Friday, April 30, 2010

Jim Valvano Thoughts; Alumni Director Hired

The email in-box brings interesting reading and announcements of interest on a daily basis. I usually receive a heavy dose of jokes along with bunches of emails, business and personal, except from legal counsel at NC State University when I question the possibility of former temporary chancellor James Woodward illegally deleting emails from his in-box as he departed from Holliday Hall, the ivory tower of leadership on the west Raleigh campus.

It was Tuesday of this week when an email went to Deborah Harvey, administrative officer in the NCSU Office of Legal Affairs, and copied to Harvey’s boss, Eileen S. Goldgeier, NCSU Vice Chancellor and General Counsel. The content of my email: I am disturbed by your letter of April 23, 2010 saying that originating emails from individuals to Chancellor Woodward do not exist in that mailbox. Did he delete emails, breaking a law? I can only assume so, unless you can prove to me otherwise. Maybe this is also the case with other emails that came to him. Please explain.

No explanation has been received, though it’s been just a few days. And, a call to Goldgeier has not been returned. When I called yesterday, I was told she was in a staff meeting. That explanation came several moments after I requested to speak with her, just time enough to come up with that excuse. I was told she would return my call. Not yet, 24 hours later. For anyone who wants to ask her the same question, her email address is:
Yesterday, I received two good reads in the form of emails, one about a column by friend and writer John Feinstein, reporter for the Washington Post and “aspiring” author. Just joking on the aspiring stuff. He’s authored lots of books, very successfully, including his first, A Season On The Brink.

The email reminded me that Jim Valvano passed away 17 years ago Wednesday. It’s hard to realize it has been that long. Since I worked closely with Jim for seven years, it’s hard for me to remember that date because of the many fond memories I have of being by his side during his days as Wolfpack basketball coach and Director of Athletics. In many ways with me, Jim is still alive.

I get credit for starting his local radio career, though it was his talent that carried the program and his media career to its success. Shortly after arriving at NC State, I approached him about doing a pre-recorded radio program, just 15 minutes long. Through contacts at WRAL-FM radio, I was to pitch the idea to Wally Voight, a Capitol Broadcasting executive, about syndicating the program on Capitol’s statewide network. WRAL-FM was the local outlet for the North Carolina Tar Heels radio network; WPTF-AM was the flagship radio station for Wolfpack athletics, but the NC State athletics department was handling its own statewide network of stations. Jim wanted more statewide exposure, and this would be a way.

Voight, knowing why I was in his office, didn’t want to hear the audition tape. Instead he asked, “Would Jim be interested in a weekly statewide radio call-in show?” I was not Jim’s agent, but Voight might have thought so, or maybe he felt I was the best avenue to the flamboyant personality. We talked for no more than five minutes, and I returned to Jim’s office. He was enthusiastic about the pre-record possibility and wanted to know the response.

“He didn’t even listen to the tape,” I told Jim who brushed it off and started to turn his attention to basketball matters. “But he does want to know if you’d like to do a weekly call-in radio show, statewide.” It didn’t take Jim very long to say yes, but he wanted it solo, no host to act as traffic cop with the callers. We scheduled a meeting with Voight, and a deal was soon struck. Voight handed both of us a proposed contract which outlined the terms and called for a $25,000 annual fee to Jim. I still have my copy of the original contract.

As we drove back to the Case Athletics Center, his office and mine as Publications Editor for the Wolfpack Club while working in the Sports Information Office, Jim was like the kid in a candy store. “I can’t believe he’s going to pay me $25,000 to talk for an hour,” Jim said several times.

I could go on and on about his show, and one day I may write more about: the times the telephone lines went dead and Jim talked for an hour to himself and anyone who would listen; about the time the phone lines worked but when during the summer no one was calling and I took care of that with a call to the show myself, getting Jim to say “Darrell Waltrip” when I asked for his favorite NASCAR driver which caused the lines to light up and stay that way for the entire hour; and about the love his audience had for him while he sat behind the microphone. He was an excellent basketball coach, but I believe he was a better human-being, caring about people ahead of himself.

And, he was a lot smarter than any members of the media who covered him during and after his years at NC State. Even smarter than John Feinstein, whose blog of Wednesday is suggested reading. Just click here: Feinstein On The Brink. Be sure to read the wonderful comments at the end of John's writing.
The other email of interest came from the NC State University Alumni Association announcing the hiring of Benny Suggs, Class of ’69, as the new Executive Director. The retired US Navy Rear Admiral has an impressive background and comes to the position from Harley Owners Group (HOG) and Rider Services at Harley-Davidson Motor Co., where he has been general manager.

His credentials give him kudos for the expansion of HOG. And, we must assume he’ll be great for NC State University. It’ll be interesting to see if he can grow the membership to the levels expected by former temporary Chancellor James Woodward. But then, that doesn’t matter because that man of little integrity who may have illegally erased emails is no longer in that position, thank goodness.

Among Suggs credits: 30 years in the U.S. Navy; deputy commander in chief, U.S. Special Operations Command, upon his retirement in 2000; commander of Carrier Group Six/John C. Stennis Battle Group; and director for Operations, Plans and Policy, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, where he was responsible for the training and deployment preparations of more than 175,000 personnel. He works directly for NCSU Vice Chancellor of Advancement Nevin Kessler. But, with his background, Suggs probably knows how to watch his back. To read the announcement of the hiring of Suggs, click here to go to the NCSU Alumni Association website.
Have a nice weekend. Be sure to watch the Quail Hollow Championship golf tournament and take a few minutes Saturday afternoon to catch the annual Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Perception of Guilt: Was I Unclear?

The anonymous writer of a comment attached to yesterday’s post missed my point completely, or maybe I wasn’t clear. It was in reference to the perception of wrong-doing before a verdict is rendered. Here’s the comment as written and posted:

You must be kidding. Charges must be brought because the perception of wrong-doing would have remained. Then Mike Easley must be charged no matter if there is evidence or not because the perception of wrong-doing is going to remain. Bascially what you are saying is that everyone should be charged no matter what the evidence is so they can prove their innocence otherwise the N&O is going to write about you. What a warped sense of judgement you have. Please decline to be on any grand jury because you will always vote to charge no matter what is presented as evidence because the perception of wrong-doing has to be removed. How about the DA just saying there is no evidence and dropping the charges. No cannot do that because someone said you are guilty of something so you have to prove your innocence in a court of law. And you must clear that bad perception.

The writer missed my point. Charges do not have to be brought because of perception of wrong-doing, only if there is evidence to bring charges. But, the perception will remain in some cases no matter the verdict. With the four football players, they have been charged. So, the perception of wrong-doing is there, no matter what happens in court. And, no matter a court verdict, or even if the charges are dropped, strong, immediate action by Tom O'Brien will offer a perception that he will not allow his players, no matter the level of ability, to find themselves in situations that bring bad publicity to a good program, guilty or not. In that regard, here's an interesting comment posted by another anonymous reader after the initial column on the four football players:

So what will be of great interest to me will be to see how TOB will penalize these "high profile" players. Having been a part of the football program in the recent past, he has cast off walk ons and players of lesser talent/value for far less infractions. I am very curious to see how he handles this situation - it will be very telling of his true values and nature.

Unfortunately. In the case of the Duke lacrosse team, charges could have never been brought, but certain members of the media, and I named one yesterday, would have continued to assault those young men through their writings. The perception as well as the accusations would have continued. The perception around that case remains and will for a long time. Around the country, when Duke athletics is discussed, the content is usually Duke basketball and how great that program is, and Duke lacrosse and the perception of wrong-doing.

As far as former Governor Mike Easley, no matter what happens, there will always be a perception by many that he is guilty of something, that he had a hand in underhanded dealings. He will not be completely absolved with the perception of wrong-doing, though he may never be found guilty, or just charged, of any wrong-doing or crime. Perception will remain, even if he is charged with something, goes to trial and is found not guilty. That’s the nature of politics and political figures. Not from everyone, but from many. Perception of guilt or wrong-doing will harm a reputation quickly and without regard to a court verdict.

No doubt, NC State athletics has a long list of discrediting actions by athletics. A friend, in a direct email to me the other day, listed about 10. The list could have been longer. My point on the four football players is they should not have been in that situation at all. And, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, O'Brien does. Maybe, after the accusation of the person who claims to have been a part of the program under O'Brien, a look back at O'Brien's other disciplinary actions is in order.

I've said it before and I’ll say it again: college athletes (and all of athletics) live in glass houses. They have to obey rules and law beyond being perfect. They are not ordinary students. They cannot blend into the rest of the student body. If this case were four non-athletics students, the story would not have been front page material, and I would not be writing about it here.

With reference to serving on a Grand Jury, or just a standard jury for that matter, I have as open a mind as anyone and understand how to look at evidence and make judgment based on the evidence and the argument. Unfortunately, I may be too smart for such selection. I was called to jury duty a few months back but was dismissed from two panels in the first round of selections. I was well-dressed, and spoke intelligently, giving thoughtful answers when asked questions by the defense attorneys in both cases. In those cases, I did not fit the profile they wanted. I would welcome the chance to serve on a Grand Jury.

