Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Is it time for O'Brien to go? The record says so!

The way I see it, Tom O’Brien, is just another Herb Sendek, former NC State basketball coach, but not as good. In another way, O’Brien is similar to Dick Sheridan, former NC State football coach, but not nearly as good. With those characterizations, and, since for various reasons I was not fond of either Herb or Dick and was glad to see both voluntarily vacate their positions, I wonder why O’Brien remains the Wolfpack’s head football coach except for the money. (He makes in excess of $1.5 million a year.) I guess one major difference is that Sendek and Sheridan were quitters who turned their backs on the Wolfpack while O’Brien—once a Marine always a Marine—seems to be a fighter, even when his troops produce mediocre results at best. The casualties, though and for the most part, are on the Wolfpack and not with the enemy.

Before more on O’Brien and a look at his results one or two games shy of six seasons, let’s review Sendek and Sheridan:

Sendek, publically dull and with a sleeping pill offense, was head basketball coach from 1996-97 through 2005-06. The Wolfpack’s overall record with Sendek was 191-132 with 9-of-10 winning seasons. State’s Atlantic Coast Conference mark under Sendek was 72-88 including only 4-of-10 winning ACC records. The Wolfpack played in four NITs and five times went to the NCAA Tournament, once making it to the Sweet Sixteen, under Sendek. His best records were two of his final three years.

After 2005-06, Sendek left NC State to coach at Arizona State. He was not fired. He simply could not take the heat that came from NC State fans who wanted more. But it’s obvious that no matter how hard he worked, (and there’s no doubt he was a hard worker), Herb would have never taken the program any further than he did. Wolfpack fans wanted more and there’s nothing wrong with that. Yes, State would have returned to the NCAA tournament many times under Sendek, but there were no regular season ACC titles (there’s always a chance at a tournament title, the official ACC basketball championship) in his foreseeable future. Read more about Herb at Wikipedia.

Sheridan’s story is a little different. He took the Wolfpack job prior to the 1986 season, coaching for seven years. Sheridan, who seemed satisfied in signing two and three star athletes and getting them to over-achieve, was a successful head football coach and Athletic Director at Furman for seven years prior to his move to Raleigh. He could have come to State three years earlier but word is he had cold feet. He warmed to the idea in 1986 and put together a solid program compiling a 52-29-3 overall record and 31-18-1 mark in the ACC, three times finishing 2nd in the league and only once had a losing conference record. State played in six bowl games and only had one overall losing record under Sheridan.

Dick left State for various reasons, some “personal” and some hard-headed. He left coaching altogether. He once told me that being head football coach made him State’s biggest fan. I laughed at him when he said it, knowing I was a life-long State fan, and explained that long after he would  not football coach at State, long after he left the program, I would remain the Wolfpack’s biggest fan and he wouldn’t be one at all. There’s not a lot except his coaching record, but read more about Dick at Wikipedia.

Now, let’s get back to O’Brien. In six years, O’Brien has a just better than average overall record, 39-35, and, for NC State, an embarrassing ACC record of 21-26. In 2007, O’Brien’s first year, the Wolfpack tied for 8th in the ACC with a 3-5 record. In 2008, State was 4-4 in the league for a five-way tie for 5th. In 2009, the Pack’s ACC record was 2-6, tied for 9th. In 2010, a 5-3 record gained a tie for 3rd. In 2011, a 4-4 record put State in a 7th place conference tie. This season, IF, and that could be a big IF, State beats Boston College this Saturday, and baring disasters at North Carolina (the Tar Heels should beat Maryland) and at Duke (the Blue Devils should lose to Miami), the Wolfpack’s 4-4 conference record will be no better than 6th in the ACC. A loss and State will drop to 7th. That’s encouraging, huh?

To his credit, though false glory at that, this will be the 4th time the Pack will play in a post-season bowl game under O’Brien, if he’s still coach when the game is played. The regular season overall record could be 7-5 or, heaven forbid with a loss to BC, 6-6, and still make it to a bowl game. The ACC has agreements with more bowls than eligible teams, good eligible teams, so State, at 6-6, or hopefully 7-5, with two of those wins against The Citadel and South Alabama (WOW!), the Wolfpack gets to play a 13th game. That’s great for the players but the lousy record is squarely on O’Brien’s shoulders.

In the 2010 and 2011 seasons, State’s had its best overall season records under O’Brien at 9-4 and 8-5 but was disappointing in the ACC. The Pack had wins in those seasons against Western Carolina, Liberty, South Alabama, and Central Michigan (Oooh, Ahhh!), and losses to East Carolina, Maryland, Wake Forest and Boston College. The Wolfpack should never lose to those four. Another way to look at those seasons is that State won its 9th and 8th games in the bowl game.

And, here’s a stat that’s been well publicized: Until this season, no Tom O’Brien-coached Wolfpack football team had won on the road at an ACC divisional opponent. And, this season, according to O’Brien, NC State was supposed to have the best talent, experience and depth of any of his teams. This season, while very entertaining much of the time and exciting in many ways, some good and some bad, is far from what it should have been. If this year’s team is what the best talent, experience, and depth are supposed to look like, then O’Brien is living in a football fantasy world. Okay, blame it on injuries, but then blame it on lack of depth at those positions. Then blame it on recruiting and that leads to…you know.

