Carolina football at a crossroads during bye week
Posted October 11, 2013
Bye weeks are a time for reflection - and UNC has a lot to think about right now.
It’s not a great day to be a Tar Heel in the football world. As North Carolina prepares to avoid a 1-5 start Thursday night, the team as a whole is searching for an identity. What was billed as a “smart, fast, physical” brand of football has proved to be as bland as the John Bunting or Carl Torbush years.
Carolina football seems to be at a crossroads, not just in the sense of salvaging this season, but the program itself appears lost. Caught in the 90s glory days and memories of Famous Amos and Charlie Choo Choo, surrounded by the pressures of a historically dominant athletics department, the program continues to search for a leader since Mack Brown took his talents to Austin, 15 years ago.
In the shadow of a basketball program that has always looked to its past for guidance, Carolina Football must look to its future. Lawrence Taylor isn’t walking through that door (Or any door - he is on probation).
A glimmer of hope with the NFL talents of the Butch Davis era came crashing down just as quickly as it was assembled. Left to pick up the pieces is Larry Fedora – the high-energy hire whose new school approach has occasionally been at odds with the old school traditions of basketball loyalty among the Wine and Cheese. Those with power in the program are behind the Red Bull-wheeling play caller, but a losing record versus in-state opponents isn’t remedied by any amount of caffeine or new shade of jerseys.
In many ways, with these issues, Fedora has been tasked with a job that is bigger than football - and certainly outside of his job description. The school itself has been battling its own demons for the better part of four years, pulled between academic, athletic, financial and even moral forces that are constantly opposed nowadays when they were always intended to support one another.
Perhaps football was the cause, or perhaps just the most obvious symptom, but fixing these problems has been made no easier by the fact that the college football itself is searching for a new identity on the national stage as well. Amidst a constant stream of fresh crises within the NCAA lie power, agents, cash, concussions, myths, Jay Bilas’ Tweets, and little truth. Ironically, these days the governing body’s rules are condemned with the same level of vitriol that UNC was for breaking the same rules no more than a few years ago.
Oklahoma State and the like are now the victims, the NCAA the perpetrator.
While riding a wave of revolution on the outside, Chapel Hill has been in turmoil within: alumni at odds, fans in outright wars, faculty pitted against faculty and students dealing with the sins of their fathers for which they had no hand in but still have to pay the price.
Make no mistake, Carolina is searching for its soul right now. Fedora, caught in between, is left with problems that seem more important than simply blocking Jadeveon Clowney or designing new helmets.
Can he fix them?
The Miami game on Thursday night is bigger than just the W/L result. Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleischmidt and the town are shutting down Franklin Street, attempting to unite the community around the festival that is football in America and potentially igniting a dormant fan base that could breathe new life not just into Kenan Stadium but the school as a whole. Win or lose, the calling of both the fans and the team to match the town’s enthusiasm will be a big step in steering the ship.
The philosopher, family man and comedian Homer Simpson once said of alcohol that it was both the problem and solution to all of life’s problems. Perhaps football will do the same at UNC. Perhaps a couple football wins can wash away the football problems that have been plaguing the university.
Or perhaps they won’t. We shall see.