Thanks to Anonymous for chiming in yesterday. But, I think you misinterpreted my thoughts, or on the other hand, maybe I was unclear. If the latter is the case, maybe, just maybe this cleared it up.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sh***y on Capitol Hill Tuesday & other notes

Carl Levin: Sit-Down Comic?
If you follow politics at any level, you’ll love to watch United States Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) as he questions Daniel Sparks, a former Goldman Sachs Mortgages Department head, at yesterday’s hearings on the shady efforts by Goldman Sachs, creating securities expected to fail and then insuring the losses to create windfall profits for Goldman Sachs. At the hearings, Levin was quoting from an internal GS email which contains the S-word (starts with S, ends with Y, takes a HITT in the middle). Take a few minutes and watch. It’s funnier than it is offensive.

The video, which was posted on You Tube, has been removed, or at least I couldn’t get to it this morning, but I found it on a different website. Click here: The video is four minutes and 35 seconds of standup comedy. While not a fan of Senator Levin, this gives him an edge of being added to my favorites.

Dead Coleman Grill For Sale
Now that I’ve search far and wide for a grease tray for my Coleman 5300 and come up empty, I have a Coleman 5300 for sale. Needs a grease pan, new burner tents and possibly new grates (up to the buyer, but not necessary). Two empty gas tanks also part of the package.

In my search for the grease tray, I talked with two retailers who carried (past tense) Coleman grills until recently. One said, “Coleman should have never gotten into this business. Camping equipment and stoves in the wilderness, for sure, but not home grills.” The other told me, “Coleman’s idea of offering grills for home has always been to bring out a new model and limit replacement parts to about a two-year period, forcing you to buy a new grill when the parts are discontinued.”

Maybe I should have talked to those two six years ago. But, who knew? Maybe them. One was an employee of Lowe’s, the giant home improvement store. I bought my Coleman 5300 from Lowe’s in 2004 and was told then I was buying the best in the business. Of course, that’s when Lowe’s carried a wide range of Coleman gas grills. Now that’s truth in advertising.

New Lawnmower In My Immediate Plans
I’m also in the market for a new lawn mower which should be sitting in my garage in the next two days, counting today. My Honda HR215SX, purchased in the early 1990s, has been sidelined with a broken axle. While the axle is not too expensive, replacing it is tedious and labor intensive. Imagine repairing a lawn mower as being labor intensive. The HR215SX rear axle is connected to the transmission/drive mechanism.

So I have a choice: buy a $99 axle and spend at least $200 in labor to remove the old axle and transmission, open the transmission, connect the axle and attach it to the frame; or, buy an axle and transmission as one piece for just less than $280 and pay not much more to replace it. On the other hand, buying a new Honda, consistently rated by Consumer Reports and other such services as the best lawn mower, will be quicker, though it will cost double for the similar model to the HR215SX.

The repair will take at least two to three weeks, considering the time to get the part and to get in line at the repair shop, and the “you need to cut the lawn” Nazi wouldn’t put up with un-cut grass that long. Path of least resistance is best here. So, if you’re interested in a Honda HR215SX lawnmower with a broken rear axle…

Don’t Blame “Overzealous Civil Servants”
Yesterday, when I said NC State football coach Tom O’Brien should take strong, swift action as a result of four players being charged with misdemeanors related to drugs, I was not just suggesting he only penalized those four and then drop it. Maybe it’s currently part of his operation, but he also needs to have a strong heart-to-heart discussion with all of his players and tell them he will not tolerate that kind of activity whatsoever.

O’Brien comes across as a no-nonsense type of person which is good for NC State football if is applies to off the field activities for his players and a strong conditioning program to make sure his players are in top shape to play. I expect his action will send a strong message.

One anonymous comment following that posting blames the charges on the State players as well as the charges on the Duke lacrosse players on “overzealous civil servants.” Hah! In the Duke case, that party was strongly discouraged by the Duke lacrosse coach. He was trying to keep his players from getting into trouble by staying out of a potentially bad situation.

Yes, a DA got rather careless in his efforts, but if there had been no charges brought, the perception of wrong-doing would have remained. Just ask Ruth Sheehan of The News & Observer who was quick to convict the day after and remained convinced of wrong-doing by those players until the charges were dropped. Without a day in court, she probably would continue to write about it.

As far as the Wolfpack football players, they are charged with breaking the law. It is to be determined if they did, but the security guard on duty was doing his job. So don’t blame him or the police who showed up later.

Did Woodward Delete Evidence?
Speaking of breaking the law, there are indications that former temporary NC State Chancellor James Woodward deleted emails from his email mailbox as he was exiting his position in the waning days of March which, if not, should be unlawful.

Speaking of beating a dead horse, I made a request for specific emails and got a letter from the NCSU Office of Legal Affairs telling me that originating emails from certain individuals do not exist in that mailbox. So, it’ll take a search of back-up tapes by the Office of Information Technology to attempt to locate and retrieve the emails. Did Woodward pull a “Rose Mary Woods” and delete the evidence?

For those who thought and think Woodward was good for the University, the deletion of emails by Woodward, if true, is probabaly a better reflection of his integrity. Also, on his way out the door, he issued a decree changing the method for requesting emails, other correspondence and information through a Public Records Request. His order, which was perfectly legal, makes it tougher to request and obtain the records. Typical administrator who only cares about the way he does it and not who he runs over. More on email-gate when Legal Affairs offers more answers.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Strong, Swift Action by O'Brien a Must

To his credit, one—and maybe the only—rule Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has for his players is to do nothing that discredits Duke University. As narrow as that decree may seem, it’s very broad in scope, though I do not know the penalty Coach K applies for such transgression or if he has ever had to enforce it.

Food for thought: If, a few years ago, the Duke lacrosse team had been given the same diktat, there may have never been a party with an exotic dancer. Though participants of that party were found not guilty of charges related to that party, the ensuing publicity did as much to damage the reputation of the (Ivy League) Durham school as the recent national basketball title did to boost it.

The late, great NC State basketball coach Jim Valvano used to say he had no rules for his teams because, if he did, surely one of the demands of the way he wanted his players to act would be broken and then there would be circumstances and penalties to face. That’s an extreme way to approach team discipline.

When Wolfpack guard Morris Rivers, in December of 1973, was arrested and charged with stealing a 35-cents tin of aspirin, he was made to sit out one game on the schedule, but it wasn’t for his arrest and the bad publicity that followed. A few days earlier, at the suggestion of the other guard, Monte Towe, on that NCAA National championship team, coach Norman Sloan had installed a curfew rule because Monte though the team needed something to keep the team on edge. Rivers sat out a game because he broke curfew. That’s enforcing the applicable rule.

I have no idea of regulations NC State football coach Tom O’Brien has for his players, but it’s time to use quick and effective enforcement. Yesterday, four Wolfpack football players were charged with misdemeanor violations of either possession of drug paraphernalia, simple possession of marijuana, and/or maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of using a controlled substance.

Each could be found not guilty, but the reputation of NC State has been damaged. Not just locally either. This story is nationwide as is any similar story of this nature coming from any college. Do not blame the news media for this coverage. Blame the students. As football players, or as any college athlete, they live in a glass house with all the world watching. They get extreme amounts of publicity for playing in front of 60,000 people each Saturday. They should expect to see their names splashed in the newspapers when they are also a part of the police blotter.

O’Brien, though a school spokesman, released this statement: “I have been made aware of the situation and appropriate action will be taken.” The players are:

Tight end George Bryan, who as a sophomore last season made first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference based on his 40 pass receptions, 422 yards gained and six touchdowns, was charged with maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of using a controlled substance.

Senior offensive tackle Jake Vermiglio, who the school is pushing as an all-star player for next season, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, simple possession of marijuana and maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of using a controlled substance.

And, also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, simple possession of marijuana and maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of using a controlled substance were defensive linemen Markus Kuhn and JR Sweezy, both expected to figure prominently into the Wolfpack’s defense this fall. Sweezy is already on the outs with O’Brien after being suspended from the team earlier this spring after being charged with misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor larceny in mid-March.

A legal search with warrant resulted in the seizure of three plastic bags with about six grams of marijuana, two homemade bongs, and other incriminating items including a box of ephedrine sulfate injection capsules. There will be no charges on the capsules but, since ephedrine is a NCAA banned substance, this may open an entirely new can of worms. Sanctions by the NCAA could be worse than results of the misdemeanor charges of yesterday.

If you’ve been around college athletics in general, you’ve seen this situation many times. The charges and the circumstances may be different but the damage to the reputation of the school is the same, no matter the severity of the supposed crime. As a keen follower of NC State athletics, I’ve seen this played out—unfortunately—many times before. And, I’ve seen worse than what happened yesterday without penalty, and I’ve seen lighter misbehavior result in harsher penalty than what I expect this time.

