Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Oaks at Auburn's Toomer's Corner come down

Friday, April 19, 2013

UNC's Holden Thorp: Athletic administrators - not presidents - should run athletics

Holden Thorp won't be the chancellor at North Carolina for long. He's leaving on June 30 to become the provost at Washington University in St. Louis. Thorp's imminent departure is one of the reasons why he has become outspoken against the idea - a flawed idea, according to him - that university presidents and chancellors should be responsible for running college athletics.

That's not to say that Thorp wants to absolve chancellors and presidents from the responsibilities related to athletics. But he believes athletic department matters are best left to the athletic department, and he'd like to chancellors and presidents to have a much less visible role when it comes to leading athletics and the myriad issues that surround them at places like UNC and other universities with high-profile athletic programs.

Thorp said some of this during an interview with News & Observer's Jane Stancill, who wrote a story today that touched on Thorp's reluctance to play a large role in leading athletics. And Thorp was even more outspoken earlier today during a panel discussion that UNC hosted about the role of athletics in college life. Given all the problems in recent years at UNC related to athletics and academics, Thorp convened a five-person panel to explore some of this.

Hunter Rawlings, the president of the Association of American Universities, is the chairman of the panel. It also includes Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and Amy Perko, the executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Here's Thorp, in his own words, about his experience working with athletics at the major-college level, and what role university chancellors and presidents should have in athletic leadership ...

"Most of us were working in the lab or library, teaching, publishing, until we moved into administrative jobs where we did things like ran tenure, start new degree programs and work on accreditation. ... And then one day I woke up and Roy Williams, Anson Dorrance, Sylvia Hatchell, Mike Fox and so many other great coaches were all working for me."

"And after five years and all that I've been through, I know enough to run college sports now. But I think we can all agree that it wasn't exactly a smooth road to enlightenment. And I certainly didn't know enough to run college sports five years ago. The search committee asked me one question about it."

"(Chancellors and presidents) don't have time to do what is asked of us by this presidential control idea ... We go to conference or NCAA meetings to discuss new rules and when we get home, our ADs tell us we were crazy to agree to these changes. And they're usually right."

"The presidential retreat that Mark Emmert had was a good idea, but it has a lousy record in terms of coming up with ideas that were ultimately approved by the membership. This is because presidents are fighting political battles, fundraising, dealing with the hospital and trying to help the governing boards understand the inner-workings of higher education."

"People ask me all the time why I didn't let the AD do more of the public relations during the problems that we have had at North Carolina. This is what most good public relations consultants will tell you to do. And the answer is that the governing boards and this concept of presidential control didn't give me much of a choice. Every time I appeared to discuss athletics at a board meeting, which in North Carolina is always with the media there, was at the request of the board had specifically wanted me to come talk to them. That's not their fault. This presidential control idea has created the impression that the president or chancellor should be the one to speak to the governing boards about athletics."

"The third problem is that making the president or chancellor the only academic administrator accountable for athletics allows the rest administration to check out. Oh, that's the chancellor's problem."

"Many of the governing boards include at least some, but by no means all, people who sought the appointment precisely so that they could get close to athletics. So we have a bunch of college professors working for boards that have a lot of sports fans. And we wonder why it isn't working.

"The upshot of it is that college presidents are capable of doing really smart things. And usually get most crises handled well. But a sports crisis reduces really smart people into people who appear inept and sound incapable. The reason is that there's no place to hide."

"You have the sports fans going crazy if they don't get their players in the game, and media and much of the faculty expecting, because of this presidential control idea, that the president or chancellor can wave a wand and somehow make it all go away."

"A very smart sports person told me that the best you can hope for is a tie. So that's what people play for. This concept of playing for a tie is a very good way of understanding why our controversy at North Carolina went on for such a long time."

"I'm saying a lot more today than I would say if I wasn't going to Division III to be a provost. My successor will be here soon. But hopefully, my saying these things will make it easier for her."

"You hear all the time that the presidents of the universities have the power to fix this. I don't agree. We can't fix the NCAA or the conferences, because we have to get a huge number of our colleagues to agree with us at the same time. And we can't fix our own situations because the alumni and the governing boards want their victories, and they want the agony of disagreement over college athletics to end as soon as possible. So to me that leaves us with two choices. Either we put the ADs back in charge, and hold them accountable when things don't work ... Or, let's be honest, and tell everyone when we select them to run institutions that have big-time sports that athletics is the most important part of the job."

"I'm not saying (my office) isn't where the buck should stop. I'm saying we have taken on this aura that says that presidential control is this magical thing that pervades college sports. And we need to be more realistic about what powers we do and don't have. And part of that is our own fault, because we insist on governing conferences and governing the NCAA - and it's just not as simple as that."

"I'm not talking about changing the reporting structure. I'm just saying that we need to develop this thing that says if something goes wrong in athletics, it's an athletics problem - just the same way we would about other things that go wrong in the university, or go right."

