Most of you know this, but if you’ve been out of pocket for the last four days I’ll fill you in: On Thursday, the Citizen-Times reported that the Big South, UNC Asheville, and the Southern Conference had reached an agreement that would allow the Bulldog Men’s team to host the Big South Conference championship game if they earned that right by winning the conference title. Under the agreement, should the Bulldogs win the regular season, the 12:00 PM SoCon women’s game will be played at the Justice Center to allow the Bulldogs the use of Kimmel Arena, while the other SoCon women’s games will be pushed back to accomodate for logistical changes between games.
This is amazing news and you should feel happy regardless of how you feel the situation has been handled by the various parties involved in KimmelGate. The big winner here is the men’s basketball team. Kudos is owed to Chancellor Ponder for overturning the Big South Conference’s decision on appeal (by unanimous vote) and to the Southern Conference board by graciously allowing a modification in their contract, something they certainly didn’t have to do and a gesture that will not go unnoticed by basketball fans from both conferences.
KimmelGate is now officially over. the Bulldogs will get the opportunity they deserve should they win the regular season: homecourt advantage throughout the conference tournament. Another winner is the Southern Conference. They’re a “rival conference” in that both the Big South and the SoCon share territory.
A third winner: the Asheville Citizen-Times. Some UNCA fans (you know who you are) have previously been critical of Keith Jarrett and Bob Berghaus for skimping on coverage of the men’s basketball team in favor of covering Western Carolina. While I also wish the C-T devoted more attention to UNCA, I can understand the C-T’s predicament: they’re a regional newspaper in an area that has more WCU alumni/fans than UNCA. They’re merely serving a demand, and the way to respond to that is by Asheville fans being more vocal and the team performing better on the court (which, to their credit, they’ve been doing). Having said that, Jarrett and Berghaus’s coverage of this issue has been phenomenal. I’ve heard some say that the C-T was overly critical of the University during this scandal. I strongly disagree. Jarrett and Berghaus’s articles and opinion columns spoke to both the confusion and frustration that UNCA alumni and fans felt during the past 4 weeks and gave those feelings a public voice. Theirs were rational and inquisitive voices that kept pressing the Administration and maintained the high visability needed to make this a fundraising issue.
Now, on to the losers: the UNC Asheville administration.
Last week, a former UNCA student body president asked me if I was bent on making friends in the current administration. I assume that the comment was made in jest. I haven’t spoken to Chancellor Ponder since this debacle began, and I’ve never spoken to Janet Cone before. I hope that neither of them view my opinions as anything personal or vendetta-like in their nature. I’m simply a concerned alumnus who cares about his alma mater. And, unless you’re wearing the rosiest of tinted glasses, UNC Asheville came out of this affair with egg all over its face.
If you’re a university athletics director, your responsibility (even if unstated) is to never, ever become the story. The story is always supposed to be the achievements of the young men and women on the court, field, or whatever playing surface. I believe the past 4 weeks speak to Ms. Cone’s failure to keep her actions from becoming one of the biggest stories in UNCA sports this year. Ms. Cone signed a contract which was detrimental to the men’s basketball team and prioritized the event of another conference over the University. Further still, Ms. Cone was the primary official involved in negotiating this detrimental contract on two fronts: as the Athletics director of UNC Asheville and as chair of the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission.
This scandal has been resolved in favor of the University. Now, the University community, especially the Board of Trustees, have to consider the decisions that made this an issue in the first place. Namely, the following questions need to be answered (and have yet to be answered by the administration):
1. Why, given that the format of the Big South Conference Tournament was up in the air, UNC Asheville failed to secure the right to host conference tournament games in negotiations with the Southern Conference and the ABRSC?
2. Why the University failed to resolve this issue in a timely manner once it became clear that the 2012 Big South tournament would retain the format of previous years?
3. Why the University released contradictory statements regarding the decisions it took to the local media and generally handled the story in an inept and incompetent manner?
4. Whether Janet Cone’s position as both UNC Asheville Athletics Director and chair of the ABRSC led to a conflict of interest in negotiations with the Southern Conference to host their postseason tournament?
The University has yet to provide answers to these questions. I look forward to hearing the answers by the time of the next Board of Trustees meeting.