Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wolfpack's Tier II Bowl rewards Tier II schedule

Usually, I try not to read columns (especially hockey) by Luke DeCock, sports columnist for The News & Observer, but Monday’s rambling about NC State getting screwed out of a Tier I bowl because of the wacky selection process in place due to the football playoff caught my attention. I read his prose because, if you didn't know, I'm a Wolfpack fan and thought he may shed some good light on why the Wolfpack fell to a Tier II bowl when Tier I was expected, sort of. As an aside, I find it interesting to be talking about State playing in a bowl game at all, but rules are rules and six wins qualify for a bowl and seven puts you in post-season celebration, no matter how nominal it may be, especially with a plethora of bowl games available.

Whether Luke meant to do it with a serious tone or whether it was with tongue in cheek as he said the process would boost Wolfpack theorists blaming State’s placement in the Bitcoin Bowl in St. Petersburg FL against Central Florida coached by resume builder George O’Leary squarely on Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner and UNC-Chapel Hill grad John Swofford and his counterpart of the Big Ten, Jim Delany, also a UNC loyalist, grad and booster, DeCock put it out there, probably to further infuriate State fans than to have a serious discussion of what happened. I’m reminded that State’s on-going woes in anything can always be traced directly to Swofford who probably had something to do with the academic scandal at UNC but fails to admit it. Ask any rabid NC State loyalist from the members of the NC State University Board of Trustees down to the equipment manager for women’s soccer and the thousands in between. State's woes are not our fault. So be it.

The Wolfpack, with a 7-5 overall record, was hoping and thinking, thinking and hoping for a better bowl game, maybe against a team from the Southeastern Conference, maybe in Charlotte at the Clothing Store Bowl or maybe some other better destination, though St. Pete has a possibility to be rather nice in late December with hopefully warmer climate than what can be expected in Charlotte, Nashville and points above the Mason-Dixon line (Shreveport is in the list somewhere). Thankfully, good weather or bad, the game will be indoors, unlike a trip earlier this season to Tampa for a game against South Florida, one of the Pack’s four non-conference wins.

Though there are many positives about playing in this bowl game in a warm weather location against a team that’s obviously just seconds better than State’s cousin in Greenville NC, playing a co-champion of the AAC, the American Athletic Conference with a bunch of leftovers from Conference USA and other leagues that came before them, is probably just what the Wolfpack deserved instead of a chance to knock heads with, say, Florida or Tennessee or some other of the weaker sex of the SEC.

State's football accomplishments this year came down to success in one game, that dazzling 35-7 horse-beating of our brethren in Chapel Hill in pine-shadowed Kenan Stadium in front of way less than a sellout and just a handful of blue-black-gray (whatever their school colors are) shirts in the last quarter of the game. Poor horse. One friend, who graduated from Carolina too many years ago to remember when, said that watching the last 55 minutes of that game was possibly the most-painful 55 minutes of his life, at least in recent years, like ever since Duke dominated Carolina in anything. That win by the Wolfpack made State’s season successful, as far as I’m concerned with the same being true for many other Red and White faithful and hopeful, and saved the season, despite the other six wins, two against ACC members Wake Forest and Syracuse, league bottom feeders this year with 1-7 conference records and 3-9 overall marks, and four against teams of lesser stature than those two.

We all know that State fans—me included—believe going 1-11 each year is a successful season as long as we beat the damn Tar Heels. Mission accomplished and then some this year. Yes, 7-5 with three conference wins in 2014 is a lot better than 3-9 with no league wins (including a loss to UNC) in 2013.  But without that last win, State would have been 6-6, clearly disappointing at the very least. I always expect much better of the Wolfpack football team; therefore I am disappointed a lot because I finds ways that 3-9 should have been 6-6 which should have been 9-3 which should have been 12-0 and playing for the national title. (By the way, the purple and gold in Greenville believes that State and Carolina live just to beat them. They should re-think that. The Pirates are no more than an irritation on our shoulders that should just go away. Thankfully to the downsized coverage and early press deadlines by the N&O we are subjected to minimal coverage of East Carolina which for some reason thinks it’s an important part of the Triangle of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill.)

Overall there was improvement for the Wolfpack, primarily at quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, who was a pretty good threat to hit his mark as a throwing quarterback and who had the desire and ability to run for a first down and then some when necessary instead of dumping the ball to the dirt, out of bounds or into the hands of the defense as his predecessors did last year. And, because of his prowess leading the offense, the running game was better because the blocking was better, and there were some young receivers who stepped up, most of the time. The ability of the offense helped to improve the defense, yet not for every game. Overall the team played inspired some of the time. That last game (did I mention State beat Carolina 35-7 that day?) was truly inspiring offensely, defensively and in the kicking game as coach Bill Dooley would say. (Sidebar: Did you hear the one about Bill Dooley and Lou Holtz at the NC State Fair? Lou dressed in his NC State red and white, was walking down the midway and Dooley, decked out head to toe in Carolina blue and carrying a pig under his arm approached. Lou smiled and asked, “Where did you get that?” And the pig answered, “I won him here at the Fair.” Yuck; yuck.)

