Eulogy For “A Peacetime Consigliore”

October17/ 2011

Every dilemma facing man has a Corleone explanation.
Michael Corleone:  “You’re out Tom.  I’m making Sonny my consigliore.”
Tom Hagan:  “Why Michael?”
Michael:  “You are a peacetime consigliore, Tom; and we are going to war.”

If UNC powers that be had a crystal ball back in June 1997, a similar decision would have been made when naming an AD successor to replace John Swofford.  But that was a time of peace & harmony along scenic Franklin Street.   A Peace that would be short-lived before Richard “Dickie” Baddour had even opened his new business cards.

In 1997 UNC Football and Basketball was on cruise control.  The Reverend Mack Brown was churning out 9-10 Ws a season.  His wife Sallie’s aquarium was a centerpiece of the glistening new Kenan Football Center.

Just south of Kenan, The Dean was in His Dome.  He had rounded Turn Four and “down the stretch he came”.   That was no cause for great concern among the faithful.   The Dean Farewell Tour was as tightly scripted as a Papal Visit.  Just promote Dickie and keep the good times rollin’ in The Southern Part of Heaven.   Chapel Hill in June 1997; as serene as a Honolulu sunrise on a beautiful December Sunday morning in 1941.

Among UNC Superlatives, I offer the following:

Neal Fingleton is THE TALLEST human to ever don a UNC Basketball uniform

Dickie Baddour may be THE NICEST administrator to ever administer at The University of The People.  If not the Nicest, then certainly The Most Blindly Loyal to ever do so.

“Whoa BobLee.  You talkin’ about Prince Tassel Loafer?  BL, you have spanked that little dude unmercifully for over a decade.  Only board monkeys have been the target of more jabs, jibes and cut to the quick derision on these hallowed cyber pages than the soon to be former UNC Director of Athletics….”   

That is true.  Prince Tassel Loafer was actually the personification for a popular syndrome among many UNCers.   But before I explain all that – let us return to June 1997 as the sun rises over Diamond Head and just before the unmistakable hum of Jap zeros shatters the early morning calm in peaceful Chapel Hill ……

Dick Baddour’s crime, if he committed any crime, was one of Omission, not of Commission.  He omitted any frame of reference in his adult life other than UNC and Chapel Hill.  Everything about Carolina was “the very best there ever could be” because it was all he ever knew.

Chapel Hill is The Finest Place To Live On Earth means he prefers it to Goldsboro.   UNC has THE FINEST Athletic program on Earth,  means better than Goldsboro High School.   He lived inside that intoxicating Chapel Hill bubble since 1963.

Dick Baddour is totally sincere in his abiding love for all things Carolina.  If John Bunting was The Burly Blue-bleeder then Dick Baddour spews light blue like a Spindletop gusher.  Richard “Dickie” Baddour was the quintessential I-freakin’-deal peacetime consigliore ….. then the first torpedos hit The USS Arizona and everything changed.

Mack would probably beat Florida State eventually; besides, no one else in the ACC beat Bobby either.   When The Exalted One finally hung himself in the rafters, everybody knew The Prodigal Roy was waiting on hold in Lawrence.   Ergo, a peacetime consigliore was definitely the correct play – in June 1997.

Dick Baddour, as peacetime consigliore, would have four duties:
1.    Pay the monthly bills
2.    Mow the grass
3.    Cash Nike’s check …. and
4.    Create new ways to say “Carolina is soooo wonderful!”

You don’t need Sonny Corleone to do that.

Dickie’s tenure as UNC AD has been gnawed like a rubber bone by Franklin Street hindsighters.  Keldorf should never have thrown that Red Zone pass in Hooville and UNC needed a wartime consigliore in June 1997.  ….. in hindsight.

Dean The Deified wanted to insure that his Farewell Tour went according to His plan.  Dutiful Dickie insured that.   Completely lost in the administrative devastation that soon fell upon the Orange County landscape were the admin changes that The Most Loyal Tar Heel did implement.