I hope, not based on a guilty or not guilty verdict, “appropriate action” by O'Brien will be swift and send a message to those four and the rest of the team that this behavior will not to be tolerated. Found guilty or not, maybe all four need to be suspended indefinitely from the team. Maybe Sweezy’s suspension needs to be permanent.

And, please don’t say anything about suspending these players or any players, especially those being counted on as team leaders, as penalizing those who stay on the straight and narrow. Those four—part of a team—knew what they were doing, and didn’t have to do it. Maybe it’s common occurrence with teammates but these four got caught. Maybe O’Brien is not tough enough on his players.

Again, I have no idea of rules set forth by O’Brien, but I hope at the very least he has one that’s along the lines of Krzyzewski about not embarrassing or discrediting the University. Perception of wrong-doing usually is worse than the wrong-doing. And, NC State needs nothing to project that perception. Strong swift action, guilty or not, on these four will help to diminish but not completely erase the bad perception.

Monday, April 26, 2010

No Spare Parts; No More Coleman Grills

There’s a lot very positive to be said for Southwest Airlines. While bags fly free on Southwest, that’s not why. It’s that Southwest only uses Boeing 737 jets. That’s one of the reasons for the success of Southwest. One plane for training; one plane for maintenance; one plane for spare parts. Southwest may one-day replace all the jets with another brand or size, but I doubt it. In the meantime, Boeing will continue to churn out those spare parts.

I bring this up because one of the trusted names in camping gear and gas grills is Coleman, but in all likelihood, I’ve purchased my last one grill with that name. Spare parts availability just ain’t what it used to be.

It was just six years ago that I purchased the Coleman 5300. It’s one for the sort-of-serious griller with a large grilling area which accommodates at least six to eight slabs of baby backs at a time, or enough hamburgers to out-cook a single shift at Johnson’s in Siler City. You’ll know when you go. It has a side burner as well, great for frying when you want shrimp cooked that way but not in the house.

No doubt, the Coleman 5300 has been good for me and my outdoor cooking efforts. And, I’ve worn it out several times. It’s got a good cast-something frame but it also has several parts which tend to degenerate from the grease generated by cooking chicken, pork tenderloin and ribeye steaks, green peppers, yellow squash, corn on the cob and more.

After six years, the cooking surface grates are just now getting to the point of needing to be replaced. The burners burned up twice, so I’m on my third set. And, the aluminum tents over the burners, well, I’m on set four, I think. The starter wiring and other related parts quit soon after the inaugural lighting, but that’s typical of any such part on any gas grill. Long matches work very well indeed. And, the pan at the lowest of levels that catches the grease and drains it into a cup is also a casualty of grilling, but only twice.

And there’s the problem and reason I’ve purchased my last Coleman grill. The grease pan—a 19”x32” pan that catches all the stuff that doesn’t stick to the other parts—is not usable and can’t be replaced. There is no replacement item. Whenever a part needs replacing, I just go to the Coleman web site and place an order. A few days later, a box arrives and I’m cooking out (or grilling but not barbequing because barbeque is a noun not a verb for all you Yankees that read this blabber). But this time, I was about to buy new tents for the burners, new grates for the raw meat, and a new grease tray but noticed the grease tray was “out of stock.” So, I stopped the purchasing process to determine when the tray would be available. I would buy it all at once. So I clicked on customer service and dashed off a note of inquiry.

The email to Coleman Consumer Service said:
When will these two Colman 5300 parts will be available?
9990-4651 Grease Tray
5010000067 Drip Cup
My grease tray was completely rotted and I had to toss out.
Can't cook without it!
Available now and also on my list of parts are:
9990-5511 Heat Tent (4 pieces)
5010000068 Drip Cup Hanger
But I would like to order everything at one time.

The response from whoever received my message was disappointing: Thank you for contacting the Coleman Company. The grease tray is a discontinued part we can no longer stock. I suggest you check with a local retailer that sells grill parts to see if they might have a comparable part you could use on the grill. We apologize for the inconvenience. The drip cup is in stock now and can be purchased from us direct.

In other words, buddy, you’re out of luck. But, I responded to Libby Hammann, the customer service rep and author of the Coleman responses. I wrote: Your response is extremely disappointing. I have taken very good care of this grill and if I do not have a grease tray, I am unable to use it. I believe you owe it to me to find one available at one of your retailers.

Libby responded: There are no retailers that have the grease tray and we apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you.

My response to her was basically, thanks but no thanks as I explained that Coleman grills would no longer be part of the grill selection equation for me. As a matter of fact, I may just return to charcoal. It was the need to cook on charcoal that caused me to clean the Coleman to determine if I need any new parts.

Even though I have two gas tanks (anyone want to buy the latest and greatest in grilling gas tanks), one in use and a full one in reserve, over the winter, I failed to fill the reserve and a few weeks ago, the one in use sputtered as the flame went out not to return. It was dinner time, and the look I got from the chief chef in the house was not very pleasant. With a small charcoal grill on hand and just enough Kingsford in the bag to build the necessary size fire for the steak, I produced beautiful red coals—sans lighter fluid and the pre-soaked charcoal—in a matter minutes and steaks on the table about 10 minutes beyond the desired and appointed time.

It was a little rustic, cooking that way, but the steaks actually tasted better than those with gas. More tender (or tenderer, as I’m apt to describe), too. A few nights later, the bone-in chicken breasts had a better flavor and were more tenderer than usual, while cooked through and through. After the initial steak on the charcoal and while cleaning the ashes from the grill the next day, I also cleaned the gas grill, inspecting every part, determining what I would need to bring it to life. The tents definitely needed to go, and when I removed them as well as the burners to inspect, I noticed sections of the grease tray missing. So I pulled it out and tossed it in the same trash bags as the tents. I degreased the grates and basically prepared the Coleman 5300 to receive the new parts.

My first email to Coleman went out Sunday, April 18. It was Friday, April 23 when the response came. But, I was out of town. So, Saturday, April 24 about 7:00 a.m., I fired off my email of disappointment, thinking I would not hear until this week, but just minutes later, Libby told me I was SOL, so to speak. In that email where she said that no retailers had the tray, she also said: Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

What service? I didn’t feel very welcome. After six good years, my days of Coleman grills are over, unless one of my readers—or Coleman—has a solution, and not very expensive. On the other hand, after that experience, I’m not sure I should buy the tents or any other thing from Coleman. There’s a chance, Coleman will discontinue all the parts. Probably will as an effort to get me and all other Coleman owners to buy a new grill. And then another and another and another.

A new, man-grilling grill is in my near future, but this time, I’m looking for a better charcoal set-up. It takes just a few minutes more and little more effort, but I must admit, the results taste much better. And, I’ve never heard of bags flying free on a charcoal grill or one of any kind, but I’ll bet parts for the old-fashioned kind of grill are longer lasting, less expensive to replace and not discontinued to the point of sending the grill to the grill graveyard. I’ll be doing that with the six-year old Coleman 5300 and along with the urge to buy another of that brand.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Will the ACC Survive Conference Expansion?

The members of the Atlantic Coast Conference have much to think about with the expansion and changes in the NCAA Basketball Tournament and TV contract and with the expansion and changes coming to college conferences and football television revenue. Two subjects today. Basketball goes first.

While I’ve been a proponent for expansion of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, what the NCAA is doing by adding three more teams to the Championship field and three more television outlets is exactly what it needs right now. I wasn’t enthused with a field of 96 teams and have argued for expansion to 256 which would take just two extra rounds, an eight-game march to the title. But adding four teams makes sense. I guess.

Okay, it makes cents, or dollars and cents, or dollar sense. In discussion of the television contract with CBS, the NCAA discovered that the addition of 31 teams and the extra games did nothing financially. Even adding the three teams wasn’t needed to rake in more cash; that was done to appease the NCAA membership, especially with the growing number of automatic qualifiers increasing the number of quality teams left out. Three might not seem like a lot but it really is.

What is a lot is the new television contract: $10.8 billion over 14 years along with the guarantee that all games will be shown live in their entirety. The new structure spreads the games over CBS and Turner Sports outlets TBS, TNT and TruTV. Not that anyone can actually watch all the games at once from the comfort of home but this set-up will allow the basketball fan who enjoys the tournament beyond watching his favorite team more viewing options.

So far, the immediate reaction across the basketball world has been positive. Those who advocated 96 teams are pleased, or at the very least are saying so. But just wait until next March when the selections to the field are made and the screaming begins about the last four teams selected versus some left out. And, wait for the viewers without home access to all the channels to chime in about having to settle in at the neighborhood bar for hours and hours. I’ll ignore them both. The former will happen no matter the size of the field, and the latter is not such a bad deal.

What might be a bad deal for some colleges is the coming expansion of college conferences. When the Big Ten (which now has 11 teams) expands, dominos will fall and there will be a major change in conference affiliation, especially with the BCS in mind. The Big Ten will most likely not add just a 12th team, say Notre Dame or Texas. It’ll expand to 16 teams, pushing the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference, the Big East (already 16 for basketball), the Big 12 and the Pac 10 to do the same or die.

