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Friday, Thorp at odds over Limbaugh

Posted March 6, 2012 8:19 p.m. EST

UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp and longtime system president Bill Friday seem to be at odds over an alumni petition asking the school to take its sports broadcasts away from stations that air Rush Limbaugh's show.

Several hundred UNC alumni have signed an online petition asking the university to pull its "Tar Heel Sports Network"  from stations that also carry the controversial conservative talk show.

Limbaugh is under fire for calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" after she testified at a Congressional hearing on mandated insurance coverage for birth control. “If we’re paying for all that sex, she has to post the video for us," Limbaugh said last week. 

Limbaugh has since apologized for his comments. But some angry alumni say stations that carry the school's sports broadcasts should have to choose between those broadcasts and Limbaugh's show. Seven stations in the Tar Heel Sports Network currently carry both, including Raleigh's Rush Radio, WRDU 106.1 .

UNC president emeritus Bill Friday told WRAL Tuesday that the university's mission is to expose students to all viewpoints and help them learn to evaluate them. But if the decision were up to him, Friday said, he would take UNC sports off stations that continue to air Rush.

"Using those words that were used to characterize that individual [Fluke] come pretty close to being fairly abusive of character and integrity. And that, I don't have much patience with, myself," said Friday, arguing for a return to civility in public discourse. 

Asked for comment on the petition and Friday's comment, Thorp's administration responded via Associate Athletic Director for Marketing Rick Steinbacher, the contract manager for the Tar Heel Sports Network. 

In a written statement, Steinbacher pointed out that the network has more than 50 radio affiliates providing radio coverage for men's basketball and football broadcasts across the state. 

"They look for the stations that will agree to carry their radio broadcasts that cover as much of the population in any particular geographic area as possible," Steinbacher explained. "In this regard a 100,000 watt FM station such as WRDU 106.1 in the Triangle provides excellent coverage for the Triangle Region and surrounding counties in North Carolina."

Steinbacher said stations in the Tar Heel Sports Network provide "an assortment of non-game time content including rock, country (which WRDU 106.1 was when they first became an affiliate), liberal, conservative, Spanish and many other types of programming."

"The University, the Athletics Department, and Tar Heel Sports Properties does not control or in any way endorse the normal programming of any of the stations that air the game broadcasts including the recent comments by Rush Limbaugh aired on WRDU 106.1," he concluded.

Pressed again on whether Thorp would weigh the issue in renewing contracts with stations, UNC officials wouldn't say.