Cunningham Said Yes, Then No, To Florida

Sources close to both athletic departments have confirmed a USA Today report that UNC’s Bubba Cunningham agreed to become the new athletics director at the University of Florida in August but changed his mind as the deal was to be announced in Gainesville, Florida.

Cunningham, who grew up in Naples, Florida, and still has family there, was offered a reported $1.4 million annual contract, according to the sources. His guaranteed annual income is about half that at UNC, which is reportedly preparing a contract extension and substantial pay increase. Cunningham, who has begun his sixth year as Carolina’s AD, received a raise in early 2016 to $642,268, with performance-based bonuses that could drive his total compensation close to $1 million.

USA Today reported that Jeremy Foley, the athletics director for last 25 years at Florida, staying on in an advisory capacity with an “emeritus” title might have played a part in Cunningham’s decision to remain at UNC.  Cunningham is also in the late stages of shepherding UNC through a two-plus year NCAA investigation, and – according to sources in Chapel Hill – he wants to see that process through.

While UNC has an $80 million athletics budget supporting 28 intercollegiate sports program, Florida has a $160 million budget for only 19 sports. The fact that Florida competes in the Southeastern Conference, which has (with the Big 10) the largest annual distribution of television rights per school contributes heavily to its budget.

Contacted in Illinois, where he was with the Tar Heel football team, Cunnkingham said, “I understand there is great interest in that position but, consistent with my philosophy and policy on any job searches involving coaches, I do not comment on employment issues regardless of whether it is at Carolina or any other school unless there is a change in employment status.

“I am fortunate to have one of the top athletic director’s jobs in the nation at one of the premier institutions in the world. Our student-athletes, coaches and staff are excited about a new year getting started and I am happy to help them try and reach their dreams and goals.”

Two Iron Ladies Showed the Way

What about North Carolina’s “iron lady”?The recent death of Margaret Thatcher, the steely, hard-working, and effective British prime minister, led to much discussion of her career, and we heard different opinions about her impact on the opening of opportunities for women in government and politics.

What an unusual lady! Charming when she needed to be, but tough as nails and mean as a snake. She showed women around the world that they could take the lead in a country that had never had a female prime minister and make it work well.

But, we have learned that she was not a vigorous advocate for the advancement of other women. She did not want to be viewed as a token at any stage of her career. Other women, she believed, should work to advance on their own merit and not be given special opportunities because of their gender.

North Carolina’s own iron lady had similar views, as explained by Anna Hayes in “Without Precedent,” her 2008 biography of North Carolina Chief Justice Susie Sharp.

When Sharp entered law school at Chapel Hill in 1926, she was the only woman in her class. When she began practicing law in 1929, women could not be judges or serve on juries. Nor was there much encouragement for her from the judge who administered her oath for admission to the bar. He lectured her, “Well, young lady, I congratulate you and all like that, but I’d be derelict in my duty if I didn’t tell you that you will never make a lawyer. If you persist, you will just be wasting your time, playing in the sand. I advise you to start right now trying to find something more appropriate to do.”

However, by 1949 her talent as a lawyer and her political connections led to appointment as a superior court judge, which required her to hold court in different parts of the state. At one courthouse she found that access to the judge’s chambers was only through the men’s restroom.

As a trial court judge, according to Hayes, Sharp offered a “sterling example of how a court should be run—knowledgeably, fairly, and efficiently—earning the respect of lawyers and litigants alike. She was a tireless crusader in her courtroom remarks and public speeches for the rule of law as the foundation of democracy, and for active, informed citizenship.”

Her service led to appointment to the state’s supreme court and election as its chief justice where Hayes said in an interview for the book’s publisher, UNC Press, “She was known as a legal scholar whose opinions were models of lucidity, and who undertook on occasion to bring about needed changes in the law…As a woman, of course, through her example she expanded opportunities for women in the legal profession and public life.”