And, there’s this:  After State’s 33-6 loss to Virginia, a lop-sided embarrassing affair at home, O’Brien basically said he ignores what fans and media say about his program. It’s okay to disregard the media (including me) but not the fans (including me). One day, if he sticks to that mentality, the fans will ignore him. Many already have; more will sooner than later especially if he keeps the program on the course he has it on right now. Who wants to sit through another 33-6 loss to Virginia, at home?

Now, for the business of all of this, Debbie Yow, the Director of Athletics at NC State University who just received a contract extension and a boost in supplemental pay and who gets more if State goes to a bowl game, has a decision to make about O’Brien’s future at State which could be to dismiss him, or to extend his contract, or no decision at all. The outcome of the finale against his former team, Boston College, should have no bearing whatsoever on his future as the leader of the State football program, but a loss could sway Yow to move in one direction. A win doesn’t matter one way or the other. The record, as outlined, is stark reality. A 7-5 might look okay, but remember the record includes wins against South Alabama and The Citadel and uncalled for losses at Miami and North Carolina and a home loss to Virginia. All that said, Yow’s decision is complicated for three reasons.

First Reason: For several weeks, NC State fans wanting a better program are being told that the Wolfpack is not a destination program for any of the top-billed football coaches in the nation. We’ve been told that no one is clamoring for the job, that the best the Wolfpack could do is a mid-level coach who wants to move up, sort of like what North Carolina did last year or what Willis Casey, as NC State athletics director, did when he picked Lou Holtz to start with the 1972 team and in selecting Bo Rein to take the spot when Holtz left after the 1975 season. I have no problem loading, losing and reloading head coaches as long as the right choice is made each time. So, if Yow decides to dismiss O’Brien, the experts tell us she better have someone in mind, and in her pocket and ready to move to State. But who cares about the experts. Obviously, she doesn’t.

To her credit, Yow, who is pushing the entire athletics program to higher levels of success, hired ESPN analyst Mark Gottfried to lead the State basketball program. Maybe he wasn’t the top choice, and maybe there wasn’t a top-billing college basketball coach jumping at the chance to compete with Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski, but the choice, right now, looks genius compared to the previous AD’s selection of Sidney Lowe who was more about NBA style of play with a bunch of stars and less about a cohesive college team with a bunch of stars. While last year was a start, Gottfried has a way to go to prove his team can win at a higher level, but he and his solid staff of assistants are doing an unbelievable job of recruiting, the first building block of success of any program, especially one that wants to get to the mountain-top and to stay there, and getting his players, for the most part, to play as a team. So, there may not be a replacement immediately at hand if O’Brien goes, but there’s one out there who will do better.

Second reason—and this is very important and has a major impact: In six seasons, O’Brien has compiled a 5-1 record against what Wolfpackers see as our biggest rival, North Carolina. It’s a wonderful record, but, as much as I’ve seriously said over the years that being 1-11 is okay as long as that one win is against UNC, five wins in six seasons against UNC can go unnoticed when the overall season record and the overall ACC record are as awful as O’Brien has accumulated. Now, I’ll turn around that statement.

If the Wolfpack can go 11-1 in the regular season and 7-1 in the conference and that one loss comes against the Tar Heels every year, then I’ll fully support the coach. I’d be disappointed, tossing lots of curse words at him for not beating North Carolina, but I’d support him. As much as I enjoyed five straight wins against the Tar Heels, all I ask is that we have a chance to beat UNC every year and not lose with bone-head coaching like we saw late in the game at Chapel Hill this year. There were those three incomplete pass plays with five minutes remaining when running plays would have at least knocked off either two and a half minutes or all of UNC’s timeouts, and, in a waning minutes, there were the three running plays to take time off the clock (but UNC used its timeouts to stop the clock) and the punt directly to a Heisman candidate (after the fact) who returned it for the winning score.

And, the third complicated reason for Yow is all about UNC. If those guys were not so deep in doo-doo with their academic scandal and other mischievous stuff that’s growing daily and which had a thread to the Chancellor who resigned, and since it appears the NC State athletics program in general and the football and basketball programs, especially on the academic side, are clean, and since O’Brien seems to run a clean program, it’s just too damn hard to dismiss him. These days, clean programs get you contract renewal even with average results. At times, O’Brien has been slow to punish those who have been accused of doing bad stuff while at other times he has been quick to dismiss players who screwed up. Having a clean program is an excuse to retain him. On the other hand, a clean program is a must for whoever is the head coach at NC State, especially with the bad name UNC is currently giving to the entire University of North Carolina system.

The bottom line is that Tom O’Brien, in my humble (and who really cares) opinion, cannot take the Wolfpack to the next level. He knows how to beat the non-conference sisters of the poor, but in the ACC neighborhood, he’s not so good. If his goal is to win the “state” title first and then the ACC division title and then the ACC title and then the National title, he’s shooting too low. NC State’s football program should always be at a level when wins against North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, East Carolina and another other teams in this state are automatic not a struggle. In other ACC games, the Wolfpack program should be superior to Virginia, Miami, Boston College, Syracuse and Maryland (oops, the Terps are going to the Big 10), on equal footing with Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Pittsburgh, and get a win every other year or so against Florida State. A record of 11-1 or 10-2 on a regular basis should not be out of the question. It should be part of the equation.

