not about me.
“You know,” he said, “former UNC President Dick Spangler was visiting in Dallas [in Gaston County where Friday grew up] and stopped in a filling station where a group of men were gathered. ‘Do you all know Bill Friday?’ Spangler asked. ‘Yep,’ they answered. ‘Didn’t he play baseball?’ Spangler continued.
“‘Yep, and if he had stuck with baseball he might have amounted to something.’”
Friday continued to put himself down. “You know we get fan mail every now and then. Early on, one of them came on a postcard that just said, ‘Mister, ain’t you got but one necktie?’”
Friday said that he had learned several lessons from his television experience. Lesson number one came with his first guest, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Robert House.
“We knew he would be good because he could talk your head off. I prepared about 30 questions. I was on number 29 and we were only nine minutes into the program.”
House was giving short “yes or no” answers to every question.
“I got into a cold sweat. Then I remembered that Chancellor House had written a book. One of the topics was about American cheese. So I asked him what was it like? And for the next 20 minutes he went on without interruption.
“So lesson number one is never ask a question that can be answered yes or no.”
Friday’s lesson number two is that “every North Carolinian has a story to tell. So the lesson is to be quiet and listen.”
Lesson number three, Friday said, is that conversations with his guests have “real historic significance.” Their spontaneous comments and expressions will give special insights for those who study the history of our times. But it is not only for history. Friday said he wanted today’s viewers to be enlightened, as when he interviewed the doctors who treated his heart condition.
Then, for those who might not have yet guessed his concern about his cherished institutions, he said, “Yesterday’s budget proposals as they relate to the university and UNC-TV would, if fully implemented, be a tragedy.”
In closing, he thanked the crowd for letting him visit in their homes every week and, with a wink, said, “By the way, I’ve got a new necktie.”

Now, those are my thoughts. What are yours? Comment below.