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September 26, 2007

Carolina faces major opportunity

The next phase to make the University of North Carolina the best possible university it can possibly be has commenced.

Chancellor James Moeser announced on Tuesday that he will retire when this school year ends. Now the school will get a chance to hire a "Butch Davis" of administration.

UNC had such a man in Michael Hooker, who was ripped away by cancer at a premature age.

Hooker was a brilliant man who knew how to play politics with the General Assembly and get the money Carolina needed. He could also listen to the faculty without being controlled by it.

No successful organization should be controlled by its employees, and like it or not, professors are employees. Some are dead weight saved by tenure. No doubt plenty of administrators could use pruning as well.

The biggest problem UNC and every educational institution similar to it has is that they do not operate within the real world. This is particularly true for state schools that feed off tax money. This is why some of the decisions made at a place such as Carolina leave the average person who lives in the real world scratching his head and wondering "What the heck were those people thinking?"

The power structure at Carolina has changed. Even though he prefers to remain in he shadows, Erskine Bowles, president of the university system, had a dramatic effect on getting a change in football and landing Davis.

Those close to him say he has been just as anxious, if not more so, to get the rest cleanup duty underway, meaning a new administration for the school overall and in the athletic department.

Who knows, Dick Baddour may survive Moeser's retirement, but odds are against it. Had Hooker lived, Baddour would not have made it more than three years.

For far too long, the faculty has had too much power in operating this school and having a say in athletics. That is why so many of them did not like Hooker. He cared what they thought and yet he did not. He did not fear making a decision, and he didn't waffle and wring his hands about what the faculty would think.

In the 1950s, death robbed Carolina of the man who could have made it a true national football power in "Sunny" Jim Tatum, when he died of tick fever soon after returning to his alma mater. Only now has the school finally found the right man to finish that job.

Fortunately, a much shorter time has passed since death stole Hooker from Carolina. This time, the process must be managed in the same way as the process that brought Davis here.

When Moeser was hired, the whole Board of Trustees wanted to be king makers. This led to an inability to pick the best candidate and the ultimate comprise that brought Moeser to Chapel Hill.

This time, a strong hand, astute in politics, must guide the process through and keep the egos of the trustees at bay and the interest of the university as the priority.

If this gets accomplished, the needed changes in the Athletic Department and elsewhere will naturally fall in line because Carolina will once again have a strong leader with a mandate to make the school the absolute best it can be in every area within its reach.

Moeser deserves credit for raising an extraordinary amount of money for the school, and no doubt for some other accomplishments.

But the time has long passed to get a stronger leader with vision back in charge of this university. The people of North Carolina, the students, the alumni, even the faculty, deserve no less.

Carolina is not the only prestigious school in the country, and it's not the best one. But it possesses all the resources necessary to wedge itself into the highest echelons of that pecking order.

All it needs is a leader with vision and courage - someone similar to Michael Hooker. Now it will have the chance to get that man or woman.

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