You have to hand it to UNC: those guys have unmitigated gall. Before their new chancellor has her first day on the job, and before lame-duck Chancellor Holden Thorp can announce whatever his “blue-ribbon” panel led by led by Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, has come up with, UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham has announced plans to raise the athletics budget around 40% and to make sports a one hundred million dollar business over in Chapel Hill.
Let that one sink in just a second: UNC sports wants to be a nine-figure a year business, making it one of the Triangle’s biggest economic concerns.
The reason he gave was a familiar refrain oft-heard from The Flagship: doing so, according to Cunningham, would “allow the university to compete at the highest level.”
To get there, UNC would need to fill their football stadium, their basketball arena and get even more donations from its boosters:
Cunningham says it would take a combination of increased ticket sales, donations, sponsorship deals and media rights to get from $70 million to $100 million. Consider that Kenan Stadium has a capacity of 60,000 but had average attendance of 50,000; similarly, the Dean Smith Center holds 21,000 but the Tar Heels drew an average attendance of 19,000.
To my knowledge, this is the first time that any word has come from Chapel Hill that the Dean E. Smith Center is not filled to the rafters every single time the Tar Heels take to the court, and perhaps it is the first time that they’ve been forthcoming on their football attendance.Â On gameday, they claim to have sellouts, but now, they’re saying that they only average 50,0o0 fans a game…and that they want more Tar Heel faithful to show up on Saturdays to support their football team.Â And to pay more — probably a lot more — to the Ram’s Club for the pleasure.
Those are some lofty goals, but comes at a truly curious time: an academic fraud scandal is in the recent past, a leadership change is coming this summer and a commission has been empaneled to make recommendations on how to properly integrate UNC academics and Carolina sports.Â No one knows at this point what vision Chancellor-elect Carol Folt holds for athletics, and no one knows quite yet what the Rawlings Commission will formally recommend and which of those recommendations UNC will choose to put into place.
Then again, perhaps it’s not so curious at all.Â Surely in Chapel Hill, they think that since the NCAA all but let them off the hook and that state government of North Carolina has turned a blind eye towards their antics that the only possible interpretation is to double-down, cry out “damn the torpedoes” at the top of their lungs and take their rightful place as the kingpin of all of college athletics.Â All before new and proper controls are put in place to prevent another outbreak of widespread academic fraud.
In other words, it looks like it is business as usual…The Carolina Way, where athletics runs the university and the adults are still in charge of the place in name only.Â Meanwhile, on Jones Street in Raleigh, the lack of any concern from the State Legislature about this ongoing madness is truly deafening.