Ironically, Hayes said, Sharp was an “obdurate opponent” of the Equal Rights Amendment in the battle for ratification in North Carolina that raged from 1970 to 1982 and “she exerted every effort she could to defeat the amendment. She based her opposition largely on the arguable idea that women were already protected under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and believed that the ERA would cause women to lose existing protections they had under the law. … North Carolina was considered a critical state whose approval could break the logjam and create momentum toward ratification. … Justice Sharp was undeniably influential in the ERA’s defeat in North Carolina, and to that extent, can be said to bear some credit or blame for its ultimate failure in the nation.”

Even those who disagree with Thatcher’s and Sharp’s positions on women’s issues or other important matters must be grateful for these iron ladies’ tenacious and successful battles that demonstrated powerfully how women can perform exceptionally well and lead at the very highest levels.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at

Next week’s (April 21, 25) guest is Vicki Lane author of “Under the Skin.”

Vicki Lane sets her popular novels on the farms and small towns in mountainous Madison County north of Asheville, where she and her husband have lived since moving there from Tampa, Florida, in 1975. In “Under the Skin,” she turns her mountain surroundings into compelling fiction.

The program will also air at Wednesday April 24 at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4). In addition, airing at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday on UNC-MX will be a classic Bookwatch program featuring Isabel Zuber author of “Salt.”

A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.

North Carolina Writers Serve Up Spring Reading Options

Ready or not, spring is here and it is time for a seasonal update on new books important to North Carolinians.

This month’s most important literary news is the release of “Life After Life,” popular author Jill McCorkle’s first novel in 17 years. McCorkle fills a southeastern North Carolina retirement facility with quirky residents, staff, and visitors whose encounters with each other make readers wonder whether to laugh or cry. She will be the guest on North Carolina Bookwatch at noon on Sunday, March 31 and Thursday, April 4, at 5 p.m.

Understanding the actions and attitudes of our parents and grandparents in dealing with the system of oppressive racial segregation that confronted them is one of our great challenges. Some of the best Southern writers deal with our past in ways that make for compelling storytelling. UNC-Chapel Hill creative writing professor Pam Durban steps up to that challenge in her new novel, “The Tree of Forgetfulness.” (April 7, 11)

The recent temporary closings of the Hatteras Ferry and coastal Highway 12 remind us that our coast is fragile and unstable. How do we protect it? In “The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast: Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future,” retired East Carolina professor Stanley Riggs and his coauthors give the background we need to make good decisions. (April 14, 18)

Vicki Lane sets her popular novels on the farms and small towns in mountainous Madison County north of Asheville, where she and her husband have lived since moving there from Tampa, Florida, in 1975.  In “Under the Skin,” she turns her mountain surroundings into compelling fiction. (April 21, 25)

The third and final volume of the “Literary Trails of North Carolina” series establishes Georgann Eubanks as the master guide to our state’s literary history. She has already taken us to Murphy and now in “Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina: A Guidebook,” she takes us from Raleigh through the Coastal Plain all the way to Manteo.  (April 28, May 2)

Everyone knows our health care system is in trouble, but UNC Medical School Professor Nortin Hadler is more specific and troubling when he says that conflicts of interest, misrepresentation of clinical trials, hospital price fixing, and massive expenditures for procedures of dubious efficacy point to the need for an overhaul. Who is responsible? Every citizen, says Hadler, has a duty to understand the existing system and to visualize what the outcome of successful reform might look like. Hadler provides a primer and guide to action in “The Citizen Patient: Reforming Health Care for the Sake of the Patient, Not the System.”  (May 5, 9)

Do you remember “Big Fish,” the wonderful novel by Daniel Wallace and the movie it inspired? They made us suspend disbelief and go into a magical world of stories and characters. Wallace has done it again in his latest novel, “The Kings and Queens of Roam,” which is full of the magic he uses to draw us into his worlds of imagination. (May 12, 16)

How could one of North Carolina’s most important political leaders be both a progressive champion for education and economic development and, at the same time, the leader of the white supremacy movement in our state? N.C. State Professor Lee Craig wrestles with this challenging question in his new book, “Josephus Daniels: His Life and Times.” (May 19, 23)

