Ev…. One of The “Sara Lee People”

May28/ 2015

No, I have not been kidnapped by Chechian terrorists.  My sporadicalicity over the past month will become abundantly clear in “just a few more days” when this universe we share will turn upside down.  You think I’m kidding don’t you?  Just wait!   It has nothing to do with that stoopid UNC crap.

One ABC theorist surmised I had relegated my role as Official Chronicler of UNC’s Most InGlorious Tire Fire in An Academic Landfill to “Br’er Chansky.   With due respect to Arthur’s recent provocative essays, I have relegated nothing.  Speaking of “nothing”, a column on “Chancellor Chihuahua got a letter” would be nothing. ….. Onward.


The era of the mid-late 60s was anything but banner-worthy amid Kenan’s lofty pines.  Following a 1963 Gator Bowl victory over Air Force by a Ken Willard, Chris Hanburger, Junior Edge led-team, the fortunes of Tar Heel Football descended into mediocrity.   Despite the heralded arrival of Rocky Mount’s Danny Talbot, The Men of Hickey struggled to seasons of 5-5, 4-6, and finally 2-8 in 1965.University-of-North-Carol-Stadiums-Kenan-Stadium-Shadows-Fall-on-Kenan-Stadium-UNC-S-KS-00003lg

In November of 1966, the nattily-fedored Jim Hickey resigned.  Vince Dooley’s younger brother, Bill, arrived with a staff of fire-breathing screamers bearing assorted SEC heritages.  That Bill Dooley signed on as UNC’s Head Coach for a whopping $35,000/year is a bit “Yikes”.   A good not great SEC linebacker makes more than that 50 years later.

Coaching changes are exciting times for fans eager to vent their vicarious dominance over their neighbors and co-workers…..The Hope that springs eternal” doeth spring.   But for one particular group of young men it is a time of great uncertainty.   That being the young men recruited by the out-going staff and now being inherited by the “new guys”.   These step-players faced an uncertain destiny.   In December of 1966, one of those apprehensive young men was Ev Cowan.

I have known Ev Cowan since I arrived in Chapel Hill myself in Fall of 1965.  He and I shared a workplace “amid the lofty pines” for three years until Ev graduated in 1968.  Ev went his way to a career with Proctor & Gamble (I think) and I played Johnny Appleseed wandering along Life’s Corporate Highway.  ….. and then about 9-10 years ago Ev Cowan and I re-connected via this very website.

I had written some cyber-opus that resonated with Ev.  He realized we had indeed shared a rite of passage “amid the lofty pines” in the mid 60s.   Ev learned about “here” in the same haphazard random fashion that Alexander Julian did and you did and Kennel did and NCSU68 did and…… .   Like Topsy, this audience “just grew and grew” over the past fifteen-plus years and 1,700 columns.

Whatever I said about whatever, it didn’t make Ev mad; but rather curious to our mutual experience.   “Mad” is certainly not an emotion I would ever associate with Ev Cowan.   Ev was moved to contact me and we reunited “internetily” after 40+ years.   He was living somewhere in the Philly, Delaware, Rhode Island area.

NOTE:  If I make any factual errors relative to Ev, I apologize.   I will leave the Official Ev Cowan Historian role to Ev’s longtime BFF – Bob Connolly.

When I received that original out-of-the-Carolina Blue email from Ev, I immediately remembered him from those halcyon days “amid the pines”.  I am blessed with a wickedly sticky memory for such things.   I recall Gayle Bomar in August 1965 asking a Chapel Hill cab driver to take him to U-Ring-us Dorm.   I recall Marion Barnes’ GTO loaded down with sweaters and Peter Davis almost biting his tongue off versus Air Force in Colorado Springs in 1968.   Yes, I remembered Ev Cowan.

I would hear from Ev now and then when he had “whats really going on” questions about his alma mater from wherever Delaware / Rhode Island area is.   This was the BMT Era – Before Marvin Tweeted.   There actually WAS “a Carolina BMT”; hard as that may be to conjure.

Ev came down to a few FB games in the Bunting-Butch Era and we reunited in the flesh in the Choo Choo Lounge.   He was “still Ev” as I recalled from Ehringhaus and Kenan Field House.   “Bad guys” can always be “bad guys” but it is reassuring that “good guys” endure the rigors of time too.

Ev and his wife, Kris, retired to Chapel Hill several years ago so Ev was seen more frequently “amid the lofty pines”.