NC State football has the resources with Carter-Finley Stadium, the Murphy Center, the practice fields, other facilities (maybe an indoor practice facility is a must to add) and fan support. Academically, NC State has something for everyone who qualifies for admission. It’s doubtful that Yow or any NC State athletics director would hold back money from the program that brings in the biggest part of the athletics budget revenue. And, the fans whole-heartedly support the program, the team. There will not be a full house this Saturday against Boston College, but Wolfpack fans are as loyal as any. And, with next season soon being billed as somewhat of a rebuilding season—especially because of inexperience at quarterback, the most important position, and the need to build an offensive line that can generate a better ground game—fans will buy more season tickets than this year.

The question I pose to Yow and all Wolfpack fans is: Do we deserve better than the last six years? Do we deserve, in 2013 and beyond, a football coach who is better than Herb Sendek was as basketball coach or as Dick Sheridan was as football coach. The standard should be higher than bar set by those two; we deserve better than those bars. With O’Brien, (and the records shows it) unfortunately, we aren’t close; we're below the success of Sendek and Sheridan. Our only hope is that if O’Brien survives, if Yow can’t muster the money to pay off the remaining years on his contract, that O’Brien will get serious about coaching and prove me wrong.

On the other hand, in the bigger life scheme, NC State football success and failure and Tom O'Brien keeping or losing his job is not really that important. It’s not war in the Middle East. It’s not poverty throughout the United States. It’s not the enormous job of educating children ages 4-18. It’s not taking care of hurricane victims. It’s not Hostess going out of business and eliminating 18,000 jobs, not to mention Twinkies. It’s not going to help me make one more sale in my job. It’s just college football where its lack of success touches only a few jobs. So why worry about it? Not me, hah hah! I have enough worries of my own that do not include NC State football success and failure. Life will go on. It’s just something about which to write, and I do enjoy writing.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Has The N&O gone overboard with UNC-CH?

Some people (that's a broad stroke) say the news media, especially The News & Observer, has (I prefer to think "media" as a singular group not a plural one just as Wolfpack is singular in the same respect) gone overboard on the scurrilous athletics / academic / administration scandal that's taken place for the last two years, at the very least, though records probably show the mischief goes back to the beginning of time or, at the very least (again) to its founding day more than 200 years ago, at the Chapel Hill campus / branch of the University of North Carolina, henceforth known as UNC-CH.

As a long-time and sometimes suffering supporter of THE North Carolina State University (BA Political Science '77), also fondly and appropriately known as Cow College / Moo U with its rich ancestry of academic and research emphasis on agriculture to help the citizens of North Carolina prosper in growing crops and producing food derived thereof, I get a sick kind of joy from the daily revelations produced by the awarding winning rag of Raleigh, henceforth to be known as the N&O. It's by far the best newspaper in Raleigh.

As an aside, my alma mater will henceforth be known as State, a tradition like none other except, of course, The Masters, the annual golf tune-a-ment (misspelled for emphasis) held at the Augusta National Golf Club which, after eons of being the last bastion of male golf membership, now has two female members, probably not the two some protesters of male golfdome bastion wanted but nonetheless two, which is okay with me, for what it's worth. Now back to our story.

Unfortunately, what the multitude of articles printed in the N&O has proven is that, above the many acts of wrong-doing at UNC-CH, the writers at the N&O know how to cut and past from one article to the next. My guess is that only about 10% of all the words printed on the subjects of this series (of agents giving stuff to athletes, coaches breaking NCAA rules for various reasons, the Chancellor firing coaches for just looking stupid but not doing stupid, professors and department heads creating and teaching classes that never were intended to have students actually attend class, a chief fundraiser padding trip expenses so special trips could be taken with another fundraiser who got the job because of dating the chief fundraiser, the Chancellor calling it quits in the best interest of UNC-CH because he agreed to hire the lower level fundraiser and he was getting too much heat from big-time UNC-CH financial contributors who actually saw no problem with the chief fundraiser finding a job for the fundraiser he was dating, and the faculty and trustees wanting the Chancellor to stay in his job in the best interest of UNC-CH) were original thought or facts dug up after seeing a post on a twitter account or listening to a message from an anonymous telephone call followed by a law suit to gain information otherwise not forthcoming.

In other words, the N&O could have saved a lot of paper and reduced expenses if it had only printed new stuff in each story instead of repeating the background of what had transpired before the new revelation. But then there would not have been lengthy stories, making it look badder (emphasis again) than the bad that is was and is. In one or two papers, there were at least two or three stories that repeated the same stuff which is sort of okay with me because it made the subject look extraordinary really bad, my sick kind of joy in it all. In reality, if UNC-CH wants credit for lifting the entire system to higher levels, which it really has over the last 200+ years, it must also take and receive credit for the bad name it is now bestowing on the other UNC system members, in the last two years. What took more than 200 years to shine has been dulled in less than 1% of the same time. Be gone ye bad apples and little fishes, please!