In reviewing Duke Professor William Chafe’s  “Bill and Hillary,” Jonathan Yardley wrote, about the Clintons, “No personalities in recent history speak more compellingly to the importance of understanding that the personal and the political are inseparable.” Chafe’s detailed study of the relationship between the power couple of all power couples shows how their relationship shaped our history.  (May 26, 29)



D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch.” During UNC-TV’s Festival, the program  airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at
Next week’s (Thursday, March 28 at 5 p.m.) guest is Sheri Castle, author of “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes.” (Note the Sunday airing will be preempted by UNC-TV’s Festival programming). The program will also air at Wednesday March 27 at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4). In addition, airing at 11:30 Wednesday on UNC-MX will be a classic Bookwatch program featuring the late Reynolds Price author of “A Serious Way of Thinking.”



Watauga County native Sheri Castle’s “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes” is a guide to finding the best seasonal foods in our region. She organizes her recipes into about 40 chapters, each featuring a different vegetables or fruit.
More about Sheri Castle:
Castle is a popular food writer and cooking teacher who celebrates delicious and healthy home cooked meals made possible by fresh, local, seasonal food. She has packaged that enthusiasm into “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes.”
Castle’s book has about 40 chapters, each one devoted to one particular fruit or vegetable from apples to zucchini. She suggests that you go to the market without a shopping list, buy what is the most freshly available and tasty, bring it home, consult her book, and find all kinds of ways to prepare your purchase.
Castle entertains her readers with stories about her mountain family and even a song or two. Because I love tomatoes, here are lines she shares from a song by Guy Clark: “Only two things that money can’t buy/That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”
But tomatoes are not the only stars in Castle’s catalogue of fresh foods. For instance, she gives great advice to overcome two different contradictory ideas about how long to cook snap beans. “At one time, most snap beans were sturdy pole beans with thick, tough pods that required extensive cooking to become edible. However, subjecting the newer stringless varieties to long cooking would dissolve them into a tasteless mess. … If a bean pod is delicate and tender enough to eat raw, it needs quick, gentle cooking. If a bean pod is thick and has strings…, it needs long slow cooking. When you know your bean, you know your cooking method.”

Leave 'Em Laughing, Lewis

He shuffles down Franklin Street toward lunch with a friend, unnoticed by passers-by because he is not pontificating, gesticulating or shaking his head in the funny fashion that defines Lewis Black.

One of America’s best known stand-up comedians lives in Chapel Hill, but spends barely half the year here because of his live tour and accompanying media calls, hosting gigs, voice over work for animated film and his forthcoming cable TV show.

He is in town this weekend for the annual Carolina Comedy Festival, to which he donates his time and wisdom helping burgeoning UNC student comics launch careers that, hopefully, take off faster than Black’s.

His resume is long, but it really doesn’t get cooking until 2000, the year he was arrested for co-hosting a sort of pornographic bus tour in New York City on the same day President Clinton’s motorcade was taking a similar route.

Stints on the Daily Show and Comedy Central blasted Black’s career into true stardom when he was already past 50. The 1969 UNC graduate still looks younger than his 63 years. Obviously, he gets a kick out of making people laugh.

“I’m very busy and I love everything I do,” Black said, “but I wish it all happened when I had more energy.”

Anyone who has seen Black on stage, either in person or on an HBO special, will dispute that he lacks energy. His raving rants about the “absurdities of life” are brilliant, blue and far from boring. He makes fun of people and things, which are hilarious unless you are a completely humorless way-right winger.

Black is also a rabid Carolina fan and well-aware of the Tar Heels’ place in the Sweet Sixteen. But it would not have been that way if he wasn’t rejected by several Ivy League drama schools and then visited Chapel Hill because his girlfriend’s mother went here.

“One walk on campus and that was it,” said Black, a suburban Maryland native. “I went straight to the admissions office and asked what I had to do. I didn’t even know, or care, whether they had a drama department.”

