The truth about dogfights
October 11 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

The truth about dogfights | Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

The truth about dogfights

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

There is nothing pretty about a dogfight.

There is nothing to admire in a flurry of snarls, teeth, tattered ears and bleeding shoulders.

When dogfights occur as a result of pack dogs fighting for supremacy, the whole bunch jumps in, and it gets even uglier.

Not that I have much personal experience with dogfights. Most of what I know about them was learned from Jack London's Call of the Wild and White Fang, books I first encountered in junior high and recently re-discovered online.

Dogfights play a major role in both books, and the one that stuck in my memory involved a semi-domesticated wolf called White Fang and a bulldog named Cherokee.

The fight was pre-arranged by a crowd of Alaskan frontiersmen who took bets on a battle to the death between the two very different animals.

White Fang, a swift slash-and-run fighter, held the apparent advantage on the squat bulldog, charging and biting at will. Cherokee patiently persevered until it caught the bigger animal in an uncharacteristic misstep that allowed it to get a vise-like grip on White Fang's throat. The wolf tried its best to break loose, but the bulldog stubbornly held on, slowly gathering more and more of White Fang's throat into its jaws.

Time crawled by as the combatants struggled, but the outcome was certain. Finally, the wolf collapsed. As its eyes began to glaze over, a newcomer broke up the fight and separated the animals by prying the bulldog's jaws apart with his gun barrel. Both dogs survived, but not unharmed.

I could not help but recall that story while pondering the unhappy situation at Gardner-Webb University over the past few weeks. The school, whose athletic teams are called the "Bulldogs," has been embroiled in a lengthy and painful dogfight, and there has been nothing pretty about it.

President Chris White came under fire after news broke that he had intervened in a grading issue that affected a basketball player's academic eligibility. The two-year-old incident became public after Gardner-Webb athletic officials self-reported it to the NCAA and an anonymous insider leaked confidential records documenting the incident to The Star of Shelby.

The unhappy fallout has become familiar to those who have followed the story in the Biblical Recorder or other news media.

White admitted that his handling of the matter, which he maintains was motivated by concern for the student, was a mistake.

It was.

And it harmed the school.

The leaking of school records and the handling of the called faculty meeting on Sept. 10 also brought substantial harm and embarrassment to Gardner-Webb, though none of the principals seem inclined to admit it.

Subsequent events wrought continued damage to the school as competing interests fought for control.

Various members of the faculty, student body, alumni, donors, trustees and members of the community urged White to resign for the good of the school.

Supporters of White, including other faculty members and administrators, friends and a majority of the trustees voting at a called meeting of the board, affirmed his continued leadership.

Much of the conflict took place in the public media.

It was a real dogfight, and it wasn't pretty.

Many observers recognize that news of White's intercession for the athlete was the flash point that set subsequent events in motion, but it was not the only issue, perhaps not even the main issue, for many of those involved in the fray.

Even his detractors acknowledge that White led Gardner-Webb to impressive accomplishments in fund-raising, facilities, athletics and the establishment of new graduate schools. He wanted to put Gardner-Webb in the top tier of small private colleges and universities, and made great strides in that direction.

Such progress, however, did not endear him to those who hold different priorities for the school, or to others who felt under-appreciated by his administration. They say he was arrogant and aloof, that he failed to build important relationships.

White's handling of the athlete's eligibility issue is unfortunate, but not without mitigating circumstances. It was not a hanging offense.

That misstep, however, provided the opening for opponents to get a stranglehold on popular opinion that grew stronger by the day, and there was no real defense against it.

That is why White eventually had to step down, not just for his handling of the grading incident, but for a simple lack of support. That bulldog would not let go.

I'm grateful that wise and willing people were able to negotiate a settlement that allows White to depart with dignity while preserving a positive legacy for the contributions he has made.

Now that his opponents have unseated a leader that many of them simply didn't like, the school is left to wonder, while licking its wounds, if their success should count as a victory.

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10/11/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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