Friday, July 16, 2010

Riddle: What Breaks Your Heart Before You See It?


(Also acceptable: a blocked artery.)

Maybe I'm being a bit dramatic, but as you can see in that article and this one from ESPN, UNC's football program is being investigated for possible conduct violations. The NCAA probe seems to be focusing on a handful of draft-eligible players who may have accepted gifts from booster types after last season as an incentive to return to school. (Editor's note: this was a mistake, as reader William pointed out in the comments...the issue was player contact with agents.) As of now, indications are that coach Butch Davis and his staff are not involved, which means that the team itself shouldn't face any crazy sanctions.

When I heard about this last night, though, I wound myself into a panic. See, I've been searching most of my life for a college football team to follow. When I was very young, an offensive lineman from my high school went to Syracuse. He became a starter and then a captain, and we had season tickets for a couple years. We saw Marvin Harrison and Marvin Graves and Donovan McNabb and future Dolphins placekicker Olindo Mare. But then the lineman graduated, McNabb left, and Syracuse has been terrible ever since.

After that, I sort of got into Notre Dame, my stepfather's team, but the passion was never entirely there. Also, they kind of annoyed me; all this arrogance and presumption, and the most they could ever accomplish was to suffer a severe ass-kicking in an undeserved BCS bowl. Then I went to Duke and was face-to-face with a truly atrocious football program. No dice. Last year, I tried to find a team in the northeast and settled on UConn. That lasted about two seconds.

So when I found out I'd be attending UNC, I thought I'd found my team at last. They've gone 8-5 the past two years, and as you read in the articles linked above, they're expected to be in the pre-season top 25. The could even contend for an ACC title this season. Plus, grad students get free tickets. Plus, they have an outdoor stadium. Plus, it's a great compromise that lets me support my new school without abandoning Duke basketball. Perfect.

Then the ticker notice floated across the bottom of the screen while I was watching British Open highlights. At first, I thought they were announcing an investigation into UNC basketball. That tickled me pink. But then it became clear what was happening, and doomsday scenarios went off in my mind. The worst of these was the following: 5-10 of the best players suspended, and a two-year postseason ban. Just enough time to make football irrelevant for the duration of my UNC career. Sheee-it.

Hopefully that doesn't happen, but the timing is terrible. Perhaps my ambitions to find a viable college football team to support are cursed. Perhaps I'm like Odysseus, within sight of home when a foul wind blows me back into uncertainty- into years of torment and chaos. But if worse comes to worse, I have a solution:

Support Duke football.

You heard me. Let's look at their records since 2001:

2001: 0-11
2002: 2-10 (I carried one of the goal posts to the chapel when they broke the 23-game losing streak against East Carolina...the nation's longest)
2003: 4-8
2004: 2-9
2005: 1-10
2006: 0-12
2007: 1-11
2008: 4-8
2009: 5-7

Question: What do you call that?
Answer: Progress.

Granted, they flirted with 'not progress' for a while there, particularly when they peaked at 4 wins in 2003 and eventually bottomed out with a winless 2006 campaign. Sure, those were some dark days. Nobody's pretending otherwise. But here's what the numbers don't tell you: there were some real heartbreakers in '06. A few lucky bounces here and there, and the Devils could've been 2-10. Maybe 3-9. Easy. And I'm pretty sure one of our coaches saved someone's life on a lake once. Either Carl Franks or Ted Roof. (This is a true story, but I can't find the link.)

And guess what? This offseason, the University of motherfucking Tennesee wanted our head coach, David Cutcliffe. And he said no! To a real football team!

Okay, so maybe our coach doesn't make fantastic career decisions. But he's loyal. And he's won more games in the last two years than Duke won in the previous five. If he goes .500 or better this season, I say we start work on the David Cutcliffe monument. (Also, let's make it look like someone famous, maybe Vince Lombardi, because nobody will recognize David Cutcliffe.)