He had friends at Duke and visited there quite often, and now like most Tar Heel fans he despises the Blue Devils basketball team. “The Duke-Lehigh game was like arriving at the gates of heaven,” he said. “I get as much pleasure from them losing as I do from Carolina winning.”

Black has written three books since 2005, all while nested away in his condo on Franklin Street. This is where he comes for refuge and to help teach kids a few things he learned the hard way. He started out as a playwright, had bit parts in movies and TV shows and finally found his niche standing on stage by himself seeing people bust a gut over his manic, machine-gun delivery.

He’s already played the Durham Performing Arts Center and is scheduled there again in mid-April. Meanwhile, whatever writing he’s here to do has been sidetracked by college basketball.

“I’ve watched more this year than ever,” said Black, relating that he caught the first Carolina-Duke game on satellite TV from his tour bus. He missed the second because he had a show that night in Sarasota, Florida.

Marquette is his second favorite team, stemming ironically from the Warriors’ 1977 win over Carolina in the NCAA Championship game and some fond memories of times spent in Milwaukee ever since. He said he knew the Tar Heels would lose that game when they went to Four Corners midway through the second half.

“Why do coaches do that? They still do it. Syracuse almost lost the other night because they started to hold the ball,” he said. “I don’t understand it, never will understand it. But I still watch as much as I can.”

And rants at the TV, for sure.

Does time heal all wounds?

Will John Edwards someday be the new Newt Gingrich?

Where did this crazy question come from? To get the answer, read on.

First, we should wrestle with the questions political experts have been stuttering over since Gingrich’s stunning upset of Mitt Romney in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary last weekend.

How can a candidate like Gingrich get over the deathblows his campaign suffered in Iowa and New Hampshire?

How can he sidestep the disgrace from the damning condemnation of his colleagues in the House of Representatives who censured him for misconduct 15 years ago?

How can he get around the moral consequences of his conduct in the breakup of two earlier marriages?

How does he get around the lack of support from people who worked with him when he was House speaker?

How does he get around the panic shown by so-called establishment Republicans who believe his nomination for president would lead to a disaster for their party in the fall?

How can these questions be answered? It would be easy to say, simply, that South Carolina voters are different. From John C. Calhoun to Strom Thurmond, South Carolinians have shown a fondness for brilliant, confrontational, no-holds-barred, attack- dog politicians. Newt fit their bill. But what about other states?

Both Calhoun and Thurmond had fans in other states. How about Gingrich? We will begin to find out next week in Florida.

Whatever the results in Florida and elsewhere, Gingrich has shown that time really can heal old wounds in politics. Even the most conservative religious voters in South Carolina showed that they were willing to forgive the sins of a seemingly penitent person.

The South Carolina results show us that, after the passage of time, voters are not bound by earlier judgments about a politician’s sins.

John Edwards may be trying to take advantage of this lesson.

The health problem that was the basis for the delay in his trial is a real one. An irregular heartbeat has bothered Edwards for many years. Still, delay may be part of his trial team’s strategy.

Every delay puts the management of the trial further away from the influence of the zealous investigation and prosecution led by former U.S. Attorney George Holding. He is running for Congress rather than continuing to lead the determined effort to put Edwards in jail.

Greater and greater distance from Holding increases the possibility that less-driven prosecutors will see the benefits of making a deal with Edwards that would free them to concentrate their efforts on getting other criminals off the streets.

Every delay works to distance the minds of potential jurors from the heavy and negative publicity that accompanied Edwards’s downfall. With the passing of time, jurors may be less likely to punish Edwards simply for being the bad person the news stories made him out to be.

Every delay lessens public interest in the case and the strength of any public demand that he be held accountable.

Every delay puts the public’s memory further away from his relevance as a public figure whose extraordinary gifts almost made him a vice president, almost a president.

Thus every delay could increase the chances that Edwards will win an acquittal if the case ultimately goes to trial, or even more likely, that there will be an acceptable plea bargain offer from prosecutors.