Anyway (stay with me), I sent an email to the N&O executive editor, the words of which are herewith. I was actually being a little philosophical in my writing:

It seems to me that you and the staff are all consumed by the downfall of UNC-Chapel Hill. As a Wolfpacker who has suffered from a similar siege, I can appreciate the legions of Tar Heels—University mascot not the State of NC nickname—who are disgusted with the onslaught of coverage by the N&O. But, then, as a NC State alumnus and Wolfpack loyalist, I can also appreciate the efforts by the newspaper. It is not the N&O that brings down structures such as NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill. It is the structures that crumble from their own doing.

Wow! I actually wrote that last line. Imagine that! Slap me silly. However, I did not stop there. The email to the editor was sent the day the N&O published a story about State basketball student-athlete Rodney Purvis who was cleared by the NCAA to play this season/academic year after he did what was asked of him to graduate high school and be eligible to participate in NCAA sanctioned athletics. There was doubt in the creative minds of the NCAA, the same organization that bestowed sanctions on UNC-CH athletics because of all the stuff "discovered" by the N&O and others, that the high school did the right thing for Purvis. Anway, the N&O article was headlined: NCAA frees Purvis to play for Pack. My note to the aforementioned and terrifically-good-at-his-job editor went on to say:

When I saw the headline, I thought about the "gaff" by Vice President Joe Biden: "(Romney) is going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street," Biden said at a campaign event in Danville, Virginia. "He is going to put y'all back in chains." Maybe the N&O headline writer intended us to believe that Purvis, a black, was under lock and key, a slave to the NCAA, in those Biden chains. Racist headline? Probably not, but it could be read that way. Inappropriate? Well, a better choice of words would have been “approves” or, as Joe Giglio wrote in the second paragraph, “clears” Purvis.
The editor's response was, "I'll talk to the headline writer about it." No word yet about that conversation.

At least there was no cut and past in his email response. He could have reviewed all those UNC-CH-treacherous-the-sky-is-falling-the-University-is-being-controlled-by-athletics actions so well known to readers of the N&O. Thank goodness he didn't. My in-box couldn't have handled it all. But, looking back, I ask aloud this deep and perplexing question: Has the N&O gone overboard with its effort to unearth the last decent person in Chapel Hill and string 'em up? Well, it really depends who you ask.
What do you think? Has the N&O gone overboard with UNC-CH?

Monday, August 6, 2012

UNC BOG update: Election results; UNC-CH academic scandal review; $400,000 BOG seat

So when we last talked, it was almost two months ago. The subject was the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

At its June meeting, new officers were elected but, and please forgive me, I never reported the results, which—if you have had any interest whatsoever you would know—included Peter Hans defeating Paul Fulton for the chairmanship, 30-11. With a public information request, I was provided copies of the ballots. So, using the ballots in hand, it is my civic duty to pass along to my readers and followers the results voter-by-voter.

I’ll do that the end of this post, so if you have the urge to skip ahead, it’s down there, but today’s writing is not all that long so amuse me by reading to the end instead of scrolling down. It’s got a lot of great stuff such as $400,000 of Republican political donations by the newest member of the BOG. That's a lesson in how to get to the BOG table.

At the meeting in June, when the election was held, the BOG (and President Tom Ross, who is in the same category as UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp, a category you can label) actually showed a little fortitude in performing their job. Hannah Gage, then the chair of the group, appointed a four person committee to review reports coming out of the Chapel Hill campus. The reports were and are about the academic fraud being perpetrated there. There’s documentation all over the place about it but it’s also a lot of he-said, she-said stuff with those who are guilty either conveniently retired or hiding behind closed doors.

So, Ms. Gage appointed four members at the time to do this review. Then, without a public statement, she added a fifth member of the BOG to the review committee. That would be James M. (Jim) Deal, Jr., another closely aligned to Gage and Hans, though he voted for Paul Fulton. (I’m confused.) While he earned his undergraduate degree at Appalachian State University, he got his law degree from, you guessed it, Chapel Hill. The deal with Deal being appointed is that he was also up for election as Vice Chairman but that went to Frank Grainger, so Gage put Deal on the review committee to make sure there were at least two UNC-Chapel Hill sympathizers on the committee.

We think the “UNC-BOG UNC-CH Academic Scandal Review Committee” is to make its report at a meeting of the BOG next week, but I do not see it on the official agenda which is found at the BOG website. And with all due respect to the effort by the review committee, and we know nothing of the effort, expectations are that the BOG will not take any action on the review committee’s report which will say something like, “we looked at what they gave us and on the surface it looks bad but we really should leave it to the campus to handle because if we do anything from where we sit, we’ll have to do the same for the other campuses and we just don’t want to get involved in those things. In other words, if we take action, it will look bad for all of us, and it will look as if the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees can’t do the right thing, so let’s see what they do. Maybe we can take another look at some other time. Don’t we all need to get home or go to the beach or something.”

The UNC BOG is scheduled to hold its committee meetings Thursday, August 9 and the full BOG meets Friday, August 10. I will not be holding my breath and no one else should either waiting on the BOG to do something of substance on this matter. In other words, it’ll be business as usual, just as if Ms. Gage still holds the gavel, though I must admit she corresponded with me recently about the lack of honest negotiation between UNC Health Care and insurance company Aetna, my provider of health care insurance. It’s UNC Health Care that’s not honestly negotiating, wanting to suck more money from the Aetna policy holders. Joni Worthington, the UNC system Vice President for Communications, had a letter published in The News & Observer. She was defending an increase in rates for students in the university sponsored health plan. So I wrote her a pleasant note.

