1990 NC State Basketball Controversy

Brooks Raiford discusses the 1989-1990 basketball controversy at NC State that resulted in the firing of Jim Valvano. He recalls his response as a Student Senator, which he remembers was unpopular with many students.

Interview on 2012-04-27


00:00:00.000 In a nutshell,
00:00:02.008 Coach Valvano had become both basketball coach and the director of athletics along the way.
00:00:08.088 Also during that time, I guess it wasn't all that common in those days although it seems to be very common these days,
00:00:14.319 was that he had been given a perpetual contract.
00:00:19.258 As I recall it he was always at the beginning of a five-year contract,
00:00:23.710 so it would automatically renew every year for five years.
00:00:27.912 So with that by way of context,
00:00:31.746 there were some accusations made about the coach and about the program,
00:00:35.599 who knows how much of that was true in the detail.
00:00:38.644 It ranged from sort of what most people considered fairly trivial,
00:00:43.331 players selling shoes that they got free from sponsors,
00:00:47.733 to giving away or selling tickets that they received free because they were student athletes,
00:00:52.499 those sorts of things,
00:00:54.579 to some more serious accusations about
00:00:57.583 pressing professors to delay or change grades to keep players eligible.
00:01:03.611 All that sort of stuff was in the mix.
00:01:05.809 My concern never really was the detail about the truth of every bit of that,
00:01:13.916 although those were all important questions.
00:01:15.730 What we got to was a point where there was an untenable situation, in my view,
00:01:20.500 which was we had a coach who had been investigated, a program that had been investigated.
00:01:24.543 That created a dynamic on campus where
00:01:29.151 the coach operated very independently from the chancellor and the administration
00:01:34.106 So the student body president at that time and I
00:01:37.220 contacted the coach and asked for an opportunity to visit with him, and we did.
00:01:42.845 We went to his house and we sat in his living room and had a very frank conversation
00:01:47.271 about what was going on, his recruiting practices, some of the allegations that were out there.
00:01:52.993 Clearly he had a case to make and we listened.
00:01:57.061 We also, I think, asked some challenging questions
00:01:59.848 that we had about practices and behaviors and so forth
00:02:04.655 and suitability to lead at this point,
00:02:06.937 There was an investigation by the University of North Carolina system.
00:02:10.433 The Poole Commission Report is the famous report that came out of that.
00:02:14.936 That report was heavily redacted because it had a lot of names in it and so forth,
00:02:19.898 but although that report found generally I think a lack of direct rule violation
00:02:27.239 there was an awful lot of questionable judgment, in my view, that had gone on,
00:02:32.523 so in the end I felt like the university cannot move on as long as he was coach.
00:02:36.917 Now you've got to remember I came to campus with a "Jimmy Valvano for President" bumper sticker on my car,
00:02:41.498 so I was a fan. I mean this is a guy who I liked and was a huge State fan and loved the big win in '83,
00:02:48.238 and you'll remember I started in '86 so this was very fresh in everyone's mind.
00:02:52.667 I also knew that ninety-nine percent of students thought he walked on water
00:02:56.385 and that to say otherwise would be a really unpopular point of view.
00:02:59.679 But I ultimately came to the view that it was time for him to go
00:03:04.002 and for us to move on, so I gave a speech to the student senate to that effect,
00:03:08.785 I got a lot of flack about it, got a lot of support too
00:03:12.758 from people and faculty and staff as well who were supportive, which I appreciated.
00:03:18.190 Who knows if I'd do everything the same way over again, it's impossible to say,
00:03:24.108 hindsight's twenty-twenty, but I'm comfortable with all of that
00:03:28.025 and I do feel like we had gotten to a point where for the university to really get past this blemish,
00:03:35.507 whoever you might feel is responsible for the blemish, we needed to change personnel.
00:03:40.219 Out of all this the chancellor resigned.
00:03:44.567 It had gotten to a point where there were times I was communicating between the chancellor and the coach
00:03:50.236 and they were not,
00:03:53.020 so that by itself spoke volumes, I think, about where things had gotten on campus.
00:03:57.260 We had people cutting up their diplomas and mailing them back.
00:04:00.304 It was during all this that our student body president at the time stepped down and I became student body president
00:04:06.557 automatically for the last month or so of that school year
00:04:10.074 and so therefore was a trustee for a period of that time.
00:04:13.304 During that time when we went through the transition we rewrote the contract that would be offered to the next coach,
00:04:20.064 we had to go through a chancellor search,
00:04:23.622 and I was on the chancellor search committee that
00:04:28.117 offered Chancellor [Larry] Monteith the position on an interim basis and ultimately hired him as the permanent chancellor.