Back to our opening question: If Edwards does walk away from his legal troubles, could he, with the passage of time, say 10 years from now, bring his gifts of persuasion and charisma back into the political arena and have some of those who have written him off today declare him to be the new Newt Gingrich?

Is Perry 'Roast' in North Carolina?

“After what he said about our barbecue, he is a dead duck in North Carolina.” A Democrat was celebrating the report that Texas Governor Rick Perry once made a disparaging remark about our favorite food. According to a news report that quoted one of my favorite books, “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue” by John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed, Perry, when he ate Eastern North Carolina barbecue in 1992, said, “I’ve had road kill that tasted better than that.”

Sure enough, after the North Carolina barbecue road kill story started circulating, Perry’s campaign, which had been sailing along at a pace that made Perry look like the sure nominee, took a nosedive.

The news reports said his debate performance was sub-par. His opponents attacked his decision to require girls in Texas to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus associated with vaginal cancer. They jumped on his advocacy for tuition support for illegal immigrants attending college in Texas. Then Herman Cain crushed him (37 percent to 15) in the Florida straw poll, and Mitt Romney did the same in Michigan (50 percent to 17).

“Don’t mess with Texas,” Perry says. Maybe he will have to learn, “Don’t mess with North Carolinians and their barbecue.”

If he wants some background about the political implications of “messing” with our barbecue, he can talk to our former attorney general and secretary of state, Rufus Edmisten. According to “Holy Smoke,” Edmisten “learned a painful lesson” when he was running for governor more than 25 years ago. At the time, somebody heard him saying, “I’ve eaten enough barbecue. I am not going to eat any more. I’m taking my stand and that is it.”

Today, Edmisten can laugh about his mistake. “Holy Smoke” quotes him, “I’d be eating barbecue three times a day for a solid year, and I got up one night and, in a very, very lax moment—the devil made me do it—I made a horrible statement. I said, ‘I’m through with barbecue.’ Well, you would have thought I made a speech against my mother, against apple pie, cherry pie, the whole mess.”
It was not a joke during the campaign. On September 20, 1983, a Wilmington Morning Star editorial, titled “Swine cooks the Rufus goose” took him to task, “If his opponents have the sense God gave a yam, they will mount Mr. Edmisten on a spit and roast him patiently on hickory coals until he is done, And then they will pick his bones.”

Now, another North Carolina commentator, Jeffrey Weeks, makes a similar suggestion in response to Perry’s “road kill” comment. “If Rick Perry wants to bring his campaign to the Carolinas we, of course, won’t reject him. We’ll welcome him with good ol’ southern hospitality. We’ll even show him how to cook real barbeque, not with a cow (Lord have mercy) but with a pig. And I know just the pig we’ll roast. ‘Governor’ Perry.”

So is Perry’s campaign mortally wounded? Is it “toast”—or, as Weeks suggests, “roast”?

Not so fast.

A couple of weeks ago former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs surprised me with his comments about Perry. Although he declined to speculate about which possible Republican presidential candidate would be easier or harder to beat, he cautioned not to underrate Perry. Gibbs thinks that Perry could be a strong candidate in the general election, notwithstanding his seemingly over-the-top positions on Social Security and North Carolina barbecue.

What Perry has, according to Gibbs, that the other Republican candidates lack, is “that he is comfortable in his boots—like Ronald Reagan.”

If Gibbs is right, Perry will not be thrown off course by his campaign’s recent downturns, and this time next year, he will be a formidable challenger to President Obama.