So, might you ask, why did the Wolfpack get what was coming to it when selected for the Tier II Bitcoin Bowl in St. Petersburg which is, at least, in Florida and not in Russia? Well, that’s because State played like a Tier II bowl team with a Tier II schedule for the most part, except against Carolina (4-4 in the ACC and 6-6 overall) and a week earlier against very weak Wake Forest. The Wolfpack also won four games against four teams that, if all could have been selected for a post-season bowl, would have been no higher than a Tier II bowl and lower if there had been a lower level. Let’s face it, Georgia Southern (9-3 and the best of the bunch but not bowl eligible because of a stupid NCAA rule), Old Dominion (6-6), and South Florida (4-8) may be in the Football Bowl Subdivision of the NCAA, but that’s a far reach from quality wins against quality teams, with all due respect to those colleges. And then there was Presbyterian (6-5), of the Big South Conference, one of those football playoff division teams. Yes, the likes of Alabama, Oregon, and Ohio State have similar games on their schedules, but those three teams along with Florida State which, on paper, played a tougher schedule with Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and Florida, have earned the right to play the weak sisters of the poor because of their respectful and righteous place in upper levels of college football society.

In future years, State Athletics Director Debbie Yow (surely with coach Dave Doeren agreeing) has decided to shape the Wolfpack's non-conference football schedule with “one Power 5 conference team, two FBS opponents from among the American, C-USA, MAC, Sunbelt and WAC, and one FCS opponent,” according to a school press release in August. That means games with Notre Dame, West Virginia and Mississippi State (not all in the same season) will be supplemented by games with Georgia State, Old Dominion, Ball State, Eastern Kentucky, William & Mary, Furman, James Madison, Delaware, Western Carolina and Charleston Southern. Troy and South Alabama are on the 2015 schedule. Memo to Debbie: Football is not listed as a sport in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference) so playing a MAC member should be interesting. Maybe State can schedule UAB. Whatever??? State fans get weak non-conference home games each year with an exception here and there. No wonder the fans arrive late and leave early.

I’m actually happy for State’s players this year, for going 7-5 and getting into a bowl game, no matter when and where it is being played. It adds practice days to the entire year. It’s a reward for something. It hopefully will help with recruiting (though that 35-7 victory over UNC in Chapel Hill probably did more for in-state recruiting). By the way, the NCAA needs to change its practice rule from the end of the season through the beginning of the next season in August. Instead of rewarding post-season teams with additional practices and leaving those without bowl games in the cold, the NCAA should give all member teams an additional 40 days of practice from the last regualr season game of one season to the pre-season practice start day of the next. Those days can be used for bowl game practice or for spring drills or for both, but it would level the practice playing field for all teams.

As happy as I am for the post-season game that was dependent on four wins against weaklings, I’m disappointed that those who schedule the games don’t upgrade the entire schedule. We’ve been told that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it probably is a duck. Well, if it looks and feels like a Tier II Bowl schedule then it probably is. With the weak teams in non-conference games, the Wolfpack will need to be an upper tier team in the ACC, winning more games against upper echelon conference teams than against the non-conference foes to be considered for a Tier I bowl. It’ll take more than that to get to the higher levels of “New Year’s Day” games, and, of course, the national championship final four, six, eight, or sixteen, whatever the number gets to be, for that matter. I'm hopeful, because I'm a State fan, realistic or not.

And, while I'm at it, thanks to Luke DeCock for inspiring me to write what you just read.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Naïve: Me? Swofford? Roy? Ed McMahan?

My October 10 post—All things considered,the joke’s on you, Dave!—elicited a few responses from fellow NC State fans, including this from a childhood friend from our hometown of Sanford. He wrote: “Be nice! Swofford will always be suspect to State fans. If you think for one moment that he would ever have State's interest in mind in any of his decisions then the joke's on you. You are not that naïve. Coach Doeren's comments are nothing but what State fans have believed for a long time.”

Maybe I am “that naïve” because never in a hundred years, as they say, did I think my October 29 post—"Attaboy" and a slap on the back for Dan Kane would be reprinted in The News & Observer which it was on Halloween, though not in its entirety because I said some things the N&O editors surely disliked. That it was published at all is downright scary considering the criticism I dish out at the newspaper on a regular basis, sometimes in this space and at other times in emails to the editor, John Drescher. Most recently, I informed him about the continuing issue of auto-hyphenation of words. There was this jab on October 29:

In the op-ed piece by Lewis Beale, “Quit or be fired, Williams should go,” the author makes several good points only to have the auto-hyphenation in the last paragraph ruin it. The word, intended to be “gobsmacked” (which would be hyphenated “gob-smacked”) and meaning astonished or utterly astounded, was hyphenated after and not before the “s” therefore making the word a hyphenated “gobs-macked.” The word “gobs” means “a large quantity” and the word “macked” refers to “a pimp” or “to flirt or make sexual advances to someone.” Was Roy Williams saying the Wainstein investigators repeatedly made sexual advances toward him? Now, that would be a better story! Is Dan Kane available???

