From the University Report (published by the GAA 1970-94)
“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out where the strong men stumble, where the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit actually belongs to the man who is down in the arena, whose face is marred with blood and sweat and dust, who strives valiantly, only to fall short again and again, but who in the end knows the great enthusiasms, knows that he spent himself in a worthy cause and who knows that if he fails, he fails while daring greatly.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Teddy Roosevelt’s admonition seems most appropriate at the conclusion of this year’s Carolina’s football season, after a fifth straight bowl appearance (at press time it is too early to boast of another Crump-led victory), at the beginning of a promising basketball season, and on the eve of the NCAA meeting in Dallas this month.
At the start of the football season alumni expected to cheer on the Tar Heels in a major bowl on New Year’s Day. Most readers know, all too well, that this expectation was not realized, after successive losses to Maryland, Clemson and Virginia. What some alumni may not appreciate is that not all of us reacted to these setbacks with the same perspective and understanding.
I learned upon my return from the Maryland game at College Park on Oct. 29 that Coach Crum had received immediately after the game a telegram from one alumnus with a terse message that as of 7:20 pm that night he had “ceased to be a Tar Heel fan.”
Obviously, that kind of fair-weather friend is not representative of the majority of alumni In contrast, our Hertford/Bertie/Gates counties alumni chapter sent a telegram to Coach Crum after the Virginia game which complimented him, as well as his staff and the team, for his high standards and leadership, and which expressed appreciation for the pride they felt in the character and quality of UNC’s football program.
During my student days, Carolina routinely held “band day” each fall with the then dual purpose of bringing to the campus high school students from across the state and filling thousands of empty seats in Kenan Stadium. For those accustomed now to the “sold out” signs for all Kenan games, it may be difficult to appreciate that earlier time. Our program has come a very long way in a relatively brief time.
Some readers may not know that after the exciting conclusion to this year’s nighttime Duke-Carolina game at Kenan, Coach Crum, at the request of his players, went to the Duke locker room, where he presented the game ball to Blue Devil quarterback Ben Bennett. Bennett, who had broken the all-time NCAA passing yardage record that night, responded to Crum’s gesture by saying, “Carolina is a class organization!”
As we begin the basketball season, again with great expectations for another NCAA final four appearance, we must continue to guard against allowing emotional responses to overshadow our sense of perspective. The “lust for victory” that I referred to in a column in last January’s University Report is very natural, but it has to be controlled. After all, the primary purpose of the University is to provide a superior education, not winning athletic teams. Our student athletes, who must succeed under great pressure, receive quality education both in the classroom and on the playing field. While it is appropriate that as alumni we take pride in their winning record, it is equally important, I believe, to give recognition to our athletic program’s success in developing the “student” side of each athlete.
The Athletic Department has reported that for years 1970-1983, in 26 sports – 13 men’s and 13 women’s – with a total of 1,040 scholarship students, 92 percent of the male scholarship athletes who stayed four years have graduated and 88 percent of the women have completed their degrees. In two sports, football and basketball, the percentages are even higher: for basketball, 94 percent, for football, 92.3 percent.
We should take pride in our coaches for their leadership in addressing some of the thorniest problems facing intercollegiate athletics. On page 14 of this University Report, you will find the recent New York Times column by Coach Dean Smith, urging the NCAA to end freshman eligibility in football and basketball. Coach Smith suggests we tell freshmen, “You are here as a student first and foremost. After you demonstrate your ability as a student at this institution, for one year, you then may participate in varsity basketball and football.”
No, Carolina didn’t play in the Orange Bowl this year. And, no, we didn’t make it to the NCAA final four last year, but we have much to be proud about. As the new year begins, let us vow to be Tar Heel fans year long, and to take pride in the demonstrated leadership of the University’s administrators, coaches, students, faculty, and yes, alumni. Intercollegiate athletics exist mainly for our students, not just for us as alumni. The percentage of student athletes who graduate must remain more important than the won-loss record, and when a formidable competitor calls us a class organization, that kind of tribute outweighs the winning margin.
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70