This will be done for football and football alone. That’s why the ACC expanded a few years ago. It was to give more emphasis to football, especially with the addition of the conference championship game. If Texas moves to the Big Ten, they’ll say it aligns them more academically, but it’ll be for more money generated through the Big Ten television contracts and the idea of expanding its (Texas) spot on center stage in the sport. Of course, the Big Ten would benefit by getting the Texas television market.

This is the same reasoning I’m hearing for Texas to move to the SEC. And, in the name of Virginia Tech being added to the ACC because of pressure on Virginia, Texas A&M would probably be a part of a deal to get Texas to join the SEC. That would get the SEC to 14 teams, so who would be the other two or three if Arkansas makes a mistake and high-tails it so the Big 12? How about Florida State, Miami, Clemson or Georgia Tech. Does that do anything to help the SEC? For television, probably not except for the appeal of FSU and the Miami market, neither really needed because of Florida.

The questions I have: Will the ACC survive in expansion? I’m asking if there will be an ACC once the expansion dust settles. It’s a legitimate question. What if two of the four mentioned bolt the ACC for the SEC? What if the Big East, focusing on football, was pro-active and enticed Boston College to return and Maryland to move? Or maybe Maryland goes to the SEC so that conference gets a foot in the Washington DC market? Where would the nucleus of Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia and Virginia Tech turn for members? The basketball appeal of those six does nothing for the need to keep football growing to take advantage of more football television revenue.

If further expansion is on the horizon, which it is as a game of expand-to-survive, the ACC needs to look closer to home. Even with the current 12, adding, say, Syracuse, West Virginia, Pitt and Connecticut does nothing for me, and I doubt it does much for increasing television markets. I believe strengthening a footprint is better than expanding one, though my friends at the ACC and in the broadcast areas of the conference schools will tell me otherwise. Go after the markets, they’ll tell me. With apoligies to my East Carolina friends, that’s why East Carolina, even with a solid football program, is not attractive to the ACC, the SEC or the Big East. No television market to speak of.

If I could wave a magic wand, the ACC would include these 14 teams: Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida, Florida State, and Miami; AND these other two: Penn State and Pitt. Maybe substitute West Virginia for Miami but definitely do away with Boston College. My foot print puts a solid hold on a specific geographical region, has national appeal in football and basketball and helps with travel time and expenses. Of course, getting Penn State might be tough, though it has a lot in common academically with many of the ACC nucleus.

Yes there will be concerns about how to handle football scheduling and conference tournaments (noth just basketball) with 16 teams, but that’s just details, all workable at some level. Don’t be concerned with the details.

As the NCAA Basketball Tournament progresses through its new television contract, it’ll be interesting to see if the number of teams grows beyond 68. While some think it’s inevitable, I have my doubts because of television revenue limitations. But, as the days go by, watch for conferences to grow and the make-up of membership change dramatically. There’s a feeling that there’ll soon be just four major 16-team leagues, all demanding two guaranteed spots in the five BCS games. Right now there are five conferences involved in that formula. When, not if, the Big Ten expands, major changes will come quickly to the other conferences.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

If I Hurt Your Feelings, I'm Terribly Sorry

Human beings have to be the most interesting species on the planet. Not that I’ve studied all the species but I have a hunch. I think it’s because we’re all different in so many ways while we’re all the same. We’re all sensitive to our own interests and desires; we all have our own likes and dislikes; and, most of the time, no one knows everything that will upset another. One person’s opinion goes in the ear of one and out the other side while that same opinion or statement goes in another person’s ear, stays and festers.

Something simple might upset one person while it takes being hit over the head with a rock to upset another. Some people understand and prefer the idea of being “politically correct.” Others think of it as hogwash and that anyone who is upset with some who is not politically correct should just get over it. I have a strong Southern accent and hate it when someone mocks me as they try to talk with my Southern drawl or wants me to speak as they do. I say puddin’ instead of pudding. So what? It’s how I enunciate that word. Quit making fun of me! Oh, you’re not? Maybe I misunderstood.

And, I have a Jewish background, though technically since my mother was not Jewish, I’m not Jewish. But, my Dad was, and I’m sensitive to disparaging remarks about Jews, especially since many of my relatives were destroyed in the Holocaust. I’m protective of Israel, though my sister who lives there thinks I’m otherwise. I’ve asked plenty of people to stop with the ugly references about Jews, but you’d be amazed who says what when. How many times have I been told I have a Jew nose? What does that mean?

People are sensitive about their appearance, about their education, about their politics, about their religion, about their work. Yesterday, in this space, I mentioned an apology to the NC State fund-raiser who I believe misunderstood what I was trying to say. Maybe the way I said it was insensitive to her work. Slap me on the forehead. What was I thinking?!?! I was trying to make a point and because she took it one way when I meant it another way, she was upset.

Sometimes, okay, a lot of times, I rag on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and it upsets some of its graduates that I don’t think too highly of that school. Hey, the Tar Heels are #1. If you don’t believe me, ask any graduate or student thereof. And, that’s okay. If they want to think that, great! But I don’t, no matter what any stats or magazines may say. And, by the way, is it insensitive for UNC fans to refer to the Duke basketball coach as Rat Face. And, remember, I could care less about the Duke-Carolina rivalry, and that I don’t care is a problem for those who do. That’s their problem not mine. Maybe I'm insensitive to their feelings about it.

I go after NC State when I think things are wrong there. To some, that’s being insensitive to my alma mater. Keep it inside, I’m told. Can’t I support the University and criticize it at the same time? If the leadership there doesn’t think so, all I can say is, GET OVER IT. Or do things differently. Like win, baby, win!

But this posting today is not about college athletics or about University chain of command or what I think about UNC, or about my sensitivities. It’s about religion and my being insensitive to a friend (at least she used to be before I wrote what I wrote) who is a Catholic. She thinks I have a bias against Catholics and their religion. Not true. The bottom line is that I respect all religions, none over another, none better than another. I do not make fun of Baptists as some people I know do. Matter of fact, I have a great deal respect for religiously-affiliated people and their religion thereof. My mother was Baptist, one of the all-time great religious affiliations of our time.

However, some people feel their religion is at a different level than others and that their leaders are better than others. And, it’s okay to feel that way; as a matter of fact, I admire anyone who feels that way about their religion, be it faith or Carolina basketball. But, I feel I can disagree when I wish. I can respect their opinion and offer mine, without membership, I feel. (Of course, we all know if it weren't for the Jews, there'd be no Catholics. Seems as if Mary, Joseph and Jesus were Jewish. Oops, there I go again.)

About a week ago, I said Tiger Woods is an angel compared to Pope Benedict. Let me rephrase that as a question: Which is worse, cheating on your wife with at least 12 women (though once is enough), or being or harboring someone who is a pedophile. Let’s take that completely out of context. A neighbor on one side of you is cheating on his or her spouse, and the male neighbor on the other sided of you is having sex with young boys, say ages 8 through 12. You learn of both circumstances and confront both neighbors. Each asks that you keep it quiet. What do you do? What should you do? I’ll let you answer that one.

My neighbor who used to be my friend said I do not understand the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. And, that’s a very true statement. Never have; never tried to; probably never will completely. But what I really do not understand is that when a priest commits a civil crime why is it kept quiet to be discovered later. Why not call the cops right then? Someone please explain why the complexities of the Catholic Church prevent this. Isn’t that—harboring someone who breaks a law—a crime as well? Or are our religious leaders above the laws outside the church? My opinion: the law is the law to everyone.

I’ve never said this does not go on in other religions but then if those same problems exist in other religions, it hasn't been front page news. Maybe there’s been adultery and stealing among leaders of all religions, but taking advantage of altar boys (or the likes of in other religions) is not something that’s common place, or seemingly so. There may be cause for the actions of priests who do this, but I can't think of one excuse that makes it okay.

Look, I made a statement that said Tiger Woods is an angel compared to Pope Benedict. It was a way of comparing what one did versus what the other did and not to be taken literally. In our system of laws, one is a crime and the other is not. Woods an angel? No, absolutely not. The Pope guilty of wrong-doing? Well, when he wasn’t Pope, probably so, especially in the eyes of the Lord, if he knowingly kept quiet. But, if he still knows now what he knew then, is that wrong as well, even if he is the Pope? The reference to angel or not was simply to put the two “wrong-doings” in the proper perspective, not to place a label on one and disparage the other.

But, for my used-to-be-friend (and others), I was over the top with my statement, and that’s because she’s sensitive to any discussion about Catholicism, especially if you’re not Catholic, from any other perspective. And that's okay as well. I admire your strong allegiance to the Catholic Church. If I hurt your feelings, I’m terribly sorry; I did not do it purposely directed at you, and I hope that you’ll use your strong faith to forgive me and remain my friend. Maybe go to a few football games this fall? OK, at least think about it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ruminating and Cogitating Over 1700 Hits

A mention of a posting in this space on another website continues to make me a believer in the power of the Internet.

