Fans and alumni of most universities worry – in the sports context – about won-loss records and recruiting. Media gaffes aren’t really on the radar screen.
Not so NC State alumni, who endure a seemingly unending cascade of embarrassing press about their alma mater. Some of this press is reactive, such as the bumbling search for a basketball coach that caused nationwide media catcalls. Some of it is UNC-related bias, or outright hatred for NC State (such as that of the pestilential weasel Gregg Doyel).
Much of this bad press, though, comes from NC State representatives shooting themselves and the university in their metaphorical feet. Fact is, I donâ€™t know of any major university with an institutional propensity for media bungling equivalent to NC Stateâ€™s.
First, there was Chuck Amato and his comments about the mighty Akron Zips using non-qualifying players, akin to Custer complaining that the Indians â€œdidnâ€™t fight fair.â€ Then, following another embarrassing UNC loss, Sports Information Director Anabelle Myers (she of the gallant non-response to the absurd Chris Paul â€œchantâ€ fiction last year) took the subject of Amatoâ€™s job status â€“ pretty much the only relevant topic â€“ off the table at a press conference in a manner making the school look both secretive and clumsy.
Naturally, Athletic Director Lee Fowlerâ€™s gift for foot-mouth copulation has produced a treasure trove of bad press during the current coaching search. Fowler outdid himself, and thatâ€™s saying something, with his public pining for the departed Herb Sendek, his depiction of â€œthe Internetâ€ as the biggest general challenge to NC State athletics, and his claim that Sendek departed because fan conduct affected â€œthe security of [Sendekâ€™s] family.â€ Well done, Mr. Fowler.
But with every cloud comes a silver lining. Here, it was that the usual suspects were either (a) gone, like Amato, or (b) in Fowlerâ€™s case, had probably reached their limit for media buffoonery and public relations damage (or, at least, we hope). Fans and alumni could breath easy and, at the church of their choice, pray that professionals were running the ball on the coaching search.
Enter Jim King.
Who, you ask, is Jim King? Heâ€™s a member of the Wolfpack Club Board of Directors. And in circumstances which (most would realize) call for some measure of public discretion, Mr. King decided to start talking. Talking to the Technician, in fact.
And boy howdy, did Mr. King talk. First, he issued comments that seem almost tailor-made to alienate the only head coach apparently involved in the coaching search, Navyâ€™s Paul Johnson:
Paul Johnson’s a fine football coach. But the only thing I don’t like about him is that he has a specific type of offense which I think would be limiting to recruiting at a Division-I school like State. Eighty-five percent of what Navy runs are running plays. It’s a very specific, set offense and would be considered by recruits as boring. They don’t throw the ball very much. You have to have a balance between passing and running to be successful against great defenses at Division-I schools these days. I would not be in favor of him and it doesn’t have anything to do with his personality. I just don’t like the style of offense he runs.
But Mr. King, having blithely assumed that Johnson was incapable of adjusting his offense according to his personnel, wasnâ€™t done. After telling Technician that State â€œought to hire a guy who’s an existing head coach and not an assistantâ€ (a comment with which, incidentally, I agree), King proved that he had absolutely no idea what heâ€™s talking about by confessing that, well, he really couldnâ€™t think of a head coach whom State might go after: â€œI really don’t know any specific names, but there are a lot of Division-I coaches who have good track records. I can’t name any off the top of my head that’s got the experience.â€
King then finished up with a comment that was less than supportive of a certain student athlete, and son of a longtime (and non-embarassing) friend and supporter of NC State: “I don’t believe our current quarterback will be our starting quarterback next year, but we’re going to have a pretty good football team next year whoever comes in.”
Memo to Mr. King: In a situation where even Lee Fowler knows to say, â€œno comment,â€ do you think that clearly uninformed speculation about coaching candidates (to say nothing of his simply classless comment about Daniel Evans) might have been, say, ill-advised? True, King made clear that all of this was his personal opinion, not the Wolfpack Clubâ€™s or that of the university. However, this statement ignores what would seem to be the obvious fact that Technician contacted him (assuming it wasnâ€™t the other way around) because he is a member of the Wolfpack Club Board of Trustees, and for no other reason. Truly, King should have more sense than to run his mouth like this in a time when official (or officially connected) representatives of the school should speak with both a unified voice (if at all) and some measure of discretion. Kingâ€™s comments violated both of those rather basic principles.
Some reading this might respond: if that is the case, smart guy, how is it that you feel free to point out Fowlerâ€™s gaffes at every opportunity? The answer is absurdly simple: For one, Iâ€™m not officially (or unofficially) connected with the school, its department of athletics, or the Wolfpack Club in any fashion other than my degree on the wall and a small Wolfpack Club donation. Lee Fowler and Jim King are a wholly different kettle of fish. Second, when I see representatives of my school acting in a manifestly foolish fashion, as again in the case of Lee Fowler and Jim King, I feel it appropriate to add even my own tiny voice to whatâ€™s hopefully a broad-based, if unpublicized, sentiment. Which is: for heavenâ€™s sake, gentlemen. Shut up.