Game #9-528: Campbell Fighting Camels at High Point PanthersMarch 2, 2013 4:00 pm
High Point is my school, always will be my school. Nine years ago, I chose to go to High Point over Coastal Carolina. As I have mentioned before, my reasoning was that North Carolina seemed to provide more opportunity for new experiences than Conway would have. Coastal's reputation was a school where people went to go party. High Point's reputation at that time was not out of the ordinary. It was just a simple small private school that anybody could go to. It had a nice campus that had Division I sports and functioned surprisingly well for its size. High Point was not known for its prestige however, and that seemed to limit its ability when I started. So when businessman Nido Qubein became president at HPU just a semester after I started, it was his mission to do something about that. But as I mentioned last year
, his pursuit of that mission has left me feeling often that the current High Point University is not the High Point University I once loved. Despite my best efforts to feel nostalgic when I go back, I never get "That Teenage Feeling
" when I return to HPU.
Several months ago, I found this Bloomberg Businessweek article called Bubble U
. It's a story about a university that has tried to grow quickly through construction projects funded by potentially risky capital investments. The school runs like a business in an effort to grow and become more competitive. That school does not sound good reading this article. We know all about various Bubbles on this website
. And that school accused of acting as a Bubble U? It just happens to be my school of High Point.
The Businessweek article probably exaggerates somewhat the problems associated with Qubein's practices. HPU has challenged some claims of the article, notably the money that goes from the school to Qubein's family. But that does not mean I am not somewhat concerned as an alum. I just do not want to see us go the same way Birmingham-Southern did several years back
. And the extent to the clean-cut appearance of our students is likely exaggerated as well. I all the time went to class dressed in a T-shirt and sweatpants, and never worried about my appearance as I made my way through campus or felt out of place. But the student body has changed on our campus, and not for the better. As that article points out, the percentage of African-American students on campus is only a quarter of what it was when I first started at HPU. Qubein has recruited fewer students who need scholarships and financial aid in order to secure more money through tuition that is much higher than it was when I started as a student. HPU has always had its share of rich kids as a private school. But it is definitely more that way now, which has led to security concerns with rich kids attending a school located in a mostly poor urban neighborhood. High Point has some of the most security I have seen at a campus its size, and visitors are now greeted by this gate when they enter campus. It's mostly to enforce parking decals, but can also be used as a means to control who enters the campus. This did not exist when I was a student, and if it had I probably would never have been a student here. I know that there are many HBCUs with similar gates as well, but I would like my school to be more open to the community as a whole.
So now that I am five years removed from graduating, why should I continue to be a big High Point supporter? None of the students now were there when I was. Some of the faculty and staff still are, but some are not. Some even have been pushed aside as the administration tries to pursue their goals of how they would like to see the campus grow. That campus I once loved with lots of trees and was well landscaped is now described in the article as "part corporate campus, part theme park". And President Qubein (I was unsure when I was a student if hiring a businessman rather than an academic was the best move for a college) is quoted in the article as saying in defending having mostly rich kids, "Yes, we probably have more students than many schools who are not in need of financial aid. Should we apologize for that? No. The more learned the parent, the more financially astute, the more discerning they are." Is that what you want your school's president saying in preferring rich kids? No! Often times (going back to when I was a student) I am concerned if we are forgetting what a university should be at High Point. It should be about educating people from all
backgrounds, and striving to make your community a better place. And HPU still does that to some extent. But often the educational and learning experiences at the school take a backseat to the presentation. The school tries to be modern in how it is presented; trying to impress outsiders in to thinking HPU is a lavish place. MSN bought into this, naming High Point University as the most spoiled college campus in America
. It's all about trying to "Be Extraordinary", Qubein's catch phrase that he has emphasized on a frequent basis since my sophomore year at HPU.
So is this where I lose my fondness for High Point? Kyle has said that a botched business deal with his graduate school alma mater Drexel that cost him money is why he can easily avoid being a homer for the Dragons
. But as for me, I will still always root for High Point. Yes, there are some things I do not like that the school does. If I were picking colleges today, I have my doubts that I would pick HPU like I did nine years ago. But that does not change that I did go to High Point. There are still a few people I know reasonably well at High Point who are still closely connected to the school today. I will always root for High Point to do better, and achieve success. I am not going to abandon supporting them. Abandoning the schools we went to is why mid-majors struggle. And High Point is still a long
way from being a major school. I may not always agree with Qubein's business-like strategies for a school, or his emphasis on the presentation. But I want him to succeed in achieving results. My wish for HPU is that it stops talking about being extraordinary, and instead becomes
extraordinary. I want our school to rank higher academically and offer a better education with a liberal arts emphasis. I want a diverse student body to once again enter our school and come away better for it. I hope that we cut back on frivolities and other advertising means, and instead get all the advertising the school needs with a Big South basketball title and a NCAA Tournament run. I know that Qubein would at some point would like to do all of this, and the only difference between me and him are how we view what a college should do to try and obtain these objectives. But I really hope Qubein succeeds for the sake of High Point University.
