Brass have lots to do at ACC

Staff WriterMarch 13, 2009 

The chancellors of UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University are in Atlanta, but university officials say it's not just for the basketball.

Along with attending the Atlantic Coast Conference men's tournament, UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp met with the CEO of a bank, gave a speech at an alumni reception and schmoozed with university donors.

N.C. State Chancellor Jim Oblinger has a similarly busy schedule.

Stephanie Parker, a spokeswoman for Oblinger, said many college events are scheduled around the basketball tournament, which draws college boosters from around the country and substantial media attention.

The heads of the ACC schools and their athletic directors also hold a three-hour annual meeting, alternating between the men's and women's basketball tournaments.

Thorp flew to Atlanta on Wednesday on a state jet usually used by the governor and other top state officials. Also on the flight were his wife, teenage son, pre-teen daughter and three employees who work in fundraising and university relations.

In e-mail about the travel plans, UNC-CH Vice Chancellor for Advancement Matt Kupec wrote, "Incidentally, the trip will cost less than if we had used commercial flights."

Lisa Katz, a spokeswoman for UNC-CH, said a university-affiliated foundation will reimburse the state for the flight. The Thorps will reimburse the foundation for their children's travel, she said.

The Thorps will fly home Sunday on a private jet owned by trustee Don Stallings, who is providing it free.

The state Department of Commerce charges $770 an hour for the use of the jet, or $1,025 an hour for athletics-related events. Atlanta is roughly an hour from Raleigh by air.

Katz said the state will charge the UNC-CH group the standard rate for two hours of flight time -- roughly $1,540. "He has two and a half days of university business before he sees his first basketball game," she said.

Parker said Oblinger and four staff members flew to Atlanta on a private plane at no cost to the university. He plans to remain as long as the Wolfpack remains in the tournament.

ryan.teague.beckwith@newsobserver.com or 919-812-4955

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