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Kevin Guskiewicz wearing green for this year’s NCAA Tournament

PHOTO: Michigan State president Kevin Guskiewicz at a recent basketball game.

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By TOM SHANAHAN

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Michigan State’s new president as of March 4 is Kevin Guskiewicz. North Carolina’s former chancellor as of March 3 was Kevin Guskiewicz.

Welcome to the NCAA’s version of March Madness irony: Michigan State vs. North Carolina in the Second Round of the West Region at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the Tar Heels’ backyard at the Queen City’s Spectrum Center.

“He’s turned to Sparty since he’s been here,” said Michigan State senior guard A.J. Hoggard, offering words of assurance for the Spartans’ fanbase after the team’s Friday practice.

And that’s only half the story.

Michigan State’s women’s basketball team met North Carolina in NCAA’s Albany Region opening round. The Spartans mounted a second-half comeback before falling to North Carolina 59-56 Friday afternoon in Columbia, S.C.


More of my Michigan State basketball regional coverage from Charlotte:

Wednesday: Is there a doctor in Michigan State’s Charlotte house? – Tom Shanahan Report

Thursday: Sissoko’s long season coming up big in the end – Tom Shanahan Report

Friday: Tom Izzo’s NCAA streak pre-dates Tar Heel birthdays – Tom Shanahan Report

Friday: Kevin Guskiewicz wearing green for this year’s NCAA Tournament – Tom Shanahan Report

Saturday: The Spartans, despite struggling, stayed together to the bitter end – Tom Shanahan Report

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“How ironic,” was Michigan State coach Tom Izzo’s comment on the NCAA’s sense of humor for MSU-UNC matchups.

hat’s got to be hard on him and his family,” Izzo added. “But we’re glad we got him, and we’ll go from there.”

Basketball scouting isn’t brain surgery, but Izzo should keep in mind Guskiewicz is a sports fan whose background is as a neuroscientist. Just in case the ball coach desires some last-minute brain power in the game-planning mix.

Guskiewicz had served as UNC’s chancellor since 2019 – a time span that overlapped Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis’ promotion from assistant to head coach three years ago. Davis succeeded Roy Williams in the 2021-22 season following Williams’ retirement, and he guided North Carolina to an NCAA runner-up finish in his first season as head coach.

“My relationship with him and his family is great,” Davis said. “He’s a terrific person, and the time he served as chancellor at North Carolina was absolutely fantastic. He’s one of my friends. I wish him the best at Michigan State, and Michigan State is lucky to have him.”

Guskiewicz grew up in Latrobe, Pa., 39 miles from Pittsburgh. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from West Chester University near Philadelphia, his Masters at Pittsburgh and PH.d at Virginia. While in Pittsburgh, he worked for the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and was a member of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee.

As a professor and researcher at North Carolina, Guskiewicz founded both the UNC Center for the Study of Retired Athletes and the Matthew Gfeller Sports-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center. The UNC Center also established a working relationship with the NFL Players Association to test retired athletes. The Brand and Body Program is paid for from an NFLPA Trust fund.

Michigan State College Football Hall of Famer Clinton Jones took advantage of the program last November. He was impressed by Guskiewicz’s program.

“If I want to live to be 100 to enjoy watching grandkids grow up, I want to learn more about my body,” said Jones, who played seven NFL seasons, six with the Minnesota Vikings as the No. 2 pick of the 1967 NFL draft. “I want to thank the Center and the Trust for the opportunity.”

During his time on the North Carolina campus, Guskiewicz re-visited some history that was ignored in 1964 during a time the sports media avoided reporting on race. Michigan State was the first fully integrated team to play in the South on Sept. 26, 1964 at North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium. Jones broke off a 42-yard touchdown run as the first Black athlete to score in Kenan.

Jones, 78, was a chiropractor in the Los Angeles area after his playing days, so he understands his body more than most retired athletes. But his desire to learn more was heightened by the deaths of two teammates on Michigan State’s 1965 and 1966 national championship teams who also were College Football Hall of Famers, George Webster and Bubba Smith. Webster died in 2007 at age 61 and Smithi in 2010 at 66.

Webster had been in ill health for several years, including suffering from diabetes. In 2002, he had right leg amputated.

The timing of Smith’s death has haunted Jones.

Smith, who had rare size and quickness for his era as a 6-foot-8, 285-pounder, was battling a weight problem as he aged. Jones convinced Smith to follow a weight program, but Smith, unknown to others, was taking weight-loss drugs. He collapsed in the shower on August 10, 2010 and was found dead before Jones had a chance to guide him. The autopsy revealed heart disease with problems compounded by the weight loss drug.


Click here for story and video Clint Jones’ visit to UNC Center and Kenan Stadium. Jones was the first Black player to score a touchdown in Kenan Stadium when Michigan State was the first fully integrated team to play in the South, in 1964.

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In addition to UNC, other sites the NFLPA Trust works with are the Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Tulane University School of Medicine.

Izzo, who is in his 28th year as the Spartans’ head coach and 41st at the school counting time as Jud Heathcote’s assistant coach, was on the Michigan State selection committee that hired Guskiewicz.

“We absolutely love Kevin,” Izzo said. “He brings something I really appreciate. He’s an outward going guy. There always (is) controversy for everybody, who is the boss of something. I think we got a diamond. I’m excited about that.”

Michigan State senior Malik Hall backed up Hoggard’s opinion of Guskiewicz, who was wearing green for Michigan State’s women’s game and will be for the men’s showdown against North Carolina.

“We didn’t get to talk to him much, because he was mostly talking to Coach Izzo,” Hall said. “But he told us, “Go Green!

Click here for the Spartanmag.com story.

Click here for story and video Clint Jones’ visit to UNC Center and Kenan Stadium

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