My view of HPU in how I care for it is very similar to my view of my home state of South Carolina and my hometown of Sumter in particular. I get disgusted with my home state at times, and the lack of progress I see getting made in it. And I often wonder why any outsider would want to come live here. I moved to SC as a baby because my dad could not find any teaching jobs back in the Midwest, while my mom was unhappy with hers. I still to this day wish often wish things had gone differently in my life back when I was two years old. My dad had a hard time in an economically depressed area finding the jobs he wanted, but South Carolina is in a similar economic situation with a much smaller population base to create jobs for, leaving me in the situation he was in 25 years ago. But I want South Carolina to succeed, and in particular Sumter as well. And in what I do for my local community college here is to help accomplish that by improving our social media communications when we previously had very little communication to our community. In one graduate course I had at South Carolina we watched a video of Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture
". The quote by Pausch I remember the best was from his youth football coach, who told him that if somebody is not pushing you harder, then they have given up. I may be critical of various things I love, but it because I love them and have not given up on them. I know a lot of people want yes men, particularly in the business world where Qubein comes from. But I always feel that we need more honest criticism in our society today.
And therefore I have not given up on High Point. I always have to remember there are other colleges that run business-like models in their operation. Qubein certainly did not invent that, and it has become increasingly like that today throughout Hoops Nation. It certainly pales in comparison to how many schools above the Red Line operate, particularly in the latest conference realignment. That is a big reason why South Carolina will be never more than my 2 team in college sports. I try to be mostly positive to mid-majors, but I have every now and then criticized schools and conferences for various aspects and will continue to do so. And for High Point and everybody else, just because I criticize something does not mean "hate" it. We too often mix up criticism and hate as being the same thing. So if I write something you perceive to be negative about your school, it's not because I have a personal grudge against your school. Often, it is because I feel and wish your school can do better (such as with UNC Greensboro's arrangement with the Greensboro Coliseum that I feel makes UNCG less fan friendly than they should be). And I want (most of) everyone in Hoops Nation to be doing better.
And for High Point, they have been doing better in basketball than in past years under Scott Cherry. The Panthers were very close to that conference regular season title that we so desperately want at HPU. High Point had already clinched the North Division, widely regarded as the weaker division in the conference. HPU was tied with South Division leader Charleston Southern, and could have broken that tie with a Wednesday against Radford. But that chance was lost late in the game after John Brown broke his toe two minutes into the game. Now High Point was still tied with CSU, and did not have its best player in eventual Freshman of the Year Brown. Charleston Southern held the tiebreaker because of beating us back on a bad day in North Charleston in late January. For HPU to win the overall regular season title and therefore a bid to the NIT, Charleston Southern would have to lose to Coastal Carolina. Then High Point would have to win this game against Campbell without John Brown, or more likely have Gardner-Webb beat Presbyterian. That scenario would give GWU the South Division title instead of CSU, and HPU would hold the tiebreaker over the Runnin' Bulldogs.
But without John Brown, I was not feeling very positive about this game. Sure, the Camels have been without Darren White for some time and have fallen way below expectations after being picked to win the North Division in the preseason. But without any leader on offense and less to play for, this was not a game I felt too enthusiastic for. I was only here because I felt like I had to come back for a visit for a conference game after seeing a game over Christmas break against Western Michigan. But I was not going to get that "Teenage Feeling" here either, as the students had just started Spring Break (the cheerleaders and dance team were present this time however). That meant that we ended up having a lot of community groups to fill the Millis Center, and the late arriving groups had to be sorted out and placed behind me in the mezzanine. But I had to see our seniors at home for the last time, most notably Corey Law. Law is a fifth year senior that has been around long enough that many of my High Point friends were still in school when Law first arrived on campus.
Law came out and dunked for the first basket, giving the home crowd what they wanted to see. But after that, most of the rest of the first half was controlled by Campbell. Campbell led by around ten points most of the first half as it looked as if HPU was still hoping John Brown could get off his crutches and make plays for the Panthers. High Point also struggled to lockdown the Camels' guards in Marvelle Harris and Trey Freeman. It seemed as if HPU just was not ready to move on without Law, and it was depressing to watch. Even when Law made another nice dunk at the end of the half to cut the halftime deficit to nine, it just seemed to fit more in the HPU mindset of valuing the presentation over achieving results. Matt Cayuela has mentioned before that this is what our fans seem to be most interested in. When Brown was healthy, his dunks were routinely promoted to ESPN for SportsCenter highlights. Now HPU has been actively promoting Law's candidacy for the College Slam Dunk contest. It fits in with our presentation model, and is what we are going for to get publicity. It certainly is an easier way to get publicity than the way I would like to see us get publicity: winning.
And we had a big halftime show with an acrobat performing on a tightrope. Other schools do it, and you know HPU has to do it then as well. It is all about trying to put on a good show. And when we have visitors on campus, the emphasis on a good show is increased. Just ask any HPU student who sees dining options and amenities increase on weekends where there are more visitors on campus whether through parents or prospective students. And here the tightrope artist did his job of putting on a good show. Some of his action was a bit slow and he did have this embarrassing slip-up shown below, but he came back and finished strong.