So nice to see your letter to the editor in The News & Observer as you defended the increase in rates for students under the university-sponsored plan. I can understand that need, but it was your last line that made me laugh: “…all students are free to obtain their insurance in the private market if they so choose to do so.” You are so right but if I had a student at UNC-Chapel Hill and if that student was on my medical policy, that student would not be able to use the UNC Health Care system without undue out-of-pocket costs. That’s because I’m covered by Aetna, and due to the greediness of UNC Health Care and its partner in crime, Rex Healthcare, Aetna policy owners are not welcomed at UNC and Rex unless they want to pay full or out –of-network rates. I would ask you to defend that, but you can’t. UNC and Rex have not wanted to negotiate with Aetna for more than two years, wanting Aetna to pay out more to UNC and Rex and to the physicians thereof and with no regard for rates and premiums paid by the subscribers of Aetna. You and your cohorts at the UNC System and on the Board of Governors could do something about that, but you will not. So, students can carry Aetna, a creditable health insurance, but in Chapel Hill and much of Raleigh, it’s just not welcomed.

Ms. Worthington, not using her skill in communications despite the title, failed to answer, but Ms. Gage did. She said, in an email, “You make a very good point about Aetna. I recently talked with an employee of the N&O who shared the same concerns with me. I was not aware of the Aetna issue but intend to learn more..... Appreciate your interest.” From this, it appears we learned the N&O and I might have the same health insurer, and that Ms. Gage is quick to react, as she did to inquiries made in June about the election of the BOG officers, but she is slow to follow up. That email from her was June 17, and not word from her since then.

Anyway, back to the meeting to be chaired by Ms. Gage’s stand-in Peter Hans. He was duly elected, winning 20-11. After the vote, one BOG member—Brent Barringer—resigned, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family but in reality, he was tired of the lame politics of this group of distinguished and well-politically-connected people who are supposed to be looking after the state-and-taxpayer-sponsored higher education system of North Carolina.

Speaking of politics as usual, Barringer was replaced by Aldona Zofia Wos, of Greensboro, who from August 2004 through December 2006, was United States Ambassador to Estonia. She was the only person nominated to fill the spot on the BOG, being put up by North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis. It’s not a surprise that she was made Ambassador or nominated to the BOG. With her more than $400,000 in contributions (that’s right, four hundred thousand dollars) to Republican candidates and state and national Republican parties since 2000, she well deserves the misery that comes with a seat on the BOG. If you don’t believe me about the donations, go to http://www.fec.gov/finance/disclosure/norindsea.shtml and enter last name: WOS; first name, ALDONA. It’s all there. WOW! (I guess I could search all the others on the BOG, but why take away your fun. Go ahead; look me up! It’s James B. Pomeranz, Cary NC). She will not be there too long. She prefers to be around other big money people and in reality there are only a couple of those on the BOG and they do not socialize too much. Aldona might prefer to be in Estonia instead of on the BOG.

So there you are, somewhat up-to-date with the UNC Board of Governors, just another group of back-slappers who too many people, including the members of the BOG, take too seriously. Except for the votes in that election in June, and as promised:

FOR PETER HANS: Louis Bissette, Jr.; Bill Daughtridge; Walter Davenport; Phillip Dixon; Dudley Floyd; John Fennebresque; Hannah Gage; Ann Goodnight; Frank Grainger; Thomas Harrelson; Leroy Lail; Edwin McMahan; Charles Mercer, Jr.; Hari Nath; David Powers; Irvin Roseman; Raiford Trask, III; Phillip Walker; David Young; and, Peter Hans.

FOR PAUL FULTON: Brent Barringer; John Blackburn; Peaches Blank; James Deal; Fred Eshelman; Mary Ann Maxwell; Franklin McCain; Fred Mills; Burley Mitchell; Dick Taylor; and, Paul Fulton.

NO BALLOT: Laura Buffaloe, or the student representative, or the two emeritus members.

So, until next time, all the best...

Friday, June 15, 2012

UNC Board of Governors "Review Committee" for UNC-CH academic wrong-doing

With no extra comments, here are the four members of a UNC Board of Governors committee that is charged in reviewing investigations into academic wrong-doing, specifically the African and Afro-American Studies Department, at the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. There seem to be two investigations, one by UNC-CH itself and another by the State Bureau of Investigation. According to UNC President Tom Ross, if the review committee is not satisfied with the findings, the full BOG could launch its own investigation.

Louis Bissette
W. Louis Bissette, Jr.
Board of Governors, Term 2011 - 2015
Audit Committee, Vice Chair
Budget and Finance Committee
Post Office Box 3180
Asheville, NC 28802-3180
Phone: (828) 254-8800
Occupation: Attorney
Education: B.A., History, Wake Forest; J.D. UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law; M.B.A. University of Virginia
Family: Married to Sara Oliver Bissette with two children
Major Educational/Elective Offices: former Mayor of Asheville; former President Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce; former Chairman WNC Development Association; former Secretary Mission-St. Josephs Health System; former Vice Chairman Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation; former Chairman Western Carolina Industries; former President N.C. Arboretum Society; former Vice Chairman Buncombe County Economic Development Commission; former Chairman Asheville Merchant's Corp; former Chairman Forest Commercial Bank.