That same day, the Atlantic Coast Conference had its annual basketball press conference in Charlotte where both ACC Commissioner John Swofford and UNC basketball coach Roy Williams were grilled about the UNC-Chapel Hill Administrative/Academic/Athletics scandal. Just for fun, let’s take to task some of their quotes. For instance, Swofford was asked if he was aware in any way of the bogus AFAM courses being offered, especially to the athletes under his command as the Tar Heels Director of Athletics.

SWOFFORD:  “I don’t think so. I think if you look at (the Wainstein) report, in my last few years there, there were some, in terms of numbers, very relatively minimal, independent study classes and AFAM. But that really took off in about 2000. So it never came up while I was there as an issue from any source. If it had, obviously, we would have addressed that with the appropriate people. But it never arose as any issue at all.”

MY TRANSLATION: It didn’t come up as an issue. As far as the leadership of the UNC athletics department was concerned, it was there but not an issue to worry about. It was normal to give athletes the benefit of the doubt, to offer easy classes to keep them eligible, because everyone else did it so why not UNC?

And, then there was Roy Williams who, not just this time but nearly all the time, uses the word “I” a lot when discussing UNC’s basketball team. Here are his comments with my comments in parentheses:
  • "If they fire me, it’s going to be because I didn’t win games. It’s not going to be because I for sure knowingly did something unethical." (What about maybe for sure knowingly?)
  • “I don’t move my ball on the green when nobody’s watching.” (Hah! Hah! Hah! Okay, that’s maybe believable on the green and not maybe believable moving it onto the green from just off, but what about in the rough or in the fairway when playing it as USGA Rule 13?)
  • “I don’t worry one second about my ethics, or what can be done there. And, the NCAA—I have never knowingly done anything that would even violate an attempt at the rule.” (Maybe, for sure? Don’t ask; don’t tell?)
  • “If I look back on it, of course you can say, ‘Well maybe I should have done this, should have done that, should have done this or should not have done that,’ If you ask me did I make a mistake in this, I’d say, ‘No.’” (Except maybe you should have asked when you suspected anything wrong, which you did, suspected that is.)
  • “I want to be part of the solution.” (Why wait until now? It’s been going on since … when?)
  • “You can accuse me of being naïve.” (Really?!?!? That’s a no-brainer.) 
And, speaking of be naïve, shortly after I posted kudos to Dan Kane, I heard from Ed McMahan, not the late Johnny Carson sidekick who spells his name McMahon, but Ed McMahan who is a member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. According the UNC System website, Mr. McMahan is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a BS degree in Industrial Relations. He is chair of the BOG Audit Committee and serves on the Public Affairs Committee and the University Governance Committee. He’s also a former member of the North Carolina House of Representative. The naïve Mr. McMahan wrote in an email:

Jim, why don’t you get Dan to check NC State and Duke records to see if they have athletes taking Independent Study Courses (Paper Classes) and to what extent? Would be great to do a comparison.  Just thought it would be a natural extension of the story concerning independent studies and how many other schools use them to keep athletes eligible. Just a thought. Not assuming they would be bogus as was done at CH.

Interesting that Mr. McMahan asked me to encourage Dan Kane to look into something Mr. McMahan has the power to pursue through his position on the BOG. Of course, the BOG has no connection to Duke so that part’s out; and, it’s doubtful freedom of information requests extend to Duke. When I suggested that Mr. McMahan didn’t need Dan Kane or me, he didn’t reply. So, he’s the naïve one to think others will do his job. I’m not so naïve to do his dirty work, especially when it comes to investigating my alma mater, NC State.

Last but not least, here’s a note to my friend from Sanford: My feeling is that Swofford, as naïve as he alludes to being while UNC Athletics Director, does not get out of bed every day thinking of a decision he could make that day that would not be in the best interest of NC State. To Wolfpack fans, get off that thought pattern and worry about what we do right and what we do wrong and quit pointing fingers. In other words, do as I say and not as I do.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Attaboy" and a slap on the back for Dan Kane

Back in May, I wrote a story titled “Citizen Kane” which ran on a Raleigh website for creative writers. Basically, I said the readership of The News & Observer day-by-day was less and less interested in the writings of reporter Dan Kane who has been pounding on the “administration/academic/athletics scandal” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for several years. The parting paragraph of that story I wrote in May was: The newspaper seems to be growing old by its own pen. You can only yell but so many times that all is rotten in the state of UNC and expect to keep your readership interested.

Well, excuse me, but, just recently, Kane’s persistence surely had to cause a jump in circulation. I have no facts to back up that thought, but, with the findings of the recently released Wainstein Report that found misdeeds involving administration, academics and athletics at UNC for at least 18 years, Kane’s effort must be praised, or at the very least he should receive an attaboy and a slap on the back. His persistence paid off. He followed a smoking gun and found fire, a blaze that will take years to put out. The only thing Kane couldn’t do is to get the culprits to fess-up about their wrong-doing and that’s because he had no way of prosecuting his way to the truth.