Earlier this year, when I first started my investigation and writing about the firing of Lennie Barton, the number of hits on my blog went to nearly 800, up from a high of 130. Yesterday, Alpha Wolf, writing on SportsFanNation, “How NC State Sports Information Really Works,” gave me space and a link to my Friday, April 16 story.

Yesterday, ACTIONS and REACTIONS II had more than 1650 different visitors, over 1750 visits and more than 2000 page views. I know who you are and where you came from. Google Analytics has a WOW factor. WOW!

Several visitors chimed in with comments and email notes, such as this email:

…I was a part-time student worker for the NC State SID office in the years 1985-87. Mr. (Ed) Seaman was still in charge then, with Mark Bockelman and Doug Herakovich, his underlings, and of course Beverly Sparks. I just found your blog this morning, thanks to a post on the message board. I found it very poignant and refreshing. I remember well your very passionate love and enthusiasm for NC State, both the athletics program and the academic quality of the University as a whole, and I'm happy to know it has not abated. I hope you will continue to speak out forthrightly and candidly that our wonderful school and its proud alumni should not have to suffer any longer the indignity of being so poorly and corruptly mismanaged by those that hide behind a facade of academia. Drive on, friend.

And this email:

Since moving to Apex eight years ago , I have been wondering why the Sports Information Department was not more proactive in promoting athletic events and activities. There seems to be a correlation between the SID having more family responsibility and the decline in the quantity and quality of information coming from that office. Perhaps I am wrong but I think there was more information when Frank Weeden was a one man show. At least I think he "worked" the crowd, ie. sports writers. Anyway, my point in writing this is to let you know I read your blog and found it thought provoking.


I found your blog via a thread in the "Pack Pride" forum and after reading many of your postings I first wanted to thank you for your comments and efforts in regards to our Alma Mater. Well put and insightful sir! Over all I find your blog entertaining as well and enjoy your writings on other subjects than just NCSU.

There were no negative, written comments, but, from that same posting, in which I discussed the effort to raise money to build the Lonnie Poole golf Course, I received a telephone call from the person in charge of that effort. She was upset, saying I had criticized her efforts when I shouldn’t of. Here’s what I said: “If (Lee) Fowler had said yes (to making the golf course an athletics department facility) the Wolfpack Club would have probably raised all the money to build the course, the clubhouse and the related facilities. But now, the fund-raising effort struggles.”

I told her that if she felt that I was out of line with my comments, I apologize, though they were not directed at her. But, now that I have re-read what I said, I think I was quick to say I’m sorry. I never said she is doing or has done a bad job. She took exception to my statement that the Wolfpack Club is a better fund-raising organization than the NCSU Department of Advancement (Nevin Kessler's effort or lack thereof). After talking several weeks ago with Wolfpack Club representatives, I believe, if Lonnie Poole Golf Course had been an athletics project, Bobby Purcell and his staff would have secured the donations and pledges to build the entire complex. And, today, fund-raising for the project has stalled, at least that’s the impression I got when I asked for a report on it a few weeks back. I just hope it resumes and is successful, quickly. The chief fund-raiser for the project sounded optimistic. If there's anything I can do to help, just ask.

You see, I am a supporter of the University, the athletics program, the golf course and, specifically, the men's golf team. For the past seven years, I've directed the annual Wolfpack Intercollegiate in which up to 17 college golf teams compete in 54 holes of competition. Like a gypsy, the tournament—more than 20 years old—has moved around from course to course and finally landed at home this spring, just two weekends ago. The tournament is not free to operate by any means. This year, though my efforts, the event raised about $30,000 in cash and in-kind food, services and other necessities (thanks to more than 150 people who particiapted and helped) just to keep the athletics department from spending a dime while the Lonnie Poole Golf Course benefited. If that's not showing my support of NC State Unviersity, what is? Even the Chairman of the NCSU Board of Trustees thanked me last week for my service and said he hopes I'll continue that effort. As long as they want me, I said. Except for the gratification of the thank you notes I receive from the college teams and others associated with the tournament and the satisfaction of a job well-done, I receive no other benefits from this effort. And, that's fine with me.

There were other comments concerning the post of April 16th, and there was also one that took issue with what I wrote yesterday about CaryCitizen being “Better than any other website address for lots of good stuff happening in Cary.” The comment simply said “ is better…” (probably posted by an N&O staffer) to which I disagree. The newspaper website is a news website that consists primarily of what is in the print addition of the newspaper that's published twice a week as a supplement to The News & Observer. It is rarely updated on a daily basis. It’s not very personable; it’s not entertaining.

For instance, today (posted last night) on the front of CaryCitizen is a story, supplied by the Atlantic Coast Conference, about the league’s tennis championships—men and women—getting started Thursday at the Cary Tennis Park. It's good stuff. There’s no mention whatsoever on CaryNews.Com. Even if you drill down in the tennis link, all you'll find is high school tennis, basically. As a matter of fact, there is just lip-service mention on today, and not prior to today. The ACC Tennis event is a big deal to Cary specifically and the entire area in general, and the N&O and it's Cary News website should do more. Maybe the newspaper’s site has other stuff CaryCitizen doesn’t but my statement—CaryCitizen is better than any other website address for lots of good stuff happening in Cary—remains true. It’s all about the “lots of good stuff happening in Cary.” Do you own survey: Read CaryCitizen daily for fun stuff, and do the same with, if you're looking for misery.

I also heard yesterday from a regular reader who, after my Monday story about USGA Rule 13, offered this perspective: “Most men would probably cheat on their wife before they cheated in golf.” That’s ponderable (if that's a word).  Surely, Tiger Woods has never cheated in golf, a game for which he has complete respect, but he failed to offer that same respect to his wife. Maybe if he had a little rule book on marriage to carry in his pocket, he would have spent more time studying it than studying the naked bodies of at least 12 women who are not his wife. My friend asks: “Is honoring golf more important than honoring the institution of marriage.”

He, my regular reader, wanted me to ruminate (his word) on those thoughts. Hmmm. Okay. Done.

But I’m still cogitating (my word) the idea of more than 1650 different people clicking a link to look at my babble. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And the winner is: Jim Pomeranz (finally!)

Until yesterday, when I received an email from Hal Goodtree at the website CaryCitizen, I can’t remember the last time, recently anyway, I won anything other than maybe a hole in a golf match which happens only every now and then. Oh, I might have won $3 on a $5 lottery ticket, but is that winning? I remember going to Las Vegas once and returning to the question, “Did you win?” My answer was, “Yes, I won $50, but I spent $100 doing it.” The sign of a real winner!

Many summers ago, sometime in the late 1970s, I won a contest offered by an OD radio station. (To the unknowing, OD is short for Ocean Drive SC, the home of Carolina Beach Music, that shagging kind of music.) To win the contest, not only did you have to know the answer to the question but you had to go to the radio station and arrive first with the correct answer. I was sitting on the beach, listing to beach music, drinking a favorite beverage and basically not caring about anything, much less a radio contest, but I knew the answer and sort of knew the radio station location. I walked about 10 blocks, got there first, answered the questions correctly and won one ticket—yes, just one, not two—to a Jimmy Buffett performance later in the summer at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

While on the subject, I'll finish the Buffett story before I get on with winning-something yesterday. I’ve seen Buffett perform many times in my life, dating back to the 1970s when he was starting his ascent: at the Frog & Nightgown in Raleigh’s Cameron Village Subway where he played his acoustic guitar and sang as he sat on a stool in front of maybe 50 people; in the Pier, a larger (150 people) nightclub across the hall from the F&G, with his Coral Reefer Band; in 800-seat Stewart Theatre in the University Student Center on the NC State campus; in Reynolds Coliseum on the State campus; in the (name of the year) Amphitheatre in Raleigh; and in a driving rain on July 4th in Carter-Finley Stadium.

The best Buffett concert was with my winning-ticket freebie in Myrtle Beach. It had a 7:00 p.m. starting time, and, right on cue, Buffett walked onto stage with that acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder. To everyone’s surprise, he was unaccompanied as he took a seat on a lone stool on the front edge of the stage. For the next 150 minutes without pause or interruption, Buffett was vintage Buffett. The audience listened and took part but didn’t drown out the crooning. On a drugless and alcohol-less high, I left, or at least started to leave, as Buffett ducked behind the curtain and a local act started to set up. By no means was Buffett the warm-up for the next group, a name I had already forgotten.

As I was exiting, several people enthused with the next group of aspiring artists were pleading for those leaving to stay. I listened to the convincing words, even took a 45 rpm record being handed out and agreed to listen to it later. At the last moment, just before walking into the summer air, I turn around and went back inside for a song or two. When I left, a persuader asked for my opinion. “Not exactly my style of music but I’m sure they’ll do okay. Good beat.” As it turns out, that group was Alabama, just getting its start along the South’s Atlantic Coast. I haven’t a clue where that 45 rpm record is today. Not a bad winning ticket, huh.