"Ideally it'd be like all the other functions. You'd have the people reporting to you, telling you what's going on and you'd make the decisions you'd need to make and it would become a function of the university just like the hospital and the endowment and the academic parts - student affairs and all those things. It wouldn't create this giant pressure every time you had to do something."

"And of course there were lots of things that I could have done differently that would have made it a little better. But in terms of whether I really had the power to fix all the things that people thought I could, I decided I really didn't have that."

- Andrew Carter

Friday, April 5, 2013

Duke football: Q&A with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper

 Duke football has one more week of spring practice before the April 13 spring game in Wallace Wade at 4 p.m. (open to the public, by the way). In anticipation of that event, I chatted briefly with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper about what's been happening with the offense.

What have you guys been doing on the offensive side of the ball this spring?

The whole cliche on how it's about players and not plays is obviously somewhat true. We're trying to figure out who can really help us on Saturday next year. That's the biggest thing. You have guys like Jamison Crowder, who you know can help you win on Saturday. But is (WR)Max McCaffrey there yet? We've had (OL)Perry Simmons play really good football for a long time, and we know he can help us win, but can we bring somebody along, like Lucas Patrick or Matt Skura, that we can say at the end of Spring that they can help us win? That's really what we've been focusing on. Who else can we develop--is it one player, two players, five players--that are ready for Saturday? And we've done it with several guys.

At the same time, you're trying to figure out what works. What are our guys capable of scheme wise? We're working on different schemes and things like that. We have a different quarterback, plain and simple. The guy is different, let's figure out what his strengths are going to be and how to implement it and use it to, again, win on Saturday.

Which young guys have shown a lot of promise?

Max McCraffrey is game-ready. He's had an outstanding spring. And that needed to be a huge area of development for us, losing the guys that we lost. With Issac (Blakeney) playing in the slot and Eric (Schneider) playing in the slot, those guys are close. They've had good springs and could be guys that are capable of making plays for us on Saturday.

Replacing (center) Brian Moore has been a nervous area for me. Matt Skura has done an outstanding job. He's a guy that I'm going to like as the center, especially has he grows and grows and grows.

Those are guys that can say right now on Saturday, 'hey, I'm ready to go play.' Shaq Powell kind of fits in that same category. He was really kind of there last year, for the most part. But he's a guy that can go play for us on Saturday right now.

I know the coaching staff talked about getting Shaq reps at safety last year for the bowl game. Was there any thought about him staying on defense?

Well, Coach Cut makes all the personnel decisions. I wasn't in favor of that (laughs). Shaq has a chance to be an outstanding running back. Obviously, we all get selfish in our areas of responsibility.

That's only natural. How has Anthony Boone looked this spring at quarterback, and how has the transition from backup to starter gone?

It's going well. It's a continuous work, it's a continuous evolvement in becoming a starting quarterback. I told him that the biggest thing is you have to act like it, you have to walk like it, you have to talk like it and present yourself as the starting quarterback. He is wearing that hat right now. Work ethic and everything that goes into being a starting quarterback, everybody notices. He understands the responsibility, and he's doing that end of it well. The first part is carrying yourself like that starting quarterback, and he has tried to do that.

The second thing is that he's a charismatic guy. He really has a charisma about him that says starting quarterback. That's helped him carry himself that way. He's got a lot natural leadership skills and personality skills, and people just kind of gravitate toward his personality.

In the end, it's still about being productive on the field. He's understanding what we're doing, he's trying to play faster, he's trying to be a smart decision maker but still be aggressive and trying to make plays. He can all be good decision makers with the football and never turn it over if we go out there and take knees, things like that. He's got to be aggressive with opportunities when they arise. And you've got to know when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive, and he's growing in that area.

He's playing well. The true test will come next year, but the best part is we've already seen it on Saturday. He's been put into those roles a little bit, and I'm excited about watching him play.

We haven't seen backup quarterback Thomas Sirk in game action. How has he looked this spring, and do you think he will get a few situational reps, like Anthony did under Sean Renfree?

He's not quite as far along as Anthony, obviously, just because he hasn't been here as long. But he is a guy that's physically talented, he's really big, he's strong, he can run, he is accurate with the football for the most part. But he's still taking small steps right now. He's really just trying to learn step one. There are steps in the process of learning an offense.

Step one is just learning our plays, learning our terminology, learning our language. Step two is applying it to defensive schemes and things like that. Step three is applying it to game situations, score of the game, time in the game, down and distance, field position. Right now, we're really kind of on step one, but he's better and coming along. But who knows, if something happens to Anthony and he's got to play, we have to have a package to have him ready to go play.

What I'm trying to say is that he is a really talented quarterback who has a chance to be a really good player here. I hope he still gets to develop before everything is thrust on him.

There's your brief overview of the most pressing offensive questions for Duke this spring. Check back this weekend for more on McCaffrey and Boone, and early next week there will be a similar overview of the defensive side of the ball.

- Laura Keeley

Kurt Roper instructs the Duke offense with quarterback Anthony Boone nearby. (TAKAAKI IWABU)

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/dukenow/duke-football-kurt-roper#storylink=cpy