It’s been a long, drawn out effort by Kane and several fellow staff writers at the N&O that could result in an award for investigative journalism. (The N&O calls then the "I-team.")He’s still not appreciated by Tar Heels around the world, but the students majoring in journalism at UNC-CH and those teaching that curriculum should be impressed with his effort, but maybe not the subject thereof.

So, where does the story go from here? Is it over? My guess is that it’s far from over. Kane’s digging and reporting could go on as long as his boss desires. And here’s part of the reason why. There are indications Deborah Crowder, a central figure in the academic scam, used her enthusiasm for men’s basketball and her influence on campus to help basketball players scam classes at UNC since 1982. Her friend Burgess McSwain was the UNC men’s basketball academic advisor since the mid-1960s. The honorable and legendary Dean Smith was head basketball coach. He retired from the job after the 1996-97 season, a year after the reported and admitted starting date of the mischievous activities. So from about 1982 until 1997, there was a straight line that included Smith, McSwain and Crowder. In 1997, what had been informal became formal, at least according  to the Wainstein Report.

Some officials, pundits, observers and fans, especially the non-light blue-type fans, believe Smith had to know what was going on in the way of easy grading before and after the 1997 benchmark. Smith has pretty much always been an outspoken critic of those who judged of his players by a SAT score. Smith said many times that the SAT is not indicative of the ability of the student to achieve academically. Really?!?! Maybe if Chris Washburn, the 1984-86 Wolfpack basketball player with a SAT of below 500 who then Chancellor Bruce Poulton personally approved for admission to NC State University in 1984, had gone to UNC-CH…maybe Washburn would have graduated with honors. Smith’s program had a “system” that it followed to success. Did that include preferential academic treatment for his players? Kane should ask that question.

What about John Swofford, current commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference? He was the UNC Athletics Director 1980-97, leaving the same year Smith retired. What did Swofford know and when did he know it? He left UNC for the greener pastures of the ACC and escaped the crime committed by Crowder and others. Kane should call Swofford at least to get a denial and no-comment.

Is there more to the story? Yes, and there’s no way that Dan Kane will put down his pen, quit making calls, and stop writing about the UNC Scandal. It is doubtful Kane will move on to some other subject. My guess is he’s still on the case and will follow it through the NCAA’s review of the enlightening and damaging (to UNC-CH) Wainstein Report.  Good for Kane and good The N&O. For all the criticism of Kane I’ve dished out over the last few years, I’m here to withdraw it all. Congratulations, Dan. You were (and are) just doing your job. Attaboy!

Friday, October 10, 2014

All things considered, the joke's on you, Dave!

NC State football coach Dave Doeren is not known for having a sense of humor, at least not publicly. Behind closed doors and with friends, there’s a slim possibility he may have a gregarious personality. But, from listening to him since he was selected to lead the Wolfpack football program, I do not see any sort of sense of humor in the man. He’s made some outlandish comments, but none seem to be funny.

His latest bizarre statement which he said was a joke was about scheduling. He targeted Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford, former UNC-Chapel Hill quarterback and director of athletics. “You’d never know that somebody that graduated from the school down the street is the commissioner. I mean, you would never know that with our schedule,” Doeren said on his radio show. The next day he said the comment was made in jest. “I mean, it’s a radio show; we’re allowed to laugh and have fun,” he told a News & Observer scribe.

His comment about Swofford and scheduling was specifically referring to the Wolfpack’s back to back games against Florida State and Clemson, the former an exciting close one for which, to their credit, Doeren and his staff were able to elevate the players and game plan to nearly defeat the top-ranked Seminoles, but the latter an embarrassment to NC State fans worldwide. During the Wolfpack's first five possessions at Clemson, State had only 19 plays of which four were punts and one that appeared to be a Statue of Liberty call for a Clemson player to grab the ball from the Wolfpack quarterback’s hand and score a touchdown. Not rallying the players to perform two straight weeks at a top level is not a scheduling issue. It’s bad coaching.

Doeren, now in his second season, didn’t get off to a glowing start with State fans when he berated the faithful for vacating the stadium after the first half of its 2013 season opening 41-14 win against Louisiana Tech. It was hot, the Pack was up comfortably and in no danger of losing, and there was much more fun to be had tailgating. To his credit, he kept the State throngs inside Carter-Finley Stadium the following week in a 23-21 squeaker against…get this…Richmond, a team the Pack should defeat along the same lines as La Tech. The entire season was either no joke or a complete comedy as State won one more game and ended the year 3-9. Of course, it was a talentless team, we're told.

After last year—talent or no talent; injuries or no injuries—most fans should prefer Doeren to stay serious and win games instead of trying to make jokes. He has at his disposal, especially with the indoor practice building that’s under construction, maybe the best overall facilities in the ACC and better than most colleges everywhere. He and his staff are paid out-of-line salaries just as are most football (and basketball) coaches. Soon, the players will be paid, legitimately, in some form or fashion. There’s no justification for bad play-calling, dropped passes, or attempts at humor to take away from on-the-field failings. College football is a serious business; Doeren should remain serious until he posts 10 or 11 wins a year. Then he can be funny, if he can be funny.

