Can Fedora keep Carolina fans focused on football?
Posted October 17, 2013
University of North Carolina fans have always had options. Tobacco Road basketball, Tar Heel baseball trips to Omaha, and Anson Dorrance’s 21 national titles in women’s soccer are basically a cliché at this point (the men’s program isn’t too bad either, both have been ranked No. 1 this season). UNC women’s teams competed in three national title games just last year.
Carolina’s athletic success as a whole isn’t why Kenan Stadium has always had attendance problems, but it certainly doesn’t help in a town where there’s been a long record of systemic apathy; the main problems for which might not even be fixable. The small town was designed and built for the 18th century – “Zero Dark Thursday” could just as easily be labeled “Zero No Parking.”
With that said, it’s no surprise the program heads and town officials have been trying to build enthusiasm for UNC’s 2013 Thursday night game with ticket deals and downtown activities. Administrators are worried about putting butts in the stands, and with ESPN’s coast-to-coast primetime cameras on those stands, this makes sense.
It might be a few weeks shortsighted though. Regardless of Thursday’s attendance, if UNC doesn’t play well they’ll be looking at an entire half season with only one win - over Middle Tennessee State - rendering the rest of the campaign essentially lost in the minds of most ticket-buyers. Customers, Fedora and the program are desperately trying to court for long term support.
If the Canes score anywhere near their 45 points-per-game average against UNC’s porous defense, administrators shouldn’t be worried about fans showing up by halftime, they should be worried about fans leaving at halftime … in a steady stream towards the Dean Dome and never coming back (this season at least).
The worries about attendance are real – and absolutely matter – but it sends the wrong message. If 60,000 people show up Thursday and the Tar Heels at least put on a good show for the national audience, mission accomplished.
This isn’t the case. The Tar Heels have to beat Miami to keep any semblance of interest this season from a fan’s perspective.
It might feel bizarre to label any game for a 1-4 squad as a ‘must-win’, but at the same time, what else could it be for a team staring 1-5 in the face? Especially with a fan base that has other sports to pay attention to.
Those in Carolina’s corner would probably hesitate to put that kind of emphasis on the game (mostly because No. 10 Miami looks really, really good), but there is hope. For whatever reason Las Vegas is giving UNC +9.5, which implies they have a fighting chance. There is no way that point-spread is based on any of UNC’s stats (don’t look them up unless you’re into movies like Insidious 2), and since Vegas knows everything, there must be something else at play.
Maybe the odds makers are aware of UNC and Miami’s history, which doesn’t even have to include Butch Davis to be interesting:
Depending on who you ask, Carolina has beat Miami in five of their nine meetings since the Hurricanes joined the ACC. The most famous of these wins, of course, was the first one in 2004 when Miami was ranked No. 3 in the country - still, UNC’s only win versus a top-5 team.
The loss symbolized the recent decline of Miami football as it was the their first loss after the program’s last double-digit win season… which of course came on the heels of their loss in the 2002 national title game on account of a horrendous pass interference penalty in overtime… which of course came on the heels of their last national title in 2001… which of course was The U’s first title since their heyday dominance in the 1980s… which of course was the last decade UNC won a football title in the ACC, a conference which was founded in Greensboro… which of course is the hometown of backup Miami QB Garrison Lassiter… who of course is a 23-year-old freshman who’s spent the last five years playing pro baseball, which makes him just old enough to have a younger brother by the name of Landon Lassiter… who of course plays baseball at Carolina… which of course was last team at UNC to win an ACC title (mostly because it was the last ACC title given out just a few months ago).
Vegas is obviously banking on some part for that connection to come through for UNC. At the very least, the bookies must remember how UNC fared the last time they took on Miami after their starting QB had recently suffered a foot injury (does Cam Sexton have any eligibility left?).
UNC’s issues with attendance have made a lot of headlines and articles this week. But if Fedora can’t pull this off, it won’t make much sense continuing to blame fans. The coach and his football team have to remember that Carolina fans have options, and they’ve always been open to using them.