The second half appeared to be more of the same when it came to basketball though. Freeman stayed hot for Campbell and knocked down a couple sots to put the Camels up 14 with 18 minutes to play. But Allan Chaney, a graduate student who missed most of his undergrad collegiate career at Florida and Virginia Tech with a heart condition and who many hope can return for next year for one last year of eligibility, was finally able to get some offensive production going. Chaney in the second half got the baskets Brown usually got before, and HPU's offense got back together. Law struggled to make his free throws, but always fought hard to get the basket to go alongside Chaney in the frontcourt. Dejuan McGaughey also stepped up his game in the backcourt for HPU, which will be important going into the future. Yet Campell did not seem to be falling apart. And HPU never got momentum with a weak home crowd. The outnumbered Campbell fans at the game were far more vocal than the High Point fans who were there primarily through special community deals and now that deeply committed to the Panthers. But High Point was able to consistently outplay Campbell in the second half without dominating. Adam Weary's superhoop with nine minutes left cut the deficit to one, and now Campbell was protecting a narrow lead instead of a large lead. Yet HPU could not get over the hump of the Camels it seemed, and could not get a big run to surge ahead like they needed.
But when Chaney finally delivered a game tying basket with less than two minutes left, it was a new and close exciting game again. After Campbell's Reco McCarter made one of two free throws, it was back to Chaney to put High Point ahead by one with just over a minute left. Freeman then responded with a basket, and then Weary responded by drawing a foul and making free throws to put the Panthers ahead by one with 17 seconds to play. Campbell called timeout, and I anticipated Freeman would go right back with a jumper to likely win it for Campbell. But Campbell came out of the timeout looking oddly disorganized, and took a while to set up an open shot. Campbell did find one, but it rimmed out and was about to be waved off by one of the officials for being after the buzzer before the basket was no good anyways. Somehow, High Point had won. I never had a good feeling about this game. But yet we somehow escaped with a win, and that made the three hour drive back to my alma mater worth it.
It ultimately mattered more for Campbell, which lost its shot at a first round bye in the Big South Tournament with the loss here. Charleston Southern beat Coastal, and therefore the conference regular season title. We still were technically co-conference regular season champions and North Division champions as well, which I can easily anticipate will be heavily promoted by the school as being results even if they are not quite the results I wanted. And I know that the administration would like the results as well. And despite my criticism here, I do like some of the things Qubein has done for our university and his commitment to HPU. The school runs much more efficiently now than it ever has before in the past. And I know why he and the rest of the administration are so dedicated to the presentation of the school. The ever increasing number of fountains starting the minute Qubein stepped on campus has been the subject of jokes of our students since. The fountains and other presentation gimmicks are to give an impression of WOW (another word frequently used by HPU) and draw more students. For me, I am not gullible enough to be wowed by little amenities that look pretty but are mostly frivolous. But a lot of people are, and those are the students we get. Sometimes I have to remind myself to stay positive, and hope that everything will go well. After all, we did pull out a win in a game that did not go our way most of the time. And Corey Law did get voted into the Slam Dunk Contest! You can watch him on ESPN during Final Four week in Atlanta. That is not what I want to be our biggest accomplishment, but we have to take what we can get. That is what supporting a mid-major is all about.
at HIGH POINT 63, CAMPBELL 62
CAMPBELL 12-19 (7-9) -- T. Freeman 6-10 5-6 19; A. Ryan 2-5 0-0 4; L. Leek 0-6 0-0 0; M. Harris 5-8 4-6 14; D. Hooker 5-10 0-0 12; R. McCarter 1-6 3-4 5; D. Leonard 4-7 0-0 8; T. Bremer 0-5 0-0 0. Totals 23-57 12-16 62.
HIGH POINT 17-12 (12-4) -- D. Edwards 0-2 0-0 0; A. Chaney 9-13 1-2 19; A. Weary 5-8 4-5 15; D. McGaughy 2-4 0-1 4; B. Mikulic 3-8 0-0 9; C. Law 5-11 4-8 14; J. Simms 0-1 0-0 0; H. McIntyre 1-1 0-0 2; D. Wallace 0-1 0-0 0; L. Cugini 0-0 0-2 0; L. Harris 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-49 9-18 63.
Three-point goals: CAMP 4-16 (R. McCarter 0-4; A. Ryan 0-3; T. Freeman 2-3; D. Hooker 2-5; L. Leek 0-1), HP 4-11 (A. Chaney 0-1; D. Wallace 0-1; B. Mikulic 3-7; D. McGaughy 0-1; A. Weary 1-1); Rebounds: CAMP 31 (M. Harris 9), HP 31 (A. Chaney 11); Assists: CAMP 8 (A. Ryan 3), HP 10 (A. Weary 4); Total Fouls -- CAMP 17, HP 16; Fouled Out: CAMP-None; HP-None.
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