Over the weekend, the News & Observer ran a fairly interesting piece about the rising costs of running athletic departments. As is usually the case in such analysis, there’s someone quoted for certain hand-wringing over the “big business” nature of modern college sports. And when a North Carolina media outlet runs such a piece, NC State alumnus Bill Friday is the most prominent and willing hand-wringer. However, Friday goes much further than typical generalities in the instant case:
William Friday, founding co-chair of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, said the cost of the Fowler decision is symptomatic of overall escalating athletic spending that concerns him.
“What you’re talking about all of a sudden is a salary item that’s in excess of a half a million dollars a year,” said Friday, who was head of the UNC system from 1956 to 1986.
“That’s the kind of thing that cumulatively speaking will drag sports down before it’s through. No one is putting the brakes on it anywhere that I can see, and this is not a hypothetical question. It’s just as real as tomorrow. How in the world is this going to be paid for?”
Still, nothing that objectionable. Just a difference in opinion, one that is to be expected. But read on:
Nonetheless, the huge salaries that athletic directors command are just one part of the high cost of college athletics that concerns Friday. He calls himself “a Lee Fowler fan.” He said he’s sorry Fowler was forced to step down and is willing to have Fowler use him as a reference when he searches for another job.
Now THAT is a bridge too far, dear readers. And I don’t think it requires a large leap of logic to conclude that such sentiments show remnants of the attitude that led to two-plus decades of useless self-flagellation – that any steps NC State takes to actually compete or demand results on the field or court are prima facie unsavory. And the even more illogical converse – that when someone in NC State athletics shows a complete indifference to winning, then they should be supported for doing things “the right way.”
As a SFN reader, you almost certainly know how nonsensical that is. And I hope that Mr. Friday’s remarks remind you that although the Fowler “battle” is over, the war is by no means won. Much hard work remains ahead of us.
Chancellor Woodson certainly seems to understand the importance of increasing our brand identity, and the role that winning athletics programs plays in that. But there are still people and entities in the power structure that won’t be on board. For example, note how Mr. Friday makes no mention of the real culprits in this unfortunate financial hit – the morons on the Board of Trustees who extended the contract of a failing athletic director in the first place (one who had searched and would continue to search feverishly and futilely for another job). He also doesn’t say WHY he would be a “Fowler fan” – although Tysiac tacitly attributes it to “personal feelings.”
As much fun as it has always been to mock the Bob Kennels of the world – don’t ever forget that there are enemies of progress who aren’t so easily dismissed as powerless loons. Bill Friday is a widely respected voice in the North Carolina sports world (even though I vehemently disagree with his core premise regarding college athletics – and the “good old days” when Friday ran the UNC system were certainly not in fact a “rainbows and sunshine” era by any means). And for every voice that you hear quoted, how many others lurk in the background?
Just something to consider as you trudge through your Monday.