In 1972, the UNC system became the single coordinating board of the state’s 16 public institutions of higher education. The UNC system included a small administrative staff and members of the Board of Governors who were elected by the legislature.
The UNC system became a prime target for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), because the department could work with one board instead of individual campuses. In addition North Carolina and the UNC system's President William Friday had a liberal reputation on race relations.
William Friday felt that HEW officials did not understand higher education. In a later interview, he cited the suggestion that historically white and black institutions could exchange faculty without regard to contracts. He also felt that HEW's plan to strategically place programs, “torpedoes any sense of academic program integrity.