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North Carolina

Carolina football at a crossroads during bye week

Posted October 11, 2013

UNC head coach Larry Fedora reacts to a call during play at Kenan Stadium between the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the East Carolina Pirates on Septempber 28, 2013 in Chapel Hill, NC.

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.

14 Comments

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  • jamestownbball Oct 14, 6:24 p.m.

    Really? No one is going to comment on how outrageous this article is? I liked it I won't lie but this guy sounds like he wants to be Leo Tolstoy or something. Did I really just type that?

  • 903 sing Terry Watson sing Oct 13, 9:32 p.m.

    ^The 1990s called and it wants its same old, cliche joke back.

    — Posted by slayerhil

    it isn't old or cliche if it's still true...

  • slayerhil Oct 13, 5:35 p.m.

    ^The 1990s called and it wants its same old, cliche joke back.

  • rjgolfcat Oct 13, 2:57 p.m.

    I think the stands will be half empty by half-time.
    Maybe if they offered everyone a glassof wine and a slice of cheese they would stay.

  • rushbot Oct 13, 2:37 p.m.

    Does anyone know how much unc is offering folks to show up and sit in a seat on this thursday night's game?

  • fishingfool61 Oct 12, 10:10 a.m.

    AMEN BROTHER !!!!

  • jamestownbball Oct 12, 8:37 a.m.

    Ahhh Alcohol, the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUVwR0rw5fk

  • 4tarheels Oct 12, 8:16 a.m.

    No one will deny that Carolina football is going through a very difficult time, and has been... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    I wonder if there will be articles dramatizing state's losses in basketball this season after Gottfried won his first two seasons? Will they be looking for their souls when they finish in the bottom of ACC basketball standings?

    No, there will be practical articles such as how much talent was lost and they have to give Gottfried time to recruit his talent. But in Chapel Hill Fedora is at a cross-roads in year 2!?!?! Give me a break...

  • Gunnstigator Oct 12, 6:59 a.m.

    No one will deny that Carolina football is going through a very difficult time, and has been since the "tweet that was heard around the world". Steve Logan has said that some of Carolina's football woes are a "cultural" thing, and he may be right. Carolina has always been a "basketball school", and when Butch Davis was brought in to change that culture, well, we all know what happened.

    I'm not sure Fedora knew what he was getting into when he became the Head Coach, but I agree with 4tarheels that he deserves to be given a chance. This is only his second season, and the fallout from the sanctions and the departure of some key players (like Gio) are being felt.

    I don't think Carolina Football's future hinges on what happens on Thursday against Miami, but I sure hope Franklin Street is hoppin' and fans are in the stands. Fedora - and the players - deserve support. Go Heels!

  • 4tarheels Oct 12, 6:35 a.m.

    Dirty program. No integrity. 3/4 star in state kids are jumping on the pirate bandwagon. Parents... View More

    — Posted by naztcheez

    LOL. I like Ruffin, but they are still ECU. UNC will always beat ECU for the best recruits. Enjoy your big season, oh...ECU started 1-4 in Ruffins' 2nd season and finished 4-8. Pirate fans were livid and ready to fire someone. Year 4 for Ruffin is off to much better start, how about we extend Fedora the same courtesy

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