Walter Davenport
Walter C. Davenport
Board of Governors, Term 2009 - 2013
Audit Committee, Chair
Budget and Finance Committee
4929 Harbour Towne Drive
Raleigh, NC 27604
Phone: (919) 255-1489
Occupation: Certified Public Accountant
Education: B.A., Business Administration, Morehouse College in Atlanta
Major Educational/Elective Offices: former Chair Elizabeth City State University Board of Trustees; member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants; served on the AICPA Minority Recruitment and Equal Opportunity Committee and AICPA Board of Examiners; former President and member of the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners; former board member of Duke Raleigh Hospital and the Hospital Alliance for Community Health; board member of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, local BB&T Advisory, United Way of the Greater Triangle and N.C. Center for Nonprofits

Ann Goodnight
Ann B. Goodnight
Board of Governors, Term 2011 - 2015
Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs Committee
SAS Campus Drive
Cary, NC 27513
Phone: (919) 531-0157
Occupation: Community volunteer and businesswoman
Education: B.A., Political Science, 1968, North Carolina State University
Family: Married to Jim Goodnight with three children
Major Education/Elective Offices: former trustee of North Carolina State University; co-founder/board member of Cary Academy; board member of N.C. Public School Forum, N.C. New Schools Project and The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce; Chair of YMCA We Build People Campaign; trustee of N.C. Museum of Art; Advisory Member of William & Ida Friday Institute, North Carolina State University; trustee of Wake Education Partnership; former Chair of John Rex Endowment.

Hari Nath
Hari H. Nath
Board of Governors, Term 2011 - 2015
Audit Committee
Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs Committee
102 Loch Stone Lane
Cary, NC 27518
Phone: (919) 803-0478
Occupation: Retired businessman
Education: MSIE Operations Research, University of Missouri; B.E., Mining, University of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
Family: Married to Kalpana Nath with two children
Major Educational/Elective Offices: Chairman, Board of Advisors, The Carying Place-N.C. Profit Organization; member Planning Zoning Board, Town of Cary; member, Board of Advisors North Carolina Indian American Political Action Committee; former member Cary Central Rotary Club; former regional president Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation USA Inc.; former member Town of Cary Board of Adjustments; and former member Town of Cary Economic Development Commission.
The information for this post came directly from the UNC Board of Governors website.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Part 3: Politics and UNC Board of Governors; Equal representation for all 17 UNC campuses

This is the third of a three-part post about the UNC Board of Governors which is scheduled to elect officers at a regular meeting, Friday, June 15. Much of what is written is my opinion. Some is based on communications. And some comes from the UNC system website.
I’ve been told more than once—and mostly by my wife—that complainers and critics should offer solutions not just complaints and criticisms. While solutions I offer when I complain or criticize may not always be embraced, at least I'm willing to off suggestions for change. Others just sit idly by and complain about those with possible solutions.

Today, my complaint is that the appointment process to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and the election of its officers is too political and not in the best interest of the entire system. So, I have a solution, a simple proposition that is right on target, if you ask me which you didn't but your reading this anyway. It would nearly eliminate politics from the process and reduce the influence by the General Assembly which means my proposal is dead on arrival. But here it is:

There are 34 members (including two emeritus members) of the University of North Carolina (system) Board of Governors elected by the General Assembly. There are 17 institutions which make up the UNC system. The BOG should be made up of at least two direct academic degree connections to each of the 17 institutions in the system. If that sounds simple, well, it is. This would not prevent more representation by some institutions. For instance, a member could have an undergraduate degree from one and a Masters or PhD from another, but at the very least every constituent member of the UNC system would have two representatives on the BOG.

To accomplish this, start from scratch. All current members would resign at the end of this year. The General Assembly would ceremonially appoint to the Board of Governors but the Boards of Trustees of each of the 17 member institutions would submit two nominees for approval by the legislative appointment process. To get started, one of the two from each of the 17 Universities would be appointed to a 4-year term and the other to a 6-year term. Neither would be allowed to be reappointed, ever. In four years, half the BOG would be replaced with 17 new members appointed to six-year terms. And, two years after that, another round of 17 new members would be appointed for six years. In other words, the 17 Boards of Trustees would actually designate its members to the UNC BOG. And, by limiting members to one term, there would be no political pressure while facing re-appointment.

The position of Chairperson of the BOG should be filled on a two-year rotating basis, campus by campus, in alphabetical order. First up would be a member of the Appalachian State delegation with one of the two ASU appointees elected by the full board. If one wants it and the other doesn’t, the one who wants to be Chairperson would be elected by default. The Vice Chairperson would come from second on the alphabetical list, East Carolina University. Other elected positions and appointments to committee chairs would continue down the list. After two years, East Carolina gets the chairperson position, either the person who was Vice-Chair or the other ECU member. No BOG member could serve in one of these positions if his/her remaining term on the BOG is less than two years. While Appalachian State would be first up as Chairperson in 2013, it would be 2047 before anyone representing ASU would be Chairperson again.