So, yesterday, I received an email from Goodtree, CaryCitizen editor and publisher of CaryCitizen, a really good site for lots of good stuff happening in Cary. Better than any other website address for lots of good stuff happening in Cary. If you're interested in Cary, bookmark the site. Anyway, Hal was writing to inform me I had won two tickets for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Benefit Show, May 1 at Koka Booth Amphitheatre. My name was selected out of a hat from entrants in a trivia contest who answered correctly five questions. Turns out seven entries gave the correct answers and my name was drawn. I was pleased with my fortune and surprised of the few correct entries.

With the internet at hand—available to nearly everyone—and a little knowledge of the subjects, and with most of the answers on the Koka Booth Amphitheatre website, I took a shot.

Question 1: Finish this line: “Mama told me, yes she told me….”
My answer: “Mother (not Mama) told me, yes, she told me I’d meet girls like you” (from Cheap Trick’s Surrender)

Question 2: Who played acoustic guitar behind Jimi Hendrix on “All Along the Watchtower?”
My answer: Dave Mason

Question 3: What band covered “Hippy Hippy Shake” for the movie “Cocktail?”
My answer: The Georgia Satellites

Question 4: This drummer was a founding member of The Plastic Ono Band
My answer: Alan White

Question 5: The Candymen and the Classics IV gave birth to this group in 1970
My answer: Atlanta Rhythm Section

When I submitted the answers to CaryCitizen, I knew each was correct (maybe I should stick to contests about music), but there’s something special about receiving an email or a telephone call or a letter or being told in person that you have just won…anything. Especially another story to tell my grandchildren.
To see the story about my name being drawn (and for the names of those so cheerful people in the photo on this page), go to:

To read more about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Benefit Show, click this link:

To read a story I wrote about the new Bojangles coming to Cary for my website and then publsihed by CaryCitizen, go to:

And, to enjoy CaryCitizen, go to It’s all good. Thanks, Hal!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Golf's Honor Comes Through Again: Rule 13-4-c

Imagine in a baseball game, say the bottom of the 20th inning, one out, runner on third, fly ball hit deep to center field, the runner tags up, the catch is made, the man on third sprints home, the umpire calls him safe and says the home team wins. The runner, though, turns to the umpire and says, “I think I left third too soon. I should be out. Check the replay.”

That’s not going to happen. Neither is this: In an NFL playoff game, in overtime, the quarterback throws what should be the game winning touchdown pass but an offensive lineman tells the referee to call back the play because he was holding which should be a penalty, taking away the touchdown.

In every sport, except one, rules are broken, results are determined and life goes on. Even in tennis, a player will not call his or her own ball out, changing the outcome of a point, much less a game, set, or match.

But in golf, it’s different. In this gentleman’s game, the players are quick to penalize themselves, changing the results or giving advantage to an opponent. Sunday, at the Verizon Heritage golf tournament at Hilton Head Island, in a sudden death playoff, Brian Davis, an Englishman trying to win for the first time on the United States PGA Tour, did just that. On his backswing from within a hazard, his club head brushed a loose impediment—in this case a dead reed. No one but Davis realized it and he said he didn’t even feel it when it happened. Basically, but bringing the possibility to the attention of a rules official, Davis imposed a two-shot penalty on himself. Jim Furyk, made par on the only playoff hole and won the tournament. Davis didn’t even finish the hole.

What happened falls under The Rules of Golf, Rule 13: Ball Played As It Lies. And, when Davis’ second shot on the 18th holes (used for the playoff), hit in play and then bounced into Calibogue Sound, Davis had a choice: Play the ball from the hazard, or take relief with one penalty shot and drop the ball just outside the Sound and then try to chip in for a par. The CBS television commentators were leaning towards the latter while David contemplated the former. He was in a hazard, into which he and his caddie walked, standing over the ball, pointing to all sorts of obstacles, trying to determine the best possible shot. With a TV cameraman standing in the hazard behind the ball and getting a full view of Davis’s swing, we watched as the ball sailed out of the Sound, onto the green, resting about 20 feet from the hole. Every TV viewer, the announcers, the fans in attendance and Furyk assumed Davis would just have to make the putt to extend the playoff another hole.

But, then Davis turned to PGA Tour Official Slugger White, telling him he thought he struck the reed on his back swing. Walkie-talkies went into action; super, slow-mo replays did as well, showing a national television audience that indeed Davis had done exactly when he thought. The penalty was two-strokes and Davis was to continue from where the ball hard come to rest on the green, putting for double-bogey six and not par four. He quickly struck the ball and then conceded to Furyk who had to finish the hole—he knocked in a short putt for four—to make it official.

The Rules of Golf is not a very thick document; the rules are pretty much straight forward. If IRS rules and regulations were written this way, no one would have a problem filing tax forms. Even the Decisions of the Rules of Golf, a much thicker document, is simple. The Rules book itself is only 6”x4”x.25” and can be found in golf bags of most serious golfers and some others who want to learn and understand the game.

Rule 13 is one to which every golfer should adhere. Tee the ball on every hole. From then to the green, hit it where you find it without moving it. Then, on the putting surface, and only then, mark the ball, clean and replace and putt. There are a few exceptions such as moving the ball from casual water, and sometimes local rules allow movement, but, in reality, there is no such thing as “winter” rules when fairways may not have much grass so players move the ball here and there to gain a better lie. Just pull a club and hit it.

In particular, the rule for Davis’ situation was Rule 13-4: Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions which says: Except as provided in the Rules, before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) or that, having been lifted from a hazard, may be dropped or placed in the hazard, the player must not: c. Touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard.

It’s simple, but let’s look at some definitions:

Stroke: the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke. (So, the back swing is not part of the stroke; only when the player starts to move the club toward the ball, not away, does the stroke begin.)

Loose impediments: Natural objects including stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like, dung, and worms, insects and the like, and the casts and heaps made by them, provided they are not fixed or growing, solidly embedded, or adhering to the ball. Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green but not elsewhere. Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Dew and frost are not loose impediments.

If you were watching the broadcast, just a few moments earlier, the cameras showed a player hitting from a sand bunker (hazard) which was dotted with those yellow things we find all over our yards and driveways this time of year. When gathered with a rake or blower, those yellow things look like a giant yellow Brillo pad but softer. Anyway, the announcer on that shot was quick to remind us none of those items in the hazard could be moved, but he failed to remind us the clubhead on its backswing could not come in contact with those items.

It was a different situation but Davis reminded us of the rule just a few holes later. So, when Davis took his backswing, his clubhead brushed against a reed. When the PGA official was discussing the situation with others, he tugged on the reed in questions to determine if it was dead or alive. It was dead. Two shot penalty.

Davis could have kept quiet but he’s a golfer. “I didn’t actually feel (hitting it),” Davis told Furyk, “but I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I could not have lived with myself if I had not called it on myself.”

It wasn’t a life or death situation by any means, but it was the honorable thing to do. Not something you’ll find in any other sport or competition.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wolfpack Club to Pay "Services Rendered" Fee?

After a conversation yesterday with someone really in the know, I expect Nevin Kessler, who probably couldn’t give away ice in south Florida in the summer, to get his way with the 5% tax on all donations to NC State University. The Vice Chancellor for Advancement knows of no other way to raise money for the functioning of his department. He’s had three years to do so and has come up short.

And, you can expect the Wolfpack Club to be a part of the equation. That’s right; Kessler has that in his plan that may have been approved Thursday or might be okayed today at the University’s meeting of the Board of Trustees.

First the Wolfpack Club: My sources tell me Kessler wants the Wolfpack Club to participate in his scheme to take money from all contributions so he can “up-grade” his office with more computers, more software, more people, draining financial resources that go to scholarship, endowing faculty chairs and the like. But, instead of it being called a “tax,” he’s calling it a “services rendered” fee. For what? The Wolfpack Club may be the most sophisticated fund-raising organization related to NC State. There is no service whatsoever Kessler and his band of thieves can offer the Wolfpack Club. Also, I’m told this is in a “negotiating” phase. Hah! The Board of Trustees would be wise to back off. Of course, there are many academicians at NC State who dislike the Wolfpack Club, dislike athletics and think that if there was no athletics department, that donated money would be contributed to other University causes. Those people who think that are dreaming.

As far as the conversation yesterday, this is being done in an effort to increase the endowment fund which is small compared to other related and unrelated universities. In the conversation, while most of Kessler’s comparisons have been to other land-grant institutions such as Purdue, Virginia Tech and Michigan State, the real buzz words of jealousy kept coming up. “Just look at North Carolina and Duke. Their endowments are huge. And, all Carolina has to do is say it wants contributions and their alumni write the check.”

