Redefining Success

Doug Dibbert ’70

In his inspiring Commencement address, the Rev. Peter J. Gomes offered sage advice to our younger son and all those graduating that glorious May Sunday. Specifically, Gomes encouraged members of the class of 2005 to cherish your failures, redefine what you mean by success and try a little happiness. In offering “a more ample definition” of success, Gomes quoted a former Harvard University president: “True success does not consist in doing what we set forth to do, nor what we hoped to do, not even in doing what we have struggled to do. True success consists in doing something that is worth doing.”

I thought about this quote as I listened to ACC Commissioner John Swofford ’71 speak a week later to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. Swofford suggested that college athletics would be well-served if a new model — beyond winning and losing — were developed for measuring success in college athletics. Swofford offered six criteria to be considered:

  • Is the program consistently competitive to the best of its abilities?
  • Does the program graduate a high percentage of its athletes with a meaningful educational experience?
  • Does the program adhere to the highest ethical standards and consistently follow NCAA rules?
  • Do the athletes and coaches represent the institution in a positive manner?
  • Does participation in college athletics enhance the college experience for the athletes?
  • Do college athletes go on to be contributors to society?

Using these measurements, Carolina’s athletic teams were again remarkably successful. Nearly half of UNC’s 750 student-athletes this year earned a 3.0 or higher GPA, and nearly 300 made the 2005 ACC Honor Roll. Our football team had its highest number of players (19) make the ACC Honor Roll in the past five years. And Time magazine named the Carolina men’s basketball team as the winner of the Academic Sweet 16 (based upon graduation rates). UNC student-athletes launched “Carolina Dreams,” which, as reported in the Review‘s March/April issue, supports children treated at the N.C. Children’s Hospital. And each of Carolina’s teams and every one of Carolina’s student-athletes again has provided an impressive 1,800 hours of community service.

By the more traditional measurements, Carolina has enjoyed sustained “success” over many years. When John Bunting ’72 and Roy Williams ’72 attended UNC, Carolina went to the Peach and Gator Bowls, two NCAA Final Fours and won the NIT. No one was a bigger John Bunting and UNC football fan last fall than Roy Williams, who especially enjoyed the exciting nighttime Kenan Stadium wins over NCSU and Miami just as Bunting, with tens of thousands of Tar Heel fans, was thrilled when the Tar Heels again won the NCAA men’s national basketball championship.

Despite losing only one game, the women’s soccer team, coached by Anson Dorrance ’74, failed to make the Final Four for the first time in history, while Karen Shelton coached Carolina’s field hockey team to another Final Four. Sylvia Hatchell coached Carolina’s women’s basketball team to the Elite Eight, where they lost to eventual national champion Baylor. Once again, Carolina’s athletics program earned a top-10 finish in the Directors’ Cup — the gold standard for evaluating broadly based college athletics programs.

Carolina’s football and men’s basketball teams are expected to face considerable challenges in the year ahead. Each will have unforgiving schedules, and with Carolina’s men’s basketball team returning players whose combined scoring average last season was eight points (out of a team total of 88), Williams will be coaching a very young team. Hopefully, all Carolina fans and especially Carolina alumni will consistently be unfailing in our support for our Tar Heels.

It would be regrettable if we took for granted how fortunate we have been to have a successful program with student-athletes whose classroom achievements are as impressive as their athletic performances, whose off-the-field and off-the-court behavior brings credit to Carolina, and whose coaches and administrators are scrupulous in assuring that Carolina plays by the rules.

My personal hope is that someday we will each care as deeply about having one or more members of the UNC faculty who earn a Nobel Prize as we care about winning a national championship. May we each someday boast as much about the latest star faculty recruit or student to win a coveted Rhodes, Marshall, Churchill or Goldwater scholarship as we do about the commitment of a blue-chip athlete.


Yours at Carolina,

Doug signature




Douglas S. Dibbert ’70

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