Saunders: Kupec-Hansbrough relationship is our business if money was misused

bsaunders@newsobserver.comSeptember 12, 2012 

It would be unusual, sure, but UNC football coach Larry Fedora might want to call on Chancellor Holden Thorp for help running the offense Saturday.

Perhaps Thorp could draw a diagram of that end-around play that he and Vice Chancellor Matt “Kupid” Kupec ran so effectively – for a while, anyway – that let Kupec get his girlfriend a new university job after the idea was initially rejected.

When the team breaks huddle against Louisville and sees how the opposing defense is lined up, wouldn’t it be delicious to hear the quarterback yell “Tami, Tami, Tami. Matt, Matt, Matt” to signal a trick play involving deception and sleight-of-hand?

Kupec, the university’s chief fundraiser, left his wife in October 2009. They have four kids. His wife eventually charged him with marital misconduct. That was soon after Tami Hansbrough arrived in Chapel Hill to cheer on her basketball-playing son, Tyler. Tami, a former Miss Missouri – The Show Me State – must’ve shown Kupec something because they began a relationship, and he went to work helping her get a job at the university.

They also traveled together to see her other son play basketball for Notre Dame on the university’s dime. Both Kupec and Hansbrough have now resigned.

Confused? You won’t be after future installments of “The Real Housewife of Orange County.”

Forget that old saw about skinning a cat: From Thorp and Kupec we’re learning that there’s more than one way to employ a paramour. Kupec initially wanted to hire Hansbrough to work right there in his office as a fundraiser, but Thorp said his knowledge of their relationship led him to put the kibosh on that move.

Honey and money

“Say, boss. Can I hire my old lady to work for me?”

Thorp should’ve booted Kupec out of his office and off campus for even suggesting such an unethical arrangement.

Instead, Thorp punted, allowing him to claim that he upheld the letter of the rule against nepotism. Yes, but he indisputably allowed Kupec to skirt the rule’s intent, which is to prevent employees from getting their honey where they get their money.

Thorp was also admittedly cool with the subsequent idea of Kupec and Winston Crisp, vice chancellor for student affairs, to create a “gifts officer” position for which Hansbrough emerged as a perfect fit after a “wide-open, full search,” Crisp said. “Without regard to what Matt may or may not have been doing, Tami emerged as the appropriate candidate outright.”

I checked with reporter Dan Kane, and sure enough, Crisp said that without laughing.

Travel records request

Kupid’s kutie began working on Valentine’s Day, 2011.

Awww, ain’t that cute?

Heck no. Thorp eventually accepted Kupec’s resignation after confronting him with evidence that the pair had taken trips that weren’t work-related. Thorp did that only after our reporter began nosing around for the travel records – in other words, when the posse was at the front door.

My philosophy on other people’s business comes from the Rev. Ike who, in a duet with Hank Williams Jr., sang, “Minding other people’s business seems to be high-tone. But I’ve got all that I can do just minding my own.”

Me, too, Rev.

The Matt and Tami situation is a personal tragedy. But it also speaks to the ethical standards of the university. That’s the part we should be concerned about.

Kupec should reimburse the university for the inappropriate travel. He circumvented rules to have his girlfriend hired in a job closely tied to his and traveled with her at university expense. He needs to answer to that.

You too, Chancellor Thorp.

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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