Those times we shared in the Hickey-Dooley Transition in the late 60s were memorable in not-so-pleasant ways.  I described those days in detail in Carolina Junction Boys 10 or so years ago.   There is a Carolina Junction Boys Survivors Group of 40-50 fellows of which Ev and I will forever be members.

Those Tar Heel teams in 67-68-69 struggled-on-Saturdays to say the least.  Bill Dooley would build a very successful program in the early-mid 70s, but the early years were stressful even by football standards.

Every young man that comes to college as a scholarship athlete arrives with personal dreams of success.   It was a bit different then from now.  There “was an NFL” of course, but that carrot dangled only for a few.  Success on the field while earning a college degree was “the package” of most 18 y/os dreams back then.

Ev Cowan was a 220 lb offensive lineman in 1967.  He was from Pennsylvania, I think.  In the 60’s, that was where the best high school football was played.   They all “worked in coal mines or steel plants” or so the legend goes.  Recruiting was not the ridiculous carnival sideshow it is today.  It was a big deal if a kid from your school / hometown “got a scholarship to play football at _______” but there were no TV spectaculars with ball caps in bags.

I don’t know the specifics of Ev Cowan’s dreams when he arrived in Chapel Hill but “what did happen” was not among those dreams in 1964.  There would be no bowl games, no rings, no watches, no banners….. but there was “a band of brothers”.

“Football hurts”.  Wherever football is practiced and played on whatever level, regardless of the Ws and the Ls, it is a physically painful experience.   Yes, there are oodles of character-building lessons learned amid the aches and pains and blood and puke…. but “it hurts”.   For the “stars”, and every team has its version of “stars”, there is some notoriety and celebrity BMOC rewards to offset the “hurt”.

For every “star” on every football team there are a dozen guys in the trenches and on the “scout squad” and “special teams” who labor and hurt in obscurity….. No football team be it Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, NC State, or Choppin State exists without “those obscure guys in the trenches”.

Within the dynamics of a football team, offensive linemen are a special fraternity.  I coined that phrase years ago – “A team’s success in late October – November is dependent upon the quality of its 3rd string O-line”.   O-linemen are the infantry of football.  The casualty rate is high…. and the glory is non-existant.

Ev Cowan was “one of those guys” – a back-up offensive lineman on a mediocre college football team in the late 60s…..

Ev Cowan died yesterday in UNC Medical Center

…. from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

That sentence likely caught your attention, if you are of a certain age, because of “…. from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever”….. a/k/a “Jim Tatum Disease”.   It was “the tick bite that forever changed Carolina Football” that killed Sunny Jim Tatum in 1959.   The “what might have been” thaMystery5-28-02t never was. …… Ev Cowan forever linked with Jim Tatum in “name two UNC Football people who died from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?”  I don’t know how Ev contracted the illness.  “A tick bite” is the only way I know of.   Two weeks ago Ev was just fine.   Now he’s gone.

Think about “that” when you are fretting about whatever you are fretting about…..

That Carolina Junction Boy Survivors group followed Ev’s 10-day struggle with prayers and concern.   The “what I remember most about Ev’s” were plentifully sincerely sentimental.

Dealing with the ultimate Rite of Passage of family and friends is an acquired “skill”.  All of my contemporaries have acquired that ability.  We are of an age where notification of our demise is NOT met with “but he/she was so young”.   We are no longer “so young”.   Such notifications are cause for personal reflection and a resolve to “get our acts together”…. or at least get a simple will.

Every “team” I have ever been associated with be they athletic or corporate had an ensemble of characters.   TV sit-coms chronicle those ensembles in WKRP, and Mary Tyler Moore, and The Office, and LA Law, and Grey’s Anatomy, and Andy of Mayberry…. ad infinitum.   The more eccentric characters tend to be the ones we remember – Les Nessman, Ted Baxter, Dwight Schute, Barney Fife…..

Maybe YOU are one of the eccentric characters in your world.   I think such designations are assigned not by ourselves but by those we move amongst in our universes.

Ev Cowan was not eccentric.  Ev was known as “Easy Ev”.   I call such dear souls – “Sara Lee People”.  From that commercial for the bake goods conglomerate…..

“Everybody doesn’t like something.
But nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.”…. or Ev Cowan.


Everybody encounters people along Life’s Way that they don’t care for or care to remember.   I can’t imagine any one who ever encountered Ev Cowan not being better for having done so.   Not a bad way to be remembered…. we should all be so fortunate.

Ev Cowan – One of The Good Guys


I return you now to what ever tenterhook you are hanging from while waiting for the “redactors” to finish redacting.  And THEN the real fun begins….

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