While Little Johnny was revered, he, like all administrators had his “I’d rather nots” on his To Do List.  For Johnny that meant cleaning out the dead and dying wood on his staff.   There were a handful of personnel changes that were well past due in 1997 and, bless his heart, Dickie did’em.

Dickie implemented six significant staff changes in his first few months.  The most noteworthy was bringing in Mike Fox as Baseball Coach to replace Brian Roberts’ daddy.  That has worked out pretty well, wouldn’t you say?  So have the others ….. but, alas, those under-the-radar changes were under-the-radar.  It was The Biggies that ended up kneecapping “as nice a guy as ever harked the sound”.

Dickie and my paths have crossed very amicably a dozen or so times in the past decade.  I spoke to his Rotary Club a few years ago.  He had to catch a plane but dropped by to say hi before I took the podium.  The most recent encounter was this past Saturday in Kenan’s Choo Choo Lounge.
I was kick-backed watching Interim Ev’s boys in HD on the flat screens when Dickie rushed in.  He was squiring some VIPs around in a golf cart and needed some of Boz’ UNC buttermints.  He said “Hi” again – asked where the buttermints were – I said “Hi” and pointed to the silver bowl on the counter.  He said “Thanks”, grabbed a handful and scooted back to his cartful of VIPs.   Exciting repartee huh.

The pristine world that Dick Baddour inherited from Little Johnny quickly went sour when Austin called Mack.   Dickie’s AD World never re-synced from that one.  There have been numerous high spots and net cuttings on Dickie’s Watch but in the minds of many in TarHeelNation those high spots were “in spite of” Dick Baddour.  ….. To many the name Baddour conjures up memories of – the Torbush players’ petition – the Beamer Flim Flam – Roy’s “I’m staying” – Matt’s pissed-off posse – the Burly Blue-bleeder’s crash & burn – and, of course, The unmitigated disaster of The BOT3 & Butch.  The devastation from that nuke leaving UNC Athletics looking like Joplin after the tornado.

The untimely death of Chancellor Michael Hooker was fate’s cruelest gotcha for Dick Baddour.   With Hooker at his side, Dickie might have weathered many if not all the storms that have rocked his reign.   There would likely have been more practical solutions, less high-profile oopses.

Those endlessly painful press conferences with Dickie & Meezie aka Laurel & Hardy Pretend To Understand Sports burned out more than their share of retinas.  Damn, those were painful.   But, bless his heart, Dick Baddour stood up there and did the very best he could.  As out of his element as I would be singing the lead in Barber Of Seville at The Met.  The bewildered peacetime consigliore destined by circumstance to give us the latest body count from the endless “did WHAT” that have rocked UNC Athletics.

When it came to UNC, Dick Baddour was not simply “a cock-eyed optimist”.   Dick was cock-eyed – cross-eyed – punch drunk and bone-deep convinced that UNC was six rungs above Heaven itself in perfection.  He truly believed that and no doubt still does..  So do many UNC fans, which is what Dick Baddour has always been – a stone-blind blue-bleeding UNC Super Fan.

As Baghdad Bob believed Saddam Hussein was kicking USA butt in the Iraqi desert …. Dick Baddour truly believed every cheerleader a virgin – every athlete a Boy Scout and Lord knows what was going on as The Great Unpleasantness ripped asunder the curtain of innocence from Dick Baddour’s UNC.

The Dick Baddour Farewell Tour will be polite and appropriate to the man’s 30+ years of faithful service to his alma mater.  There will be rocking chairs and plaques aplenty.  Such presents and plaudits are deserved.

Richard “Dickie” Baddour – UNC’s quintessential peacetime consigliore – during a most unpeaceful era.   A good and honest and gentle gentleman – who dedicated his professional life to the only job he ever wanted – doing whatever he was asked by The University he loves.

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