Unfulfilled Potential

Saturday’s less-than-satisfying victory over Rutgers could be considered a microcosm of Carolina’s entire football situation. Let’s call it unfulfilled potential.
First, the stadium. You would think, after the Tar Heels’ exhilarating opener over James Madison on Labor Day Weekend in a near-sold out Kenan, the second Saturday crowd (listed at a generous estimate of 53,000) would be even better against a tougher opponent on a cooler afternoon.
But the turnout was, in a word, disappointing. Notable sections of Kenan were unoccupied especially in the club seats of the Blue Zone, which university officials say are about two-thirds sold out at this point, and they are giving other tickets to prospects they hope will turn into buyers.
However, from inside the stadium and on TV, the Blue Zone looks embarrassingly barren as if no one wants to sit there. It supports the age-old notion that the end zone is the cheap seats or student section. No matter how many tickets are sold or have been given away for the first two games, more blue chairs were visible than blue shirts in them.
Renner and Blue Zone SeatsOfficially named the Charlie Loudermilk Center for Excellence, for the owner of the Aaron’s empire and a loyal UNC supporter, the Blue Zone is really an ill-conceived compromise to the original Phase II of the Kenan project, which was to have the suites and a club section along the home sideline, where such premium seating belongs.
But, long before the football scandal broke, there was a serious need for a new academic support center. When the most recent recession hit, UNC revised the plan to combine the academic center with suites and additional seats that Butch Davis wanted and move them to the worst vantage point for football viewing.
Davis even recorded a hokey promotional video touting the Blue Zone as THE place to watch a game because you can see the plays unfold better. Maybe if you are breaking down tape, sir canned coach, but if that were the case every college and pro stadium would have their fattest cats sitting behind the goal posts. The Davis video ended with the question, “Are you in?”

Actually, even those who have bought club level licenses from $750 to $2500 per seat (not including the price of the tickets and Rams Club donation) are “out” most of the time, due to the direct September sun. They go inside to the opulent air-conditioned upper and lower club areas to watch the action on the 116 HD TVs. Television dictates starting times, or clearly Carolina would play early season games at night.

But it’s not exactly a raucous sports bar atmosphere inside, with the children of club seat owners running around a facility that sells beer and alcohol – sort of like Champps meets Romper Room. When you are trying fill up the place, a No-Kids rule is not the best marketing strategy. Maybe finding sponsors to give out caps and sunglasses to all the patrons is a better idea than hiring a daycare crew and building play rooms.
As for the game, a superior Tar Heel team allowed Rutgers to stay in contention due to five turnovers and almost a field-length in penalties that was remindful of mega-talented but undisciplined Davis teams. The honeymoon ended abruptly for sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner, whose three interceptions show that he is still trying to synch up his outstanding athleticism with real time game speed.
Remember, Renner has played against practice defenses for two years, and that he did not get any significant snaps last year makes his adjustment to what he can do on the college level a work in progress. Even with T. J. Yates having his best season, which led to his making the 53-man roster of the Houston Texans and a chance to become the first UNC quarterback to ever take a snap in a regular-season NFL game, Renner realistically should have played some series in 2010, helping his preparedness.
Carolina has great talent on both sides of the ball, some experienced (head-hunting LBs Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick) and some not (human bowling ball back Giovani Bernard), certainly good enough to contend in another weak ACC with only two good teams, Virginia Tech and Florida State. Everyone else, through the first two weeks of the season, looks mediocre or just plain bad. Central Florida 30, Boston College 3? Clemson 35, Wofford 27? Richmond . . . oh, you get the point.
The Tar Heels’ third straight home game against Virginia, which blew a 20-point lead at Indiana before rallying to win on a last-second field goal, should be sold-out. The Cavaliers have a monster defensive end named Cam Johnson, who had a Julius Peppers-type take-away turnover that essentially beat IU. Carolina will have to keep Johnson off Renner’s blind side Saturday. A win would give UNC its first 1-0 start in the ACC since 2004, which is kind of hard to believe.
For history and Civil Rights buffs, the game will also mark the first meeting between two African-American head coaches in Kenan Stadium, with Everett Withers squaring off against Virginia’s second-year man Mike London. Al Groh was still the Cavaliers’ coach for their last visit two years ago, when the unveiling of the Blue Zone grand plan was soured by UVA’s 16-3 win.
After Virginia, Carolina goes on the road to Georgia Tech and East Carolina, neither of which will be easy. But the Tar Heels are still trying to do what Davis promised, become a championship caliber program feared and respected by all opponents. Most of the pieces seem to be there, needing only strong leadership and a solid, long-range plan that embodies all the right ways to do things — not just the Carolina Way.
That’s why hiring a new athletic director with experience and connections in the college ranks, bringing in a fresh philosophy, looms so critical. As stated here before, Chancellor Holden Thorp cannot afford the mistake of choosing someone he knows well or believes can grow into the job. There is serious and immediate business to conduct with the football coaching position, an NCAA probationary period and potential realignment of the ACC.
With the right person in place this fall, and the best possible coach on the sideline next season, UNC CAN fulfill its football potential, which in turn will fill the stadium and dig the athletic department out of its reported $30 million Blue Zone hole.
The new AD needs to be named before October 15, so he can have input into what Thorp and Dick Baddour say at the NCAA hearing two weeks later, particularly if Carolina offers self-imposed sanctions.
And the new athletics boss needs time to properly evaluate Withers and the football program over the last six games of the season, all ACC tests including the vital visit to Virginia Tech on November 17.
By then, the Blue Zone patrons may have even come out of the air conditioning and into the daylight, so it actually looks like the seats have been sold.
If you’re among them, don’t forget your sunglasses and caps.

