"C" doesn't stand for Colin or Condoleezza

A confession: In the moments leading up to the announcement that Eric Kaler is the University of Minnesota’s sole finalist to become the next U president, I was convinced Colin Powell would succeed Robert Bruininks.

I’ll admit now that seems like a bizarre conclusion, but the logic seemed crystal clear at the time.

It started with a tip that came in after reporter Tim Post spoke with Cathy Wurzer on Morning Edition about the selection process. He mentioned one theory that regents would select a “superman” or “superwoman” from outside the U. The tip, offered with a hint that it might be more than idle speculation, suggested that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice fit the mold – academic, former Stanford provost, high-profile leader.

In the next two hours Post and Alex Friedrich found nothing to substantiate the tip. But like a good editor, as I was monitoring the regents meeting online I wrote up some copy in case they did name Rice.

Then came regent Dean Johnson’s comments during the public vote on finalists.

Like all regents before him, Johnson referred to the person as “Candidate C” to protect privacy. At least one regent had already let it slip that the candidate was male, so that ruled out Rice. But in under four minutes Johnson made four references to a “4-star general” and a couple of other military references. I suddenly thought that our tipster had somehow gotten mixed signals on which former Bush secretary of state the U was about to name.

I quickly modified my copy, swapping names and changing “she’s” to “he’s.” About the time I hit “Save” regent Patricia Simmons was revealing the real “Candidate C” was Kaler, provost at Stony Brook University.