He also needs to keep it civil. After this season’s Florida State game, he complained about the Seminoles faking injuries to slow the Wolfpack’s hurry-up offensive. Please, Dave, don’t tell us in all your time coaching you’ve not tried that at least once or twice. Say what you want, but complaining about perceived fake injuries and tough scheduling will not take away from short-comings on the field. I was at the Florida State game and also was upset at those slow-downs. You can be too but publically complaining is not necessary. Along with the scheduling “joke,” your comments about the fake injuries made you a whiner, and we know most whiners are at other schools. The all-time chief whiner is Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, and heaven forbid you try to compete with him in that category.

Now, let’s get back to the schedule and joking about Swofford. State fans love to complain about Swofford because once a Tar Heel, always a Tar Heel, but rest assured he does not go out of his way to screw the Wolfpack. By “joking” the way Doeren did, the joke is on Doeren. He says it was a joke (if you have to explain something is a joke, then it probably wasn’t a joke), but it was a rallying cry for Wolfpackers to use as an excuse for losing those two games, especially for the lopsided whatever-that-was at Death Valley. With top facilities and excellent academics at NC State, there should be no excuses for performance off or on the football field. We win, yeah! We lose, forget about it and move on to the next game. It’s just football, not life or death.

Is playing back to back (seven days apart) against Florida State and Clemson fair to NC State? Probably not and neither is playing in the same ACC Atlantic division with those two and Louisville. But that’s the way it goes if you are a member of the one of the Gang of Five conferences. The Atlantic division may be the toughest this year, and next year the Coastal could have the stronger teams. The solution is not to complain and lobby for a schedule to fit your desire. The solution is to recruit better, coach better and win your games. Complaining about fake injuries and back to back tough games is not the explanation for or way out of losing.

By the way Dave, in case you’ve not considered the entire 2014 schedule, the Wolfpack’s top rival game at North Carolina is November 29 with an open date the week before which is right after a game at Wake Forest. The Tar Heels play at their top rival, Duke, Thursday of the week State has the open date, and that game against the Blue Devils is just five days after a home game with Pittsburgh. So, the Wolfpack will have five more days of rest than Carolina before going to Chapel Hill. If that’s not enough, Dave, you’ll probably have the opportunity to ask Swofford if he can move the game to a later date because he’ll likely be in Kenan Stadium that day, cheering for his alma mater.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is questioning Obama's birthplace racist?

Is questioning where President Obama was born a racist remark or question? If questioned by a “birther” who has never embraced President Obama, one might surmise that person to be a racist unless that person is one of color (whatever that means). On the other hand, if used tongue-in-cheek a la late night comedians such as Jay Leno, David Letterman and others, or by writers who not always be sometimes pen humorous columns, viewers and readers would chuckle at the comic relief. So, in the following narrative, is a remark about where President Obama was born racist?
- - - - - - - - - -

Obamas to Asheville; Michelle for US Senate?

It’s possible, but not probable, but it could be accomplished in short span. Word (rumor) is that President Obama and his wife, Michelle, are planning to drop their citizenship in Illinois (maybe they already have), buy a home in Asheville (some say that’s underway), and become citizens of the Tar Heel State, a prerequisite for Michelle to run for the United States Senate, specifically for the seat currently occupied by Richard Burr. It's all conjecture but, read on.

To become a citizen of the Tar Heel state, owning the home is probably a must, declaring it as primary residence is on the list, getting a driver’s license is probably necessary, and paying taxes in North Carolina is definitely required.

The idea of Michelle running for US Senate, representing North Carolina, is even more interesting on several fronts. She would need to declare pretty soon with the election in 2016. She would be campaigning for the seat while her husband completes his term as President. Her candidacy would probably suck a lot of money away from and without regard for other campaigns in North Carolina and across the nation.

The most intriguing part of this is the stare-down if Hillary Clinton becomes President and Michelle wins a US Senate seat at the same time. When President Obama was Senator Obama, he had little regard for the Office of the President (not just the office holder at the time), thinking that the Senate had to have more influence and governing powers. But then he wasn’t a very active or effective Senator anyway. Hillary was Obama’s colleague in the Senate, and, because of her eight years as First Lady, she had a much better understanding of the Presidency and of how to get along from a Senator’s seat than did Obama.

If Michelle were to be elected to the Senate, her love of the Presidency would fall by the wayside, especially if Hillary were the Commander in Chief. Hillary served Obama extremely well as Secretary of State, but the public airing of disagreements between the two in her book, Hard Choices, will be tough for Michelle to swallow if she’s in a position of Senatorial power.

The burning question has nothing to do with the possible, but not probable, move to Asheville by the President and Michelle Obama, or, if that happens, the question has nothing to do with Michelle running for the US Senate from North Carolina.

The question is: If President Obama becomes a North Carolina citizen before his term is up, is North Carolina obligated to erect a statue of him on the lawn of the State Capitol next to Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson? They were born in North Carolina and they became Presidents of the United States while residing in Tennessee. The difference, obviously, is that Obama (born who knows where) would be a President who later became a citizen of North Carolina.
- - - - - - - - - -
So, with reference to the first paragraph of this post, is the parenthetical phrase “born who knows where” a racist comment? I think not. What do you think? 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A right way, a wrong way and the Duke way

Who said: “There’s a right way, a wrong way and the Duke way.”?