New Paradigm Needed

The pressure is immense on Holden Thorp to make the right hire for Carolina’s next Director of Athletics. Thorp remains under heavy criticism for firing Butch Davis a week before football practice began, and that scrutiny comes from wealthy donors who feel they were misled to average Tar Heel fans who want to win and saw Davis as their savior.
Thorp has support from the UNC Boards of Governors and Trustees, plus the faculty and many alumni who are embarrassed by how the football program was run in the Davis regime. This tug-of-war will continue through the 2011 season that begins Saturday, no matter how the Tar Heels of interim coach Everett Withers fare on the field. A forthcoming NCAA probation can only intensify the conflict.
I am wondering whether Thorp thinks his own job is in jeopardy over the football scandal, that he could actually be fired for firing a coach. That sounds absurd at a university priding itself on academic integrity and playing by the rules for a half century. But the news moves so fast, and now so viral, in big-time college athletics that widespread public discourse  has cost college presidents their positions, all the way back to when former UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin was fired trying to clean up the football mess at SMU in the 1970s.

I am also wondering if Thorp realizes he has begun the search for Dick Baddour’s successor completely wrong, that major college athletic directors and coaches are rarely hired away from schools by 12-person search committees that publicly screen search firms. They never expose themselves by “applying” for other jobs and never, ever agree to be interviewed by such committees. If you want one of them, you go get him privately.

So why are there a dozen disparate people on Carolina’s search committee, which by its very nature will slow down the process? It has taken nearly a month to assemble the members and hold their first meeting, and they are still crafting a job description so it can be posted – something Baddour could have done himself the day after he announced he was stepping aside.
And given that they are all in some way connected to the university, several of them to the athletic department, is there any surprise they spent the first half of their first meeting debating over whether Baddour’s replacement should be an “internal” hire? That absolutely cannot happen, based on what has appeared to go on in the football program and athletic department over the last year, and Thorp certainly (or hopefully) knows that.
UNC needs a major paradigm shift away from its long-time tradition of “promoting from within” on such major hires. Baddour, the former associate for compliance, basically learned on the job for 14 years, picked four coaches of revenue-producing sports that were fired and is essentially unknown and unconnected among his peer group in college athletics. And the search committee is even discussing if the hire should come from the people who worked for Baddour?
The new athletic director at North Carolina will be charged with the most important football hire in school history, possible conference realignment and being heard on the reform movement. He (or she) must be experienced in making hires, ultra-connected in college athletics and someone who will be on the forefront of changes ahead for UNC and the ACC. The new paradigm must move away from inside people fighting for their friends and colleagues to be promoted so their own futures will be safeguarded. Doing that, ironically, endangers the chancellor’s job.
That Thorp has asked his committee to give him seven names of candidates carries this paradoxical promise: None of those names will be the ones he wants or should have; they will consist of internal candidates, associate athletic directors at other schools and AD’s at mid-major universities. It will look like Carolina can’t get a big name or no big names want the job, (which is completely false) because searches for top athletic directors and coaches are well-kept secrets.

