UNC System – Chaos is Coming

January17/ 2000

… GUESS WHAT?  The UNC System has missions beyond “BCS Bowls” and “Final Fours”. WHO KNEW?  Sixteen different campuses and 14 of them don’t have one Blue Chipper or McDonald’s All American.  This unholy alliance is an academic Tower of Babel.  Well there trouble brewing with this alliance.  BobLee jumps into this hot tub of controversy along with Paul “Sara Lee” Fulton and His Emeritus – Bill Friday.  CANNONBALL!


This is a long one.  Go to the bathroom now if you need to.

   North Carolina is “famous” for Mayberry … Barbecue … NASCAR … tobacco … Jesse Helms … and clogging.  All of which have their prominence but there’s another element where The Olde North State has won national acclaim … The Consolidated University of North Carolina System.  This unique alliance of 16 public institutions of higher learning developed under the guidance and vision of Bill Friday was, at its inception, quite a revolutionary concept.

TRUE STORY … when I was in grad school at the Univ of Missouri in the 70s my professors were not awed that I was from Choo Choo Justice’s school or even from Lennie Rosenbluth’s or Frank Porter Graham’s school.  They WERE impressed that I was from an institution in “the UNC System”.  Missouri was in the process of developing a similar framework for unifying its statewide public college system and UNC’s was their model.  Other states have followed suit but North Carolina was one of, and I believe THE, first to do so … with Mr William C. Friday as its architect.

From the Triangle’s UNC-Chapel Hill and a North Carolina State University across the length and breadth of Tar Heelia encompassing Rednecks down east , Hillbillies out west, Lumbees, Cherokees, and all sorts of “commuter” students, The Consolidated University a pretty neat idea.

“Neat ideas” and “unholy alliances” are not all that common.  “Unholy alliances” come about due to two reasons.

  1. Uniting against a common threat from an outside source for which individual differences among the members are subjugated against the common foe.  We saw this in the first 48 hours after 9/11.  In the 49th hour Ted Kennedy didn’t see any more kamikaze planes headed for skyscrapers so he went back to being a daily embarrassment to the human race.  We also saw it in Europe against Genghis Khan’s Mongol Horde.  I watch The History Channel!
  2. A charismatic leader of superhuman integrity and possessing incredible diplomatic skills rises up and brings the separate factions together.  Think Charlemagne or William Wallace in Braveheart.  Chuck Amato uniting the WuffNation does not quite qualify.

The Consolidated Univ of North Carolina was a classic case of #2 with Bill Friday being the guiding hand in the visionary glove.  He was, and is at 85, a very rare man.  Being an NC State textile grad with a UNC Law degree he started out bringing those two elephants into the big consolidated tent then herded up the sheep, goats, and llamas.  Pretty soon he had himself a crocker sack full of academic institutions over which he reigned as a wise and just Solomon for 30 years.

   Bill could not rule forever (Why Not?).  When he retired the territorial infighting began among the assorted feudal lightweights and the two heavyweights in Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

   C.D. Spangler, the gypsum mega-mogul, stepped in to provide a voice of executive reason for 11 years; but grew tired of the flatulent feuding of the academic peacocks.  C.D. returned to the more rational world of gypsum. 

With C.D.’s departure, today’s impending crisis became inevitable.  But first lets step back a second. 

99% of the readers of this website have a full growth of pubic hair and are used to making   mortgage payments. No need to card anyone on this site; so you have varying knowledge of “politics”.

Everybody has an awareness of NATIONAL politics.  The key combatants are “celebrities” … like sports celebrities except politicians do NOT look good nekkid but CAN form complete sentences although not necessarily truthful ones.  You might know the name of your local mayor and maybe a city councilman or two goes to your church or civic club.  That’s “LOCAL politics”.  Between National and Local politics is a shadowy nasty crawlspace called STATE politics.  

Most folks don’t know much about this little shop of horrors. STATE politics is “the lost sock” in the political dryer.  It’s out there somewhere but you don’t really care about it or want to think about it … like colon cancer which is not a bad analogy at all.

National politicians can’t get away with too much with the 24 hour news cycle monster’s ravenous appetite.  Locally you care about street lights, potholes, and parking tickets and you can see your mayor and councilman in the parking lot of the local nudie bar so they can’t get away with too much … but then there’s the fellows that are “sent to Raleigh”.  

You meet some gladhander at a fish fry.  You see his yard signs. You check the box with that name.  He “goes off to Raleigh”. You hear about corruption and nothing ever getting done “in Raleigh”.  You see that same guy at another fish fry two years later … he say’s it wasn’t his fault.  So, of course, you send him “BACK to Raleigh”. 

The difference in him going “back to Raleigh” is that he already has the apartment for his mistress.  The lobbyists know how much his vote “costs” and how much it is “worth”.  Incumbency has its perks with the foxy waitresses at Sullivans who flatter him to his face … and laugh at him behind his back.

For those of you not in North Carolina … don’t smirk.  STATE politics is STATE politics regardless of the State.  The only difference is in Rhode Island and Delaware where the smiling galoots can’t get far enough away from home to really party hearty.

I personally know ONE honest state legislator in North Carolina that I trust.  That good man’s name is Neal Hunt.  My cousin is also a state legislator but I don’t trust that no-account sumbitch AT ALL.  

North Carolina’s Governor Mike Easley looks like a Methodist minister … crashed a race car in a promotion stunt … and wants a Lottery.  That’s Mike’s resume.  He hopes you don’t care to learn much more because Mike is an ambitious Johnny Edwards wannabee.

