The dominant local topics of 2012
Posted December 27, 2012
As another year comes to a close, we're bombarded with best-of lists and top moments. So here's another one for good measure, listing the dominant local topics of 2012.
Honorable mentions: Tom O'Brien fired by NC State. Duke becomes bowl eligible after beating North Carolina. Lehigh bounces Duke out of the NCAA Tournament. Kendall Marshall's wrist. Julius Peppers' college transcript found on a North Carolina server. Lorenzo Brown called for a charge on Kendall Marshall in ACC Tournament. David Amerson burnt by Tennessee. Bryn Renner takes nasty hit against Wake Forest. Giovani Bernard's ankle.
5. Does anyone know which teams are in what conference?
Conference realignment was the lumbering behemoth that trampled over every other storyline in college sports. While not exactly a local topic of discussion, the repercussions had potential impact on local schools. There were "primary partnerships" to be saved, waning interest in tournaments to be fixed and outlandish speculation about which conference was withering on the vine.
From Notre Dame joining the ACC to Maryland's defection, John Swofford barely had any time to shop for new golf polos.
4. Giovani Bernard's punt return snaps Heels' streak against Wolfpack
For a rivalry that doesn't register outside the state, NC State and North Carolina have produced great "never forget" moments on the football field in the last 10 years. Giovani Bernard's touchdown return lifting the Tar Heels over the Wolfpack was just the latest example.
While NC State fans begrudging tipped their cap to Bernard's play-making ability, similar to how North Carolina fans did with Russell Wilson, they weren't willing to accept the coaching decisions in and around the punt.
It wasn't the first time Tom O'Brien played not to lose, but the recently fired coach certainly had logic behind his choice. The Wolfpack lacked their offensive rhythm from previous quarters. Much of that had to do with North Carolina adjusting defensively. The Tar Heels finally put pressure on Mike Glennon, sacking him earlier in the quarter and hurrying a few throws. So the last thing O'Brien wanted was a punt out of the end zone or worse -- another turnover.
Then there was the punt itself. O'Brien said after the game the intent was to boot it high and force a fair catch, but arm-chair coaches with the benefit of hindsight screamed Will Baumann should have been instructed to kick the ball out of bounds (even if it wasn't in his skill set).
3. Roy Williams leaves "Blue Steel" behind
North Carolina coach Roy Williams has always been sensitive to the environment surrounding his bench. He infamously alerted Smith Center security to a Presbyterian fan who obtained a ticket to a limited section and heckled Tar Heels at the free throw line. Williams burned a week's worth of media appearances after the UNLV loss talking about Rams Club members who sell their tickets and BB guns.
So when the Tar Heels were experiencing a 33-point drubbing at the hands of Florida State and it appeared all of Tallahassee wanted to rush the court, Williams wanted his team out of there. Completely understandable and not the first time a team cleared their bench before the crowd dissolved into pandemonium. It was Williams' glib attitude to the logistics of ending a game with 14.2 seconds on the clock, without much ACC precedent to do so, that gave the story meat on the bone.
Williams was aware enough to be concerned about the crowd, but absent minded to the fact nobody on his team really knew the plan. How else can one explain Leonard Hamilton pointing out to Williams that players from his bench had not budged while he started to walk off the court. Williams might have noticed the five remaining players were setting up for an inbounds play had it not been for the fact he was first person in the exit procession.
2. Austin Rivers' 3-pointer beats North Carolina
Highlights of Duke's game-winner from Austin Rivers will be shown in perpetuity, placed alongside other iconic moments of the rivalry with North Carolina. What we'll forget as time passes was the immense amount of hand wringing that took place after the game, all of which played out on talk radio and social media.
North Carolina's series of miscues leading up to the dramatic climax were dissected ad nauseam. Rivers' performance was viewed as a breakthrough for offensive chemistry, giving the freshman the green-light to truly take over. Image macros of the shot went viral around the office. There was also the matter of how these teams would overcome the hangover of such an emotionally draining ending.
In Chapel Hill, the main concern was over Tyler Zeller's mental toughness. Remember, he was the guy who Rivers shot over. It was an odd talking point since he was a seasoned senior, but he did have a brutal couple of minutes in the Smith Center. So much so that Zeller and Roy Williams engaged in some dark humor in the following days.
"I asked him Thursday night when I called him late, I said 'Are you thinking about getting the knives out and slicing your wrist?' He said 'Maybe,'" recalled Williams. "I said, 'Well if you're gonna do that then call me and I'll come do it with you.' I told him my son would want to know it first so he could change the will and get control of everything."
Offensive? Hardly, but that didn't stop people for acting like it was and it simply created more discussion in the wake of Duke's win.
1. Wolfpack Unlimited
Had Karl Hess ejected a pair of random fans, it never becomes a story. Telling Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta to vacate their seats during a February ACC contest between NC State and Florida State was obviously going to draw a few more eyeballs. That's easy to figure out in the moment, but nobody could have predicted the ripple effect still being felt today.
In retrospect, the ACC did itself no favors in the way they handled Hess' ejection of high profile former players. First they released a vague explanation involving procedural matters followed by a more substantive explanation and public reprimand of Hess. The ACC then pulled Hess from NC State's next home game against Miami and reassigned him to another conference game, which essentially acted as a form of suspension and prolonged the inevitable return.
NC State stoked the flames further with their "Wolfpack Unlimited" stunt and their continued use of the incident for cheap pops on the pep rally/booster circuit.
Despite working the Duke's regular season closer against North Carolina, Hess was still chapped enough that he decided the ACC Tournament wasn't worth his time. His officiating colleagues offered up a small level of protest when they showed up in Atlanta with "K.H." on their shoes penned on masking tape.
You'd think this story was done, but it likely isn't. Check Twitter before the start of any game involving ACC teams and you'll likely find a "where is Karl Hess" hashtag in your timeline. Real closure will be provided once Hess works another game inside PNC Arena.