They are done by the school’s CEO dispatching one or two highly qualified and highly confidential head hunters to bring back the names of candidates that fit the qualifications he gives them. After getting those recommendations, the CEO decides who his first two choices are, has all the pertinent information about their candidacies, including how much it will cost to hire them, and then takes a private meeting with his first choice and offers the job. If No. 1 says no, the meeting never occurred and then comes No. 2. That’s how it is done today, and if Thorp is too naïve or inexperienced to know that, he needs to check with ACC Commissioner John Swofford and other college athletic heavyweights to confirm it.

Otherwise, UNC is not going to get what it wants and needs.  
Hopefully, Thorp already knows this, and the search committee is there to make sure the so-called Carolina culture is protected unlike it was with the arrogant and entitled Davis (disliked among most of the athletic department). If those who hired Davis in 2006 did not bother to impress upon him how things are done at UNC, shame on them as well as him.
Making sure the candidates get the word about Carolina’s culture is okay for the committee, but 12 people who have never hired a head coach or worked in athletic administration doing any more than that is illogical and, if so, they are destined to screw up the most important athletic hire Carolina has had since Roy Williams saved the basketball program in 2003.

Already, the public process of interviewing two search firms is ridiculous. Bill Carr, the former athletic director at Florida, is a relic of the business, who is known to find his prospects by using the opinions of other AD’s and coaches rather than his own knowledge or due diligence. Carr supposedly “found” Dr. Kevin White for Duke, when it was more of White finding Duke because he was losing traction at Notre Dame over his hiring, giving a 10-year contract to, and then firing football coach Charlie Weiss. Paying Carr anything to produce names is as silly as UNC handing Chuck Neinas $75,000 in 2006 to tell Baddour that Butch Davis was looking for a college coaching job. I would have done that for 75 cents, it was so well-known. 

Todd Turner is a UNC grad, and the former athletic director at N.C. State, Connecticut, Vanderbilt and Washington who might even like a fifth chance at his own school. He is far more connected than Carr and is capable of researching two or three candidates among the dozens of sitting athletic directors who would want one of the best jobs in America. But, if he is selected, can he do it now that his cover has been blown by the UNC committee?

Interestingly, Turner has connections to two men who should be on anyone’s preliminary list. He is friends with veteran South Carolina Athletic Director Eric Hyman, the former UNC football player who worked for Turner at N.C. State and has pulled off tough rebuilding jobs at TCU and USC, and the cousin of VCU’s Norwood Teague, who has been a successful AD for five years and is widely known to covet a return to his alma mater.

Before disbanding, the committee can give Thorp a list of questions and concerns to make sure the person he chooses understands and will embrace the Carolina Culture so we won’t wind up with another Davis debacle. After that, they can all go home for good.

Discussing whether it should be Larry Gallo, Beth Miller or Rick Steinbacher is a monumental waste of their time and energy. Every reasonably knowledgeable person of the situation understands that the next AD here must already have hiring experience, great gravitas and established relationships. Whether the committee “knows” or “feels comfortable” with any of the candidates is totally irrelevant to getting the right person in place.

It has to be YOUR call, Chancellor. Do your diligence on the multiple blown hires we’ve had in the past, seek the counsel of athletically connected advisors who fully know the field and have UNC’s best interest at heart, and find the money to hire the most qualified person and best fit, who can then hire the next football coach and fix whatever is broken in the athletic department — so you can go back to your real job of running the university.
That’s the way it is done in college athletics today, or you wind up settling. And you and Carolina cannot afford to settle on this one, because you could be out of a job by doing so.

Do you agree with how the athletic director’s search is being handled?