Was it:
A. The supervisor of a Duke University Health System in-house auditor when the auditor raised concerns about Duke’s billing practices that bilked state and federal health care organizations for at least $1 million; or

B. Lynn J. Good, President and Chief Executive of Duke Energy, when discussing how to clean up coal ash sites and leaks throughout North Carolina and who wants to bilk taxpayers for billions of dollars to pay to do so; or,

C. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Blue Devils basketball coach who reportedly has a higher income than either A or B (and everyone else at Duke University) and who bilks everyone’s intelligence with his “We’re Duke (and therefore you’re not entitled)” attitude.

Instead of an immediate answer, let’s exam all three possibilities, in reverse order:
Mike Krzyzewski, the coach of the Duke Blue Devils basketball team, is an intimidator, or at least he likes to try, succeeding many times, being ignored other times. When the latter happens, he’s insulted (in his mind) by lack of respect, and it shows. Some people (especially those at his periodical “bobble-head” meetings where all present constantly nod approval at everything he says) think he does his job the right way; others find his way the wrong way; then there is his way, the Duke way.

What is Mike’s Duke way? Krzyzewski loves to intimidate fans for not supporting his program without question; he loves to intimidate game officials who regularly cave to his intimidation game after game; and he intimidates the media who are quick to apologize and change course, supporting him without question. 

Recently, Mike was disappointed with the media when he was called for a technical foul in Duke's loss to Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. He was insulted when no member of the media defended him or questioned the technical which was probably for one too many F-bombs which Krzyzewski commonly uses. (Obviously he thinks that word is an acceptable part of anyone's vocabulary, using it with various meanings as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, and other unknown parts of speech. Bobby Knight taught him well.) A day later, in an interview with John Feinstein (click for story), he voiced his disappointment about the media when he said, “I think when you win a long time – and we’re not a state school, so you don’t have a press corps protecting you a little bit – you’re out there. That goes with the territory. And not only that, but announcers and talk show hosts and whatever—they will not say anything about yesterday’s game.”

Not sure how Krzyzewski comes to the conclusion that the press corps protects state schools (ask UNC-Chapel Hill, for instance, if that's close to being true), but once Feinstein’s interview went viral across the internet, the media (especially The News & Observer) caved to his intimidation tactics. A week after losing, thank goodness, to Mercer in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Krzyzewski held a post-season press conference to promote his program, to let everyone know he’ll coach for at least five more years, and to intimidate the media. To his credit, the intimidation factor worked. The writers at The N&O fell all over themselves to give Krzyzewski what he wanted.

Laura Keeley, a Duke grad and one of the truly biased and true-Duke Blue writers ever, might as well submitted for publication the transcript of what K said that day. Her words were just what he said without attribution. On the same day, columnist Luke DeCock wrote a truly inspiring (gag me) Duke recruiting piece, if there ever was one, that Krzyzewski will show to all the “one-and-done” high school recruits to get them to sign with Duke during K’s last five years there. And, editorial writer Jim Jenkins wrote a column that made me and thousands of others vomit, connecting being classy to Krzyzewski. Jenkins must have forgiven more than 30 years of F-bombs when F-bombs and being classy do not relate. Then, columnist Barry Saunders, reacting to comments by former Dookie Grant Hill, actually wrote something good and enjoyable to read: “Duke hatred has nothing to do with race.” He was right. Hating Duke is based on arrogance by the Duke basketball coach and most of the Dook fans. But then a few days later along comes executive editor John Drescher who writes that Saunders' column was tongue in cheek. 

So, K’s Duke way (intimidation) worked on The N&O (no surprise here). As he continues to try to bilk everyone's intelligence, Krzyzewski could have said, “There’s a right way, a wrong way, and the Duke way.”
Lynn J. Good, the President and Chief Executive of Duke Energy, bless her heart which is obviously not in the right place when it comes to her customers and all citizens of North Carolina and other states where coal burning plants are located, inherited a problem which she’s obviously not in a hurry to fix and which gets worse and worse every day. In burning coal to create electricity, Duke Energy produces toxic coal ash which must be safely stored. From the very beginning, the coal ash has not been properly safeguarded and some of it has leaked into waterways, polluting drinking supplies and recreational facilities.

Not only do the waterways need to be cleaned, at a high dollar, so do all the coal ash storage facilities, at a higher cost. We’re talking billions of dollars but nowhere close to the exorbitant profits Duke Energy reaps from billing for its services without paying one dime in taxes. Ms. Good, bless her heart which is not in the right place, wants to raise consumer rates to pay for Duke Energy’s mistakes, miscalculations and downright disdain for doing things right. 

