As seen on TV: ‘We shut down the university’

“Educators are in thrall to their athletic departments because of these television riches and because they respect the political furies that can burst from a locker room. ‘There’s fear,’ [Bill] Friday told me when I visited him on the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill last fall. As we spoke, two giant construction cranes towered nearby over the university’s Kenan Stadium, working on the latest $77 million renovation….

“Friday insisted that for the networks, paying huge sums to universities was a bargain. ‘We do every little thing for them,’ he said. ‘We furnish the theater, the actors, the lights, the music, and the audience for a drama measured neatly in time slots. They bring the camera and turn it on.’ Friday, a weathered idealist at 91, laments the control universities have ceded in pursuit of this money. If television wants to broadcast football from here on a Thursday night, he said, ‘we shut down the university at 3 o’clock to accommodate the crowds.’ He longed for a campus identity more centered in an academic mission.”

— From “The Shame of College Athletics” by Taylor Branch (UNC ’68) in The Atlantic

Sorry for today’s multiple postings, but civil-rights historian Branch is making big waves in indicting the NCAA for the “unmistakable whiff of the plantation.”


‘Iron-jawed, copper-bellied’ — and ‘zigzaggy’!


“In North Carolina’s tobacco belt last week, tongues were wagging with happiness and hope. At last, the state had an iron-jawed, copper-bellied football team that combed its hair with lightning and ate opposing tackles for breakfast. First crack out of the box,  the ferocious University of North Carolina Tar Heels took Texas apart, 34 to 7.

“The chief wrecker was slim, 165-lb. Halfback Charlie (‘Choo Choo”) Justice. He ran like a jack rabbit, fast and zigzaggy. Against Texas, Choo Choo scored two touchdowns, threw passes for two more, modestly demurred when called upon to score another. ‘I’ve had my flurry,’ he said in the huddle. ‘Give somebody else a chance.’

“Carolina folks were mighty proud that Choo Choo, in this age of interstate commerce in footballers, was a native North Carolinian. Prosperous alumni, who pour about $100,000 yearly into a football fund, convinced him of the virtues of staying at home. Like many football heroes, Choo Choo drives a new car. He and his family live in a cozy bungalow off Chapel Hill’s main street. After he graduates, a loyal alumnus has promised to set him up with an automobile dealership.”

— From Time magazine, Oct. 11, 1948

Well, yes, Charlie Justice played under quite a different system of subsidizing college athletes. Although the NCAA had just enacted restrictions that became known as the Sanity Code, they proved unworkable and were rescinded in 1951. The now-familiar (if problematic) athletic grant-in-aid wasn’t adopted until 1957.