When a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it still make a sound if it had failed four drug tests?
Slipping under just about everyone's radar, disgraced shot putter C.J. Hunter signed on as a part-time assistant strength coach with North Carolina State in 2001. But with Hunter moving up to a full-time gig recently and making headlines with his accusations about ex-wife Marion Jones, people are taking note of just exactly who is teaching the Wolfpack how to get bigger and stronger.
The University's Council on Athletics will likely discuss the matter in a meeting later this month. But, of course, Page 2 already has an advance transcript of the affair.
Chairman: The Council on Athletics wishes to thank Mr. Hunter for appearing today. While we realize it is unusual to call witnesses at these proceedings, we feel the reputation of the University is at stake and demands our full attention. We wish to remind Mr. Hunter that these proceedings are purely for fact-finding purposes and this committee has no power to suspend or terminate him from his current position . . . although we can take away your season tickets to Wolfpack basketball.
All right, we can't do that, but we can make sure you aren't sitting on an aisle. Will you please state you name and position within the athletic department?
Hunter: C. J. Hunter, strength and conditioning coach for the football team.
Chairman: And prior to your employment at North Carolina State, you qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympics in the shot put?
Hunter: That's correct.
Chairman: And how'd you do?
Hunter: I retired prior to the competition.
Chairman: Spot of poor timing, that. What was your reasoning in deciding not to compete in the 2000 Olympics?
Hunter: It worked out well for Dan O'Brien, so I figured it was worth a shot . . . so to speak.
Chairman: Cute. May we remind you that while we have no power whatsoever, we can make you sit here and answer annoyingly repetitive questions all day.
Hunter: I was told by the International Track and Field Federation that it would reflect poorly on Marion Jones, my wife at the time, if I attempted to compete in Sydney. They claimed I failed a drug test.
Chairman: You disagree?
Hunter: Completely. I was framed.
Chairman: But you failed three previous tests for illegal substances?
Hunter: Who better to frame than a man who looks guilty.
Committee member: And you don't feel as if those failed drug tests send a negative message to the student-athletes you are now paid to instruct and mentor?
Hunter: Not at all. They know that with a little hard work and ingenuity, they can pass any test.
Committee member: Can you tell us what sort of coaching techniques you have implemented during your time with the team?
Hunter: I try and run a tight ship, while stressing the importance of mental discipline in building muscle mass. We keep the players on a very strict schedule. We issue a syllabus just like in any other class, and we make sure someone reads it to them. It's very important they know when exams are coming up, so they can be sure not to be seen out in public at those times.
Committee member: I see. So you would say your role extends beyond the weight room?
Hunter: Oh, absolutely. I'm a big proponent of academics -- especially biology, chemistry and nutrition.
Committee member: Right. On that last point, what sort of nutrition advice do you give?
Hunter: Balance and variety are key. If the kids get bored, they aren't going to stick with it. That's why we mix up the colors of the pills and make a game out of remembering to take the yellow pills before the blue pills. Let me tell you, kids never liked eating their greens so much.
Committee member: I'd like to call Phillip Rivers to testify.
Chairman: Why? Because he played football when Hunter was on the staff?
Committee member: Umm, sure. And because he's been hanging around here for weeks with nothing to do. It's getting a little sad watching him throw touchdowns to Tim Dwight with himself on Madden 2005.
Chairman: Maybe we can save Mr. Rivers for another day and move on.
Committee member: Mr. Hunter, what about your connections to Victor Conte, the founder of BALCO? Isn't it true you wrote out a rather large check to Conte that was drawn from Jones' bank account? Doesn't that suggest rather strong ties with a man known to peddle steroids to elite athletes?
Hunter: That was taken completely out of context. The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative is a legitimate nutritional supplement company. That check was for a lifetime supply of St. John's Wort and Kava Kava. I got a little depressed when Seinfeld went off the air.
Committee member: Would you ever consider recommending a legal but controversial supplement to a member of the football team?
Hunter: Absolutely not.
Committee member: How about now?
Committee member: All right . . . how about now?
Chairman: Cut it out.
Committee member: What about those who say your recent accusations about your ex-wife are little more than retribution for a messy divorce? We ask our athletes to conduct themselves with the utmost civility; how can we ask any less of our coaches?
Hunter: I'd be crazy to go after Marion's reputation like that. Everyone would suspect me. What I said was the truth, pure and simple. Now, going after Tim Montgomery's career -- that's the way to get a slice of revenge pie.
Committee member: Mr. Hunter, let's cut to the chase. Isn't it true that you directly caused the death of a horse under the employ of campus police by giving the animal illegal drugs?
Hunter: Umm, no, that's false. I believe you're thinking of the movie "Half Baked."
Committee member: So you never said, and I quote, "Get some sour cream and onion chips with dip, man, some beef jerky, some peanut butter. Get some Haagen Daas ice-cream bars, a whole lot, make sure chocolate, gotta have chocolate man. Some popcorn, red popcorn, graham crackers, graham crackers with marshmallows, the little marshmallows and little chocolate bars and we can make smores, man." ?
Hunter: Uh, no. That's a line from Jim Breur's character in "Half Baked."
Committee member: Right, my apologies. Look, can we get two big pizzas in here? With Funyons?
Chairman: The witness will disregard all further questions from the Philosophy Department's representative.
Committee member: If I may, Mr. Chairman? I feel I speak for the entire committee in saying we cannot rest until one issue, and one issue alone, is settled with regards to Mr. Hunter's position with the football team. Mr. Hunter, are you, or have you ever been, a fan of either the University of North Carolina or Duke University?
Committee member: What about Wake Forest?
Committee member: Shut up, nobody cares about Wake Forest. Mr Hunter, if you will?
Chairman: Right, well I'm satisfied. Anyone else have any objections? No? Good, thank you for your time, Mr. Hunter.
Graham Hays writes "Out of the Box" five days a week in-between moonlighting for Page 2. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.