The right way would be to admit guilt and do a thorough cleaning of the coal ash storage facilities and the waterways at the expense of the Duke Energy stockholders. The wrong way would be to ignore it all. The Duke way is exactly what she’s doing: no sincere apologies, try to interpret regulations to classify the mistakes as misdemeanors, put pressure on the NC Department of Environmental and Natural Resouces for leniency, and to demand rate increases to pay the cost of Duke Energy’s cleanup and add more money to those untaxed profits. (You go, NC Attorney General Roy Cooper, fighting those rates increases. We need you now more than ever, in this case.) So it could be Duke Energy's Lynn Good who said, “There’s a right way, a wrong way and the Duke way" while her company continues to bilk its customers for it's own wrong-doing.
Duke University Health System recently admitted to bilking state and federal health care organization for at least a million dollars. It’s admission—though officials at Duke did not actually say they did anything wrong (they never do)—came in the form of repaying $1 million for billing errors to Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare, three federal programs, for at least six years. There is doubt that the over-billing was limited to $1,000,000.

An in-house auditor, Leslie Johnson, who no longer works there (surprise, surprise; the Duke employee “resigned” in 2010 after reporting the billing mistakes to her supervisor), claimed in a lawsuit that her supervisor told her, “There’s a right way, a wrong way and the Duke way.” Of course, Duke University Health System officials say it was all “an undetected software problem.” Hah! Computer software doesn’t make mistakes; those who program the software make mistakes, and sometimes on purpose.

In this case, the right way would have been to billed Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare properly. The wrong way would have been to improperly bill, have the error discovered by the in-house auditor, Leslie Johnson, and then make corrections, admit guilt and repay the over-billing prior to a federal investigation. The Duke way may have been for the Duke University Health System to instruct a computer programmer to purposely write the software to overbill, tell the in-house auditor to be quiet about the error, fire the in-house auditor, wait for a federal investigation, fight the federal investigation, agree to pay back an amount nowhere near the total in over-billing, and then declare no fault, close the case and figure out how to do it again without being caught.  That sounds logical as it's possible Duke University Health System purposely decided to bilk those agencies for millions. Considering what happened, maybe Leslie Johnson’s supervisor did say, “There’s a right way, a wrong way and the Duke way.”
THE ANSWER: So, who said it? Who said: “There a right way, a wrong way and the Duke way.”? It was Leslie Johnson’s supervisor at Duke University Health System, but it could have been Mike Krzyzewski or Lynn J. Good. And, on any given day, it could be all three. From their methods and actions, they are saying: Duke—Duke University Health System, Duke Energy, and Duke Blue Devils basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski—is not above the law and not below the law. With arrogance abounding, what they are saying is they ARE the law. And that’s sad as they each continue to attempt to bilk us in one way or another.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Virginia finishes first with easier ACC schedule; Will the league soon be the ACC's Five & Dime?

So, Tony Bennett will win the 2014 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year because his University of Virginia basketball team will end up in first place after regular season play is completed. At 16-1 in the ACC with just Sunday’s finale at Maryland remaining, the Cavaliers have had a tremendous season after being picked to place fourth in the pre-season poll at ACC Operation Basketball last October. In that survey of the media who attended the annual gathering, Duke was picked first followed by Syracuse and North Carolina. Review the poll at this link: 2013-14 ACC Pre-season Basketball poll. 

Much of Virginia’s success has to do with the even-keel, talented players who have been willing to play Bennett’s way, but please attribute some Virginia conference wins to the ACC’s unbalanced scheduling. Virginia was lucky not having to play twice against Duke, Syracuse or North Carolina, the other three teams in the preseason and final top four of the league. Just as each of the 15 ACC members, Virginia played one game against the other 14 teams. But their two-timer opponents were Florida State, Maryland, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech, a distant last place in the conference. As it turns out, Virginia played just one game against each team in the 2-6 spots in the league standings.

If Virginia, which got stronger as the season progressed, had played at Syracuse in early January, the Orange would have won, no doubt, and it could have changed Virginia’s course of winning. If Virginia had played Duke in February, even in Charlottesville, the Blue Devils would have won just as Duke did in mid-January in Durham. And, while the Cavaliers hosted North Carolina in January and handed the Tar Heels a fourth conference loss in five games, the story would have been completely different if the two had played in Chapel Hill in February if the Tar Heels played to the level they played against NC State recently in Raleigh. Yes, Virginia lucked out with a weak ACC schedule.

I’m not suggesting the Cavaliers should have had all three of those teams on its schedule for two games each, but how about two games with at least one? Syracuse had two games with Duke and two games with fifth-place Pittsburgh. Duke’s schedule includes two games each with Syracuse and North Carolina. The Tar Heels schedule includes Duke twice. The Cavaliers had just one game with each the teams placing 2nd, 3rd and 4th, all teams picked to finish ahead of Virginia in the pre-season vote. And while one more loss would not change the current conference standings, one more loss—depending when it happened—could have led to another loss and then another loss, as the bubble burst. Winning creates winning; just ask the Tar Heels. Losing creates losing; ask a number of teams.