The person made a good point, but maybe it’s not the mechanism but the attitude that keeps NC State’s financial resources down. Maybe UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke cultivate its graduates better than NC State. From where I sit, I say maybe is the wrong word. I’d say both those universities nurture their alumni and related fans better than NC State. I’ve seen that for much of my lifetime. NC State, for some reason, seems to cut back on its efforts, thinking by asking the money will flow. For instance, it used to be every alumnus received the printed Alumni Association magazine. For cost savings, that was cut only to contributors to the Alumni Association. It used to be that every graduate was considered a member of the Alumni Association, the way it should be. Now, it takes a $40 minimum contribution, not much, but it would be easier to get the $40 or more if the Association reached out to the Alumni instead of the Alumni trying to break through a brick wall to get through to the University. By the way, this change was done many Directors ago and at the demand of the Chancellor/ Advancement/Development unit of the University, not of the Executive Director of the Alumni Association.

In the conversation yesterday, I was asked how I could channel my energy into something positive, to make NC State better. My first response was: I’ve tried but my efforts go in one ear and out the other. I see things going on at NC State that absolutely amaze me and should every person related to NC State. Examples:

It used to be that the Sports Information Office cultivated the media, working with writers and radio and television reports to make sure Wolfpack athletics benefited from coverage. In many instances, the SID staff socialized with the media, talking on and off the record. Coaches did as well. Of course, the attitude of the media changed, especially with 24-hour coverage and internet sites, such as this one, but get this: A longtime newspaper reporter from Winston-Salem, a very nice guy who was covering Wake Forest, was asked by his editor to drive to Raleigh and to write a story about NC State football, a subject with which he was not so familiar. He did what he would normally do and stopped in at the Sports Information Department and spoke with the Director. When explaining why he was there, he asked the Director for a story suggestion. Wow! What a great opportunity for NC State, to have a reporter ask for a story idea. What a great set-up! The Director, though, surprised the writer by saying: “I’m not going to do your work for you. You figure out what you want to write about.” This came from someone who was schooled in the art of Sports Information by one of the best in the business, Bob Bradley of Clemson. That kind of attitude should not be tolerated.

But now, it runs deeper. A friend pointed out the other day that he is tired of reading on NC State’s own athletics website,, that the gymnastics team scored the most points it every has but came in sixth out of six teams. I’m not sure if his example is gospel, but his point it this: The website is there to promote NC State athletics, but it should also keep results in perspective. There are ways around putting down a team for bad results, but not this way.

I’m told that the Sports Information staff has been instructed to write only about the NC State perspective when reporting an event. Last weekend, NC State’s men’s golf team hosted a golf tournament with 16 other college teams playing along with the Wolfpack. The UNC Tar Heels, putting together a terrific performance, won the tournament and an golfer from Duke won the individual title. Both are to be congratulated. Bother results were mentioned on the website: But, NC State, from my understanding, did nothing to promote the event and did nothing afterwards to report the results other than to report it on GoPack.Com. That’s too bad. This was a local event with some of the top college golf teams coming to the new Lonnie Poole Golf Course, and the athletics department should have made an effort to get some media attention, if for no reason other than to promote the golf course.

And, that’s another sore subject for me, one I’ll give insight to as well. Imagine this: When Athletics Director Lee Fowler was asked if he wanted his department to develop the golf course as an athletics department facility, Fowler basically turned to one person for advice: Dick Baddour , athletics director at UNC who told Fowler to stay away, that it would be a drain on the athletics budget. At UNC, the golf course is part of athletics. If Fowler had said yes, the Wolfpack Club would have probably raised all the money to build the course, the clubhouse and the related facilities. But now, the fund-raising effort struggles. It is estimated that another $11 million will be needed to complete the project.

Let’s see: 5% of $11 million; hmmm, that’s $550,000 that will go into Kessler slush fund and not to the cause. It would be better spent if one of the potential crown jewels of the campus can be completed.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cart Before the Horse: PR Spin Before Policy?

Is the proposed 5% tax on all donations to NC State University a done deal? Has Vice Chancellor for Advancment Nevin Kessler, a man not worthy of having NC State University associated with his name, gotten his way? You decide.

An email arrived midday Wednesday. It came from one of my on-campus Deep Throats, one of many who feed my passion for information of what’s happening at NC State University, especially related to Kessler and his drive to tax contributions by 5% to operate his office. No doubt he's a typical a Democrat (with sincere apologies to the Democratic Party), as he knows only how to tax others and not generate a dollar through hard work.

The tax, supposedly if agreed upon by the NC State University Board of Trustees at its meeting in a few days (or maybe it's already agreed to), would not be an add-on to the contributor but a subtraction from money donated for any cause. Kessler and his band of merry men have already written the "public relations" message that will be released if the policy is implemented. The PR spin, full of deep horse manure, came in that email and, in its entirety, it’s presented below. It is written: “All gifts received by the university will be assessed.” There’s no word from anyone if this applies to donations to the NCSU Student Aid Association, Inc., aka The Wolfpack Club.

According to the proposed statement, implementation date would be July 1, 2010. Also, there is no indication if this applies to current un-paid pledges such as my on-going pledge to the Lonnie Poole Golf Course. If it's to be taxed, the University will receive the balance prior to that date just to keep Kessler from getting his greedy, grubby hands on my donation. After that, I’ll have to re-think any and all contributions to NC State until Kessler is no longer there. I believe many others will do the same, and I encourage many others to do the same: Pay up now; withhold later. No matter what you think, as an avid supporter of my alma mater, this is not cutting of my nose to spite my face. This is more about Kessler than the policy. Maybe if more contributors withheld donations, he might leave or be asked to leave. Do unto others, the big book says, and Kessler did unto Lennie Barton what should be done to Kessler.

You might be asking why I feel this way about Kessler. It’s simple. He lied to me in a telephone conversation last fall when he and temporary Chancellor James Woodward fired Barton. Since our initial conversation, I’ve tried to talk to him plenty of times. I called his office and left messages. I 've asked for official documents from his office and been ignored. At the time of my calls, maybe I wanted further explanation to his decision to fire Barton. Maybe I wanted to increase my contribution to the golf course. Maybe I had other good reasons to talk to the person who is supposed to be in fact the chief fund-raiser for the University. But then I understand he prefers not to speak with the "little people" who contribute to NC State. We must be too far below his level. Hah! In any case, a University representative in his position should take the time to talk with an alumnus, one who has supported the University with money and passion much more than he has. Remember, Kessler’s just a hired hand who has moved from job to job every three years or so. He does not have the guts or the courage to talk with me and others with my same concerns. My University should not be represented by someone as sleazy and as gutless as Kessler.

So, here is the text of the PR spin about the tax, if it passes. I have my opinion of the policy. Let me hear from you about it:

Funding Advancement at NC State University
At NC State University, we are known for our position as the largest university in North Carolina with almost 33,000 students from every county in the state and more than 100 countries.

This year we expect more than 18,000 to seek admission to a freshman class that will seat about 4,800. The average cost of tuition and fees for in-state students is just $2,764 per semester making us one of the three “Best Values” in public higher education according to US News & World Report.

We are also recognized for the economic impact we have on the state. Our innovation and research have helped attract more than $336 million in research funding to campus during the past year and for every dollar we receive in state support, we return $8 in total income to North Carolina.

Our 170,000 living alumni are legendary for their pride and passion around the Wolfpack, and every year our graduates pump more than $2.9 billion into the North Carolina economy.

A Challenge from Chancellor Woodson:
As we welcome our new Chancellor, Randy Woodson, to campus, he has charged us to reach higher in all of our efforts around teaching, research, extension and engagement. While we recognize that our gifts and potential are considerable, we also know that we must improve our efforts to raise private dollars if we’re to be successful.

Toward this end, the university is making some changes in our fund raising processes. These changes will align the university with standard practices across the country and prepare us to generate additional private dollars that will be used to fund our priorities and the priorities of our donors.

Our Action Plan:
To achieve our goals, the university must invest in new and improved information services, and research, gift and data processing systems. We must also invest in people.

To help fund these improvements, the university will implement a 5 percent gift assessment beginning on July 1, 2010. The assessment will be divided among the university’s main development office and the college or fund raising unit to which the gift is directed. All gifts received by the university will be assessed.

A significant portion of new funds will be dedicated to the university’s endowment. Increasing the value of this important funding source is vital to the long-term health of NC State. The average value of the endowments of our peer universities is about $1 billion, or more than $25,000 per student. At NC State, the value of our endowment is around $463 million, or $14,000 per student.

We will also pursue other sources of revenue to fund our aspirations -- state funds, endowment fees, etc. -- but the Gift Assessment is a reflection of the national model among colleges and universities. For example, assessments at our peer institutions range from 2 percent to more than 7 percent.

