Let’s hope that everyone involved with the search and selection of UNC Chapel Hill’s next chancellor insists that she (hint, hint) or he puts substantial and visible distance between the head university administrator’s office and the athletic department, particularly football and men’s basketball.
I’m not saying future chancellors have to boycott Kenan Stadium and the Dean Dome. But I do think they should stay off the field, away from the court, and generally out of the limelight that shines on Carolina’s most prominent sports teams.
Here’s why: as the N&O’s Dan Barkin makes plain in a powerful recent blog post, the tension between big time college athletics and higher education is substantial and inevitable. The struggle is exacerbated when school leaders present themselves (or are perceived) as principally sports fans rather than academic guardians.
While I’m sure university leaders at UNC and elsewhere spend much of their time on non-sports endeavors, administrators’ cheerleading of moneymaking athletic teams gets outsized attention. That focus — and the presumption that campus leaders across America have been too deferential to the athletic departments they purportedly oversee — is all the more reason why UNC’s next Chancellor should do something dramatic to show that she or he is focused above all else on the education side of Carolina’s house:
Give up the Kenan Stadium entertaining space known as the Chancellor’s box.
Call the area something else. The development office could still use the space if it wants to as part of wooing potential UNC donors. But, going forward, I suggest UNC’s “Chancellor’s box” (and all such similar suites associated with big money college sports teams across the country) be a thing of the past.