This plan should help reduce the political influence by the General Assembly and reduce politics on the Board of Governors. It would also even out institutional representation on the BOG. It could create more diversity, which is needed, on the BOG, and it would probably add more female representation. Currently there are only five females on the BOG. Another result, good or bad, is that it could strengthen the position of President of the UNC system while reminding that person to pay even attention to all 17 institutions. That person would lead the ever-changing and less political BOG and rely much more on input from the 17 Chancellors and Boards of Trustees creating an academic synergy that could boost the entire system with all 17 institutions working for the better good of all even if it means tough investigations into academic wrong-doings on any of the campuses.

A problem with what I propose is that it probably makes too much sense, taking politics out of the appointments and BOG elections. This proposal to change the make-up of and election process to the UNC Board of Governors does not alter the fact that there’s an election this Friday between Paul Fulton and Peter Hans for the position of Chairperson. And, it does not relieve political pressure on some of the 34 members to vote for one candidate over the other while others of the 34 BOG members are paying no attention to BOG politics and will actually vote their conscious instead of how someone has told them to vote.

The process itself is interesting. The Board of Governors is scheduled to meet Friday at 9 a.m. in the board room of The Spangler Center in Chapel Hill. The meeting is open to the public except for a portion that’s closed to the public. The election of officers takes place in public session at the end of the agenda and after the closed session.

During the closed session, the BOG Committee on University Governance will make its report to the full BOG. The report will include recommendations for the elective process, a discussion about which will take place at a Governance Committee meeting the afternoon before, less than 24 hours before the BOG election. So, the rules of the election can be changed late Thursday afternoon. Or not, keeping the process to the liking of Chairperson Hannah Gage and her vice chair and chair candidate Mr. Hans. (The Chairperson of the Governance Committee is Mr. Bill Daughtridge, Jr., of Rocky Mount who was once the Chief of Staff to NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis. I have no idea who Mr. Daughtridge supports for the Chair of the BOG, but connecting the dots is easy unless he proclaims otherwise.)

In a letter May 9, 2012, Laura B. Fjeld, Vice President and General Counsel to the UNC General Administration, outlined the election process to the BOG. (Find the letter at the UNC BOG Premeeting Materials/Minutes website. Once there, scroll down to the Committee on University Governance and then click on Tab 6 – Review of the Election Process. If you have the time, there's other intersting reading at that website location.) According Ms. Fjeld, once nominations have been made, there is no “plan that would include a forum for questions and answers for nominees.”

Maybe the Committee of University Governance will address and change the lack of candidate Q&A at its Thursday afternoon meeting or maybe the current leadership on the BOG does not want that to happen to keep the election process tight and tidy. In small groups such as the BOG  (34 is relatively small but probably too large for its purpose), an open forum to question the candidates would make the process better. But then that’s my humble opinion as is much of what I’ve written the last three days.

In any event, there’s a BOG election this Friday, and, due to politics, Peter Hans seems to have the inside track to being elected the next Chairperson. If that happens, the grip by the General Assembly on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors will be a little tighter, at least that's what I see happening. Or, if Paul Fulton is elected, the General Assembly might send a message of disapproval through decreased financial support for projects such as Carolina North, a NCSU Centennial Campus look-alike on the Chapel Hill campus, and that would be politics as usual, penalizing the UNC system for bucking the leadership of the General Assembly. Either way, it'll be a shame.

Or maybe there’s a third candidate who can pull support from both camps and take a major step away from politics, sending a message to the General Assembly in particular and the public at large that the Board of Governors remains an independent, policy-making body dedicated to fairness across the entire UNC system, all 17 constituent institutions. That would be a commendable path for this University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Part 2: Politics and UNC Board of Governors; BOG make-up, actions biased to UNC-CH

This is the second of a three-part post about the UNC Board of Governors which is scheduled to elect officers at a regular meeting, Friday, June 15. Much of what is written is my opinion. Some is based on communications. And some comes from the UNC system website.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of many NC State University loyalists and graduates (BA Political Science ’77) who believes the UNC Board of Governors—the politically appointed group of 34 people who are supposed to look after North Carolina’s public 17 institutions of higher learning—is biased towards the Chapel Hill campus. My belief is for good reasons which go back more than a couple of years but which are more and more prevalent today.

A recent The News& Observer article, Board of Governors keeps hands off UNC scandal, is related to the academic fraud (with emphasis on athletes, especially football and basketball players) being perpetrated at UNC-Chapel Hill and the lack of a thorough and demanding investigation of UNC-Chapel Hill by the UNC BOG. A few years ago, the BOG raked my alma mater over the proverbial coals for allegations far less egregious than today’s mess at UNC-CH. Reading the story and the remarks from other NC State loyalists, I may have well been reading my own comments.

The academic troubles at UNC-Chapel Hill continue to trickle from the campus thanks to inquiries made by The N&O and other media but the BOG and UNC system President Tom Ross, in my opinion, are stone-walling and becoming more and more headstrong against a thorough investigation obviously afraid of doing additional harm to UNC-Chapel Hill.  The BOG and Mr. Ross are being protective of the “Carolina Brand” and that makes them a laughing stock. But, pressure continues to mount for the UNC BOG to do more than wait on an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation which, from what I understand, was instigated by the SBI and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and not by the BOG, no matter who says who did what and when. The SBI and the OCDAO told UNC they would be investigating matters of financial fraud and forgery of official documents. It wasn't the UNC BOG asking for the investigation. The UNC BOG is a reluctant participant in this examination of possible criminal activity.