The schedule might have been considered when the media made those selections last October, thinking that Virginia would place fourth because of its schedule, but it’s doubtful the media—save one or two scribes—think that deeply. There will be more media consideration next season. Right now, it’s time to consider different ACC scheduling. Even though it would do away with two games a season between my NC State Wolfpack and OUR rival, North Carolina, as well as the annual two-game Battle of the Blues (yuck!), it’s time to drop permanent partners and develop a  format that evens out the schedule over 3.5 years. With 18 conference games, no team should face another twice in a three-year period. In three seasons, everyone would have played 12  teams twice and in the fourth season, the other two before starting to repeat the process. But wait, there’s more.

A couple of weeks ago, while on an occasional bike ride around Apex Lake, just hours before the return bout of Syracuse-Duke basketball game, I was listening to ESPN Radio, 99.9 on my FM dial in the Holly Springs NC market when the announcer (I have no idea of his name) proclaimed to be a college football fanatic, said some college basketball coaches across the country where disappointed in conference expansion, that it was ruining college basketball, and begged to differ with those coaches.

Actually, he said (something like) it’s great for college basketball because now we get a second game this season between Duke and Syracuse. Think about it. Every year, we’ll get Duke-Syracuse twice in the regular season, Duke-North Carolina twice, Syracuse-Louisville twice, Syracuse-Pittsburgh twice, North Carolina-Syracuse twice, North Carolina-Louisville, Pittsburgh against Duke and North Carolina twice…it’ll be great for college basketball.

I started to laugh at the ignorance of the announcer, but then I realized he works for ESPN and maybe he knows for sure what most of us think: That ESPN runs the ACC, that Commissioner John Swofford and his staff in Greensboro NC are just puppets for the Worldwide Leader in Sports as are the 15 Athletics Directors and equal number of chancellors/Presidents of the Colleges and Universities that make up the ACC. If ESPN, which owns broadcast rights to ACC basketball, has its way, those match-ups listed in the previous paragraph would be scheduled every year. Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Syracuse would play each other twice a year during the regular basketball season, all in prime time on nights that do not conflict with any other college games or NFL games. That’s 10 regular-season games ready for Prime Time and big ratings. Can you say $$$$$$$!?

If that happens, eight of the 18 regular season games for each of those five schools would be pre-set. Those four would become each other’s permanent partners, all other schools be damned. Which means with 15 teams in the league, those five schools would play each of the remaining 10 schools one time each season. There would not be two games between NC State and UNC, or between Wake Forest and Duke, or between Duke and State. Virginia would play each of those top five once along with four of the remaining 10 teams twice each season.

This may not seem right, but actually it may be a good thing. Why should Miami have to play Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Duke or North Carolina more than once a year? NC State, as it tries to build an upper-ACC echelon team, would play only once a year against each of Dick Vitale’s ACC Fabulous Five and 13 games against the remaining nine teams. In other words, some of the teams in the bottom 10 could actually have a chance to build programs sans multiple games against the top five. The name of the conference could be changed to the ACC’s Five & Dime!

This season, Virginia got the benefit of the doubt with its schedule: No doubling-up against Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina, or Pitt. Next year, with those four as permanent partners along with Louisville, Virginia, just as it did this year, could lose one game to one of the Five and still win the ACC regular season. Heck, two losses to those five could result in first place if you sweep the Dime. That could be the case for any of the 10 remaining ACC schools. The Five could beat up each other playing head to head while a couple of the Dime could slip past the Five in the standings. So, let’s do it! (Until Coach K comes up with a points formula that assures those five of always being in the top five, even if all lose once to each other, creating four losses on their records. It would be great for college basketball, K would tell the beat reporter for The News & Observer.)

That ESPN announcer may want the glamour teams to play twice a year, but that shouldn’t happen. How the conference solves this scheduling dilemma is to be seen, but I have a suggestion. (Who would have thunk it?) The ACC needs a 21-game conference season. All teams would play each other once, that’s 14 games, and have home and home games with seven others. The next year, the rotation would switch. The one-game opponents would become two game foes the next season and vice versa. One year Duke and North Carolina would be scheduled for one game and the next season for two games. Positive outcome: Putting up with the Battle of the Blues media love affair would be reduced from two times to one time every other season.

The fans may not like giving up a second game to long-time rivals (State-UNC or Duke-UNC) but they would like the idea of playing three more conference games and three fewer high school opponents (North Carolina Central is not a high school team.); the athletics directors would not like taking the hit in the pocketbook from cheap date income but ESPN might pony up a few more dollars for more conference games; and the coaches would veto it because they resemble a common barnyard animal. The players would love it. That's why they decided to attend college in the ACC in the first place, to play lots of games against ACC teams; academics is a distant second reason, but that's a story for tomorrow's edition, and the next day's edition, and the next day's edition (you get my drift) of The N&O. 

On the other hand, next year, when Clemson or Virginia Tech or any of the Dime don’t play multiple games against the Five (Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Pitt or Syracuse) but win the regular season, or maybe when two of the Dime place first and second, a better and fairer method of scheduling will come about. Until then, congratulations to Tony Bennett and Virginia for taking full advantage of the schedule and for placing first in the regular season. You've had a good year but I suggest for the Cavaliers to come from behind this scheduling cloud Virginia must win the ACC Tournament. Now that's incentive. Good luck!