Frank Weedon will forever be a devoted Wolfpacker
Posted September 3, 2013
There are almost as many Frank Weedon stories as there have been NC State football and basketball games, which is why I find it so strange that maybe my favorite about the longtime sports information director/ambassador occurred on a night in Reynolds Coliseum when the Wolfpack wasn’t even in the house.
En route to the 1982 NCAA basketball championship -- Dean Smith’s first -- North Carolina was locked in a ticklish NCAA East Regional semifinal game against Alabama.
The game was played in Reynolds Coliseum, which was a frequent regional host arena during that period.
In fact, it was right there in Reynolds, and with Frank watching closely, that the Tar Heels and Duke were ousted in back-to-back regional games in 1979.
Discussing those outcomes the following afternoon with a few area sports writers, Frank said, “Gosh, I felt just awful for Duke (an 80-78 loser to St. John’s).”
Someone in the crowd then replied, “But what about UNC Frank? They only lost by one (72-71 to Penn).”
Frank laughed and said, “Gosh, I felt just awful for Duke.”
Maybe the most faithful Wolfpacker ever, Frank simply could not bring himself to think positively about the Tar Heels. But that would change, Frank swore solemnly, for the Carolina game against Alabama in ’82.
The ACC hadn’t won a national title since Frank -- with some help from Norm Sloan, David Thompson, Tommy Burleson and Monte Towe -- led the 1974 Wolfpack to a title in Greensboro. The way Frank saw it, the Heels had wasted golden opportunities in 1977 and 1981, but the ensuing bad press was beginning to make the ACC look weak.
“I’ll be pulling for Carolina, you can hold me to it,” he announced in the press room that Friday afternoon, a few hours before the game started. Memphis State and Villanova were in the other semifinal.
Frank was seated quietly on the baseline about midway through the second half, obviously biting his upper lip but maintaining his composure when Carolina playmaker Jimmy Black flipped center Sam Perkins a beautiful back-door pass just as Perkins was racing down the baseline only a couple of feet in front of Frank.
Perkins took the pass in stride, took a step and banged a lay-up over two collapsing Tide defenders that gave the Heels a three-point lead.
In an instant, all deals were off.
Frank exploded from his seat, ran the baseline behind the chairs, rolled his hands frantically and screamed “Traveling! Traveling, Traveling, Traveling!”
Among the 50 or so ACC area reporters covering the game, there was an uproar of laughter. It was Frank at his most priceless, endearing best.
Later he explained, “I was pulling for Carolina, I really was. It was just that I looked up and saw the team in red (Bama) and it reminded me of us, and I just did it out of habit I guess. I hate it … but Perkins really was traveling, you know.”
One of the greats
Frank came from another era -- a time when the sports information director was the direct link between the school and the public by way of the sports media.
Media types could not have done their jobs without the SIDs of that era. Often the two parties were at odds -- coaches blamed the SID when negative reports popped up -- but the SIDs were rarely unprofessional.
The ACC was blessed with many of the best during that period of rapid growth.
There were Jack Williams and Rick Brewer at Carolina; Skeeter Francis first at Wake Forest and later in the ACC front office; Tom Mickle and Johnny Moore at Duke; Bob Bradley at Clemson; Barney Cooke at Virginia; big Jack Zane and bowtie collector Joe F. Blair at Maryland and numerous others.
As a group, they were close. One year, Bradley decided to have some fun with Cooke in the Tigers’ football media guide.
In those days, each school devoted a full page in its guide to the opponents. The opponents’ head coach, staff, key players, stats and departmental personnel were listed.
On Virginia’s page, Bradley decided to go with: Cavaliers Sports Information Director: Yenrab Ekooc. (Barney Cooke spelled in reverse).
Cooke’s nickname forever more was “Yenrab.”
The SIDs of Weedon’s era often had very little support staff (usually student volunteers), tight budgets, modest paychecks and long hours. They didn’t complain. They relished their roles and no one was more devoted to that work than Frank.
When Frank died Tuesday, I dropped a tear but in doing so, I also have a smile in my heart. Thanks for the memories, old pal.