President Ross is quickly losing credibility with the public because he says fraud perpetrated by UNC professors and staff is not worth a BOG investigation much less by his office. Maybe a recent revelation as printed in The N&O, UNC football players flocked to suspect class, will force the UNC BOG to quit protecting the Chapel Hill campus and do what is right. That’s the hope here; it’s not to embarrass UNC-CH but to do what’s right and save face for the entire UNC system, all 17 institutions and not just to hide the shame of one.

While for the most part Wolfpackers tolerate the UNC BOG, in general, we believe the UNC BOG and the General Administration—at least the UNC-CH connected members and Mr. Ross—play favorites with the campus in Chapel Hill. The UNC General Administration offices are in Chapel Hill, which is good and bad. It’s good because it keeps a closer hand on the shenanigans that happen on that campus; it’s bad because it keeps a closer hand on the shenanigans that happen on that campus.

The BOG membership is stacked against not only NC State but against the other 15 institutions that make up the UNC system. If you look at the UNC BOG make-up based on academic credentials you get a good picture of where each member’s loyalties lie, though each member of the BOG may beg-off bias and say the first concern each has is to the education offered throughout the UNC System, but that’s just their talking points.

In reality, the loyalty of the members of the UNC Board of Governors is with those who appointed them in the first place, the General Assembly and then to their favorite University. Those who only want to serve one term can do as they wish. If they want to serve longer and if they want to be re-elected to the BOG, they must go along and get along. Some do and some don’t. Those who bow to the leadership’s wishes and the politics of the General Assembly can stay for a long time, unless the General Assembly leadership changes which happened last year. Those who don’t go along are just filling a seat until their term is up.

By perusing the UNC (system) website, I discovered, not to my amazement, of the 34 members of the Board of Governors (including two emeritus members and not counting the one student member), 22 BOG members have educational connections to UNC-Chapel Hill either by an undergraduate or graduate degree or, if the website is correct, in the case of one, by just attending UNC-Chapel Hill but, according to the website, not graduating at all in anything from anywhere.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are five BOG members who have educational connections to (degrees from) NC State University; one of the five Wolfies also earned a degree from UNC-CH. And, with five links, NC State University is the second most represented educational institution on the BOG. However, only eight of the 17 institutions making up the UNC system are represented on the BOG which means there are nine UNC system institutions not directly represented. Here is a list of the 17 member institutions of the UNC system and how many members of the BOG are represented by each. Some BOG members represent more than one member institution through his/her education:

Appalachian State University: 2
East Carolina University: 2
Elizabeth City State University: 1
Fayetteville State University: 0
NC A&T State University: 1
North Carolina Central University: 2
North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics: 0
NC State University: 5
UNC Asheville: 0
UNC-Chapel Hill: 22
UNC Charlotte: 0
UNC Greensboro: 0
UNC Pembroke: 0
UNC Wilmington: 0
UNC School of the Arts: 0
Western Carolina University: 1
Winston-Salem State University: 0

To add insult to injury to those without direct representation, here’s a list of all other colleges and universities represented on the UNC BOG:

Campbell University: 2
Davidson College: 1
Duke University: 2
Gardner-Webb: 1
Harvard University: 2
High Point University: 1
King College (Bristol TN): 2
Morehouse College-Atlanta: 1
New York University: 1
Salem College: 1
University of Cincinnati: 1
University of Jodhpur (India): 1
University of Miami: 1
University of Missouri: 1
University of Pennsylvania: 1
University of Rome: 1
University of Virginia: 2
Vanderbilt University: 1
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: 2
Wake Forest University: 2
Wayne County Community College: 1

While earning degrees or attending non-UNC system institutions should not preclude anyone from serving on the BOG, in the interest of the 17 member institutions, it would be better if each member of the BOG has an academic connection to UNC system’s 17 member institutions. Appointees might include being an ardent supporter who makes educational (not athletics) monetary donations to the institution, but campaign contributions to a politician of choice and being a lobbyist to the General Assembly and giving in to the demands of a BOG Chairperson or the President of the UNC System should not be a credential.

Those who don’t meet this suggested requirement of having a degree from a member institution or being an ardent financial supporter (not an athletic supporter) of a specific member University may have the entire system at heart, but this should be more than a political board, especially one that leans heavily toward one of its members, especially if that one member institution is UNC-Chapel Hill. Think I’m biased? Against UNC-Chapel Hill in this case? I’ve admitted I’m an NC State University loyalist so obviously I have my biases. In reality, UNC-CH should be treated with high regard but so should all the other 16 institutions be treated equally and UNC-CH should be treated as the others are treated, warts and all.

With a desire for fairness, I have a solution for the make-up of the BOG, one that will reduce NC State’s five BOG spots to two, but, as the march toward the election of BOG officers this Friday approaches, one that also will change how the leadership is chosen so politics is removed. Read about it in tomorrow’s post.