Mike isn’t the rattiest rat in this state’s basement.  That title is shared by the Three Stooges of Jim Black, Marc Basnight, and Richard Morgan.  I have as low a regard for Morgan who claims to be Republican as I do for the two democRats.  This trio of political thugs would give Al Capone cold chills.  Throw in a Republican “operative” named Shumaker and you have enough compost to cover I-40 from Asheville to Wilmington.  These guys are running The Consolidated University of North Carolina.

They do it by appointing a motley collection of campaign contributors, ne’er do well cousins, and garden variety trust fund babies to the UNC Board of Governors (BOG).  A BOG earns his/her “bones” just like a wise guy in the mob.  Another darn good analogy.  

When C.D. said “I’ve had it with these clowns” The BOG had two ways to go.

  1. Find someone else with a backbone and a brain who would at least spell Tar Heel as two words. … OR
  2. Find a carpetbagging “Rent-A-Prez” that would be easily intimidated by the BOG and the master puppeteers Black, Basnight and Morgan. Enter Molly Broad who still can’t pronounce Mattamuskeet OR Nantahala nor has a clue where either are.  

Prez Molly came from “our sister state” California” and soon installed fellow carpetbaggers as Chancellors at Chapel Hill and Raleigh. She needed someone to swap Mayberry hick jokes with.

  With no concern for their local legacies (or any clue why Jesse Helms kept getting reelected) these Rent-a-Chancellors gave their radical faculty squirrels carte blanc to spout their foolishness.

   Faculty squirrels and tenured anarchists don’t do any real damage unless a naïve info-babe mistakenly hands them a live mike.  They just screech a lot, don’t bathe, run around in circles and eventually all fall down … and do it all over again 3 months later.  Most students pay’em no mind and step over them on the sidewalk.   The politicos snarfing hushpuppies at 42nd Street took exception to the bloviations coming from Meezie’s LibLoons in Chapel Hill and decided to score atta boy points back home by teaching the tenured commies a lesson.

They shut off the money spigot to Meez, Mary Ann and the other 14 campuses including Basnight’s lock step loyalists at G-Vegas (ECU).  Faculty squirrels hate capitalism but do dearly love “capital” in their own hip pockets.

In rides the cavalry in the form of Citizens For Higher Education (CHE) led by Paul “Sara Lee” Fulton and a battalion of CEO types (including none other than Ye Olde Legend of Dome fame).  They had (and still has) the noble notion to buy enough politicos to get their way; but, alas, they informed Meezie of their plan to break UNC and NCSU away from the 14 non-BCS level schools.  Meezie, God luv him, promptly leaked the whole plan to every media outlet within 300 miles of South Building.

If The Meez had been on Ike’s staff in June of 1944 we would be eating weiner schnitzel instead of barbecue today.  The silly goose just has a knack for stapling his tie to his desk blotter metaphorically speaking.

(… See, I told you this was a long one …)

   The General Assembly is overrun with lazy lawyers and small time con men with God-given talents to tie a cherry stem in a knot with their tongue and smile good at fish frys.  Paul Fulton’s CEO cabal united some UNC and NCSU types but they “misunderestimated” how many folks aren’t all that impressed with EITHER Carolina Blue or Wolfpack Red.  The eastern rednecks, western hillbillies and those quite mad Lumbees took exception to the planned coup.

Paul’s cabal has UNC and NCSU forming their own special little club limited to “colleges in North Carolina that have employed Mike O’Cain”.  MO’C is unemployed but if Fayetteville State should hire him I suppose FSU would then qualify.

UNC and NCSU are indeed a different breed of academic cat from at least 12 of the other 14.  East Carolina and UNC-Charlotte being most “like” them.  ECU being “like” UNC may be tough for Paul’s CEO fraternity to swallow but politico-extortionist Marc Basnight owns enough of his fellow legislators to force it down their throats.

However this fracas evolves it will involve some disreputable people who collectively lack the integrity in a single hair on Bill Friday’s noble head.   The original consolidation worked because Bill Friday had the grit and determination to simply “make it work”.  One strong willed man with integrity can whup a spider’s nest of legislators every time.

The fourteen “dwarfs” in the UNC system have had incredibly positive influence in the development of this state.  Each has uniqueness within its specific geographical footprint that the two Triangle Goliaths can never duplicate.  Thousands of teachers, nurses, bankers, accountants, store owners, salesmen, mammas and daddys and just good solid citizens have matriculated on those campuses.  Many would not have had an opportunity for a college education otherwise.

If the basic framework of “the system” is tinkered with, the system will, alas, unravel into chaos.  There IS a way to accommodate the acknowledged special needs of the UNC and NCSU campuses within the current framework … but there is not the quality leadership available to implement such a delicate plan.

To paraphrase a legendary NC General Assembly scallywag, Rufus Edmisten …  

“God didn’t make honky tonk angels” … or enough Bill Fridays.

    For it’s next Prez, UNC could do worse than Skippa’s boy, Erskine.  Yeah I know. He’s “a silverspoon nerd with Clinton kooties” but still preferable to another itinerate carpetbagger.  At least he knows about Nantahala and Mattamuskeet.  BobLee would OK that choice.


 Swagger’s Stumper

(a Stumper encore)

Name Dr Zorba’s 5 symbols on Ben Casey.


   David Brinkley’s family can take heart that hardly a single SSays reader has forgotten Chet Huntley’s partner.  And most knew he was from the Wilmington area too.

   Rafael Palmeiro spent 18 years in MLB trying to become a well-known player.  He has finally succeeded in that quest.  Sigh, sniff, sob.

   Swaggs will be in the Mile High City this weekend.  Haven’t been there in 15 years.  Assume the view to the west is still impressive, if you like mountains.

   UNC’s Athletic Dept announced it is financially “in the black”.  It happened “on Dickie’s watch” … it’s an official kudo for The Little Prince. 

   This column just might end up in some interesting e-mail boxes … ya think???

[email protected]

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