The Outcome of Our Actions:
With the increased funding made possible by additional private donations, we will be able to continue our efforts to enhance the student experience and to provide focus on our research efforts and on the priorities of our donors. By improving our fund raising efforts, the assessment will also leverage the gifts of those who already support the university in a way that will move NC State forward.
Now, see that "comment" line just below. Click and post. Anonymous comments, especially those in favor of Kessler's desire to steal from the rich to help his less than successful efforts, are encouraged and accepted.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A New Day at NC State With Old Problems

Yesterday (same start as yesterday’s posting), I received a telephone call from a long-time (we knew each other in college) friend who shall remain anonymous (I know her but maybe it's best you do not know who she is.). It was not surprising to hear from her; it’s just that I thought her phone call would have come several weeks ago. As it turns out, she, a determined and avid supporter of NC State University, said she was waiting for the right moment.

We talked a little about old times for a brief moment, though discussion of our families resumed after the meat of the conversation which was about NC State University. We both have a passion for our alma mater but she prefers a quieter approach while I felt a few months ago that open discussion would bring more attention and results. From what I’ve seen, the former—attention—happened, but the latter—results—are still to be seen.

Somewhere in the conversation, she asked: “What are you trying to accomplish with your blog?”

I thought for only a moment and reached back to December 19, 2009, the day after the movie “Julie and Julia” played on my 42” LCD Vizio. The movie was based on the real life circumstances and results of a young lady, Julie, a wannabe writer who could not get her novel published. So, in a funk, she decided to cook her way out of it, preparing every recipe in Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And Julie wrote about it in a blog. The result was a year of fabulous and interesting cooking and the publishing of her story about her year of cooking and writing.

The next day, I decided to try to write something every day. With plenty of ideas, I started, seven days a week, taking time away from many more important projects to write, a love of mine along with golf and visiting wineries. I figured the golf and wineries would be a major part of this effort. But, I had other concerns, a major one being how my friend Lennie Barton was treated by temporary NC State University Chancellor James Woodward. Barton had been fired after a very brief review of his work. A public records request for emails between those two and emails from and to Vice Chancellor for Advancement Nevin Kessler resulted in some startling—to me—information. My conclusions have been well-chronicled in this space (primarily at

“I write every day,” I responded to her question. “That’s what I'm accomplishing. I do not have an agenda other than to write and create. The subjects do not necessarily come together. I just write. It’s one thing I enjoy, and this blog is my outlet.”

As it turns out, my friend was calling to ask that I shift my attention from what she calls “negative” writing about NC State University to a more positive approach. I listened and responded off and on during our near 60-minute conversation as we discussed lots of issues related to this subject and to NC State in general. Our differences are this: Lots of stuff with which I disagree goes on behind closed doors at NC State, and I feel public discussion is better than expressing private concerns; she feels quiet conversation will lead to resolution and that many concerns I have—such as Kessler’s desire to tax College-based Foundations—will not happened because those Foundations will not let it happen.

While I respect her opinion, always have and always will, we agree to disagree on these approaches. What got us to this point are mischievous actions by a member of the NC State University Board of Trustees, undue influence from the office of former Governor Mike Easley, and lies told by Chancellor James Oblinger and Provost Larry Neilsen. If that stuff had been kept hush-hush, the three directly connected to NC State may still be in their positions. Of course, Barton may still be in his position there. However, public knowledge of underhanded dealings forced changes, some of them good, especially the resignations of the Trustee, Oblinger and Neilsen.

But, for me and many others, the replacement, though temporary, at Chancellor—Woodward—was detrimental in many ways, especially with rank and file NC State alumni. Woodward as it turns out was no better than Oblinger when it came to telling the truth, as he lied to the media and to many supporters of the campus and ran roughshod over many others. I have copies of specific emails Woodward sent to alumni during his final days in office, and I have requested others. His rudeness does him no favors, and he is a terrible reflection on NC State University. When you see them for yourself in a later posting, I’m sure you’ll agree.

My friend was quick to tell me yesterday that this is all old news and that we need to focus on building NC State University and not on tearing it apart. She's got a good point. Yes, I agree when she says we are at the dawn of a new day with Chancellor Randy Woodson, but for me there remains much unfinished business, and I will continue to discuss the issues of importance to me in this space. I have a great deal of respect for Chancellor Woodson based on our first email exchange and our initial meeting. He will be terrific for NC State, at least from what I see initially.

As far as tearing apart the University with my writing, she—my friend—also told me I have many readers in high places when it comes to NC State and that many are very upset with me. I’m sure I know who they are, and if they are in full support of what Woodward did and how Kessler is trying to gain control of all donations to NC State, maybe those in high places need to reconsider their association with NC State. In my humble opinion, it’s just not best for the University. And, I'll continue to say so.

I also explained to my friend that I’ve heard from many rank-and-file at NC State, not just alumni but many who work in noted positions on campus, all very positive about my writing. Those are the important people at NC State. Leaders come and go, but it’s down the line where things positive things happen. These are the opinions I respect, not administrators such as Kessler who cares more for his own well-being and doesn't have the passion for NC State necessary to handle his job. If he did, his results would be a lot better than what shows. I believe one of the first things Woodson needs to do is to review Kessler and then fire him.

I welcome Chancellor Woodson, but unfortunately, the legacy of his immediate predecessor is not one of which the University should be proud. Thank goodness he has returned to a rocking chair at his home in or near Charlotte. Hopefully, next time his biggest admirer Erskine Bowles calls with an assignment, he’ll stay put, but there’s still more to tell in this space about his terrible term in Raleigh.

I appreciate my friend calling. It was and always is good to hear from her. I'm sure I'll hear from her again.We have interesting conversations. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Anonymous Comments Can Be A Problem

Yesterday, I received two comments from Anonymous.

One is below Monday’s posting in which I said Tiger Woods is an angel compared to Pope Benedict. The author, I’m sure, is a Catholic who skirts the issue of wrong-doing in her (could be a he) faith, points fingers at Southern Baptists, and continues to refuse to admit there are problems through the hierarchy of the Catholic faith. She even says I have a bias against Catholics, far from the truth, though I do occasionally compare Catholics to Tar Heel fans. Both types think they are high and mighty and above everyone else when it comes to religion, education and college athletics. I have no problem with them feeling that way. To each their own; just keep your nose down. I have a good idea who Anonymous is, but there is no name with the comment.

The other Anonymous left a comment below my Thursday, April 8 post when I offered a link to a video in which I posed as a television news reporter, used an exaggerated Southern accent (more of a “hick” inflection) and reported on a story from the White House. The video was shot at the Newseum in Washington DC. It was the second of two Anonymous comments made in relation of that story. Yesterday, Anonymous saw the humor in my effort. Thank you very much, and, yes, I did what I did on purpose, poking fun at television reporting and me.

There have been other comments left on this site—Actions and Reactions II—and on my previous blog parking place, Actions and Reactions at Because I moderate comments and determine what gets published and what does not, I do not mind so much Anonymous commenting on what I have to say. (In the case of the two Anonymous comments yesterday, my guess each is from the same person.)

Posting comments anonymously or under a pseudonym or screen name has been allowed by blogs and mainstream media websites for years. Many newspapers and television news outlets have encouraged comments on stories, and readers have registered with these sites but are using odd names in an attempt to hide their real identification, though the newspaper and the electronic media know who everyone is. At least they have the resources to know. When registering, usually you have to give your full name and other information including an email address. The website can look at that information anytime it wishes. Anonymous postings far out-weigh comments left with real names.

I am registered with several sites including The News & Observer, using a screen name nowhere close to my real name, and WRAL.COM, using my real name. Reason: When I got started with The News & Observer, I wanted to say things about certain people but, at the same time, protect people around me from retribution. I firmly believe that what I have to say would be used against others. So, I stay behind that screen name. At the WRAL site, my comments are more tempered.

But, on websites around the world, some comments are nasty, very nasty. Not X-rated nasty. The comments are many times about others posting comments. It’s become a way to insult others who use the space to actually say something intelligent. The nasty comments are usually not intelligent. Go to The N&O site,, and read, for instance, the most recent article about former State Senator Tony Rand. The comments may start about the article and the issue but eventually turn ugly, to comments about those leaving comments.

The idea of anonymous comments and those left under different screen names is being reviewed by many websites, especially mainstream media. There was an article in Sunday’s The New York Times about this subject: News Sites Rethink Anonymous Online Comments. It’s an interesting read, especially for those who post comments—anonymously or not—on websites. To date, there have been 369 comments left under that story. Many anonymous. Many not. But, it appears to be an interesting debate, an educated debate, not an insulting commentary.

The idea of anonymous comments on websites is an interesting situation, one that will continue to evolve, but my gut is that elimination of anonymous comments will reduce much on-line readership, especially from those who spend time reading and commenting. Without the ability of instantly comments, some readers will go away. But maybe that’s good. Maybe that will improve the quality of the on-line reader, if that matters.

As far as comments left here, I read each one, but I do not post each. Do not be concerned about censorship on important issues. For each of the postings about the situation at NC State University with temporary chancellor James Woodward and Vice Chancellor for Advancement Nevin Kessler, I received no comments, signed or anonymous, in support of those two scoundrels. If I had, if I do, I will gladly publish them.

Anonymous or not. Your commments are encouraged.