Bottom line: I am not without options. If UNC wants to screw me, I will take my business ten miles down the road to Wallace Wade Stadium. I can't guarantee a lot of things, but I know the Devils will never be guilty of any violations. They're too smart for that. Does that guarantee we'll never play .500 football? I don't think so, necessarily. So on Saturday, September 4th, at 7pm, while UNC is down in Atlanta playing LSU, there's every chance that I'll be in Durham, watching the unheralded Blue Devils take on Elon.









  1. If you read either article you linked to, you would see that the investigation is not about boosters giving them improper benefits to return to school, but rather improper benefits on the other end...agents, NFL players, etc.

    From the ESPN article:
    "A second source said that the NCAA asked all of UNC's projected NFL draft picks to provide phone records so investigators could see which agents they had spoken with.

    The players were also asked who paid for the travel, who paid their rent and which agents they had met with and when, according to the second source.

    Austin recently tweeted about a trip to Miami.

    Both sources used the word "hectic" to describe the agent activity surrounding North Carolina football since multiple players passed on the NFL draft.

    A third source, with ties to North Carolina, said that Austin was asked about having been seen driving Kentwan Balmer's vehicle.

    Balmer is a former North Carolina defensive end who plays for the 49ers and worked out in Chapel Hill this offseason. Another source said Austin stayed at Balmer's apartment at times this offseason as well."

    I see that the InsideCarolina article has been updated to remove the word "agents" because at this point it's all speculation.

    If I had my guess, it's because there are potentially 4-5 first rounders on the UNC defense this fall. Agents have probably been all over trying to weasel their way into the program to snag a few of them. I wouldn't be surprised if some of this is because of the high publicity of the Reggie Bush situation, and a little bit of fear/jealousy of teams down the road and around the conference perhaps asking the NCAA to look into the program.

    Either way, we'll just have to see how it all plays out. At this point it's just an inquiry.

  2. William, reading the actual article is for dorks.

    Seriously, though, I did read both and knew about the agents and the 'hectic activity,' but I also read on the Scout forum that there was a possibility that some party gave the players improper benefits for choosing NOT to enter the draft, and that the agents were legally allowed to visit the players they visited. But I'm probably misinformed, and I guess message board aren't a great source of information.

    Were these agents recruiting for clients, or were they actively trying to get the guys into the draft for this year?


  3. Army football is the say to go my man, we going to a bowl game this year.

  4. As a former member of the marching band (05-08), I've seen every minute of Duke football during my time there, save my junior year when I was mercifully abroad. You are correct, Cutcliffe is amazing, he's changing the face of the program. We've been recruiting much better in state. Also, next year will feature Sean Renfree full time, a participant at the Nike Elite 11 camp. He's our best prospect in a long time, and he's had two years to learn Cut's pro style offense. He will dazzle and amaze.

    Here's my favorite story. In 2007, Duke's only win came AT Northwestern. When the student body found out, they broke into our empty stadium and took down the goal posts. You have to celebrate what you got. - Nick E.

  5. Keith- I'm always down with Army football. Another lineman from my high school actually went there. Also, you have to respect that they still run the option offense, even though it's been shown that even the fastest teams can't run it effectively against good D, and Army doesn't have the fastest teams. (please note that I haven't seen Army football in a while, so if they've stopped running the option, I apologize. You can fill me in.)

    Nick - that Northwestern story is amazing. And I don't blame them; for the seniors that year, it was their fourth win in four years. I was personally witness to nine wins in four years, although two of them came while I was abroad. But the magical '02-'03 season (4 wins) did not pass me by, no sir.

    Unless I go to Atlanta, which is a possibility, I'll probably be at the Duke-Elon game. And I definitely want to see Duke-Bama too in week 3.


  6. My understanding is that the NCAA is focusing on Agent-Player relations and now that UNC finally has some potentially high draft picks on its roster, they've decided to snoop around to make sure everything is legit. Primarily making sure that agents aren't giving players gifts and perks in hopes to sign them once they declare for the draft. So basically fishing for clients.

    I haven't heard of anything about boosters giving anything for players to return. My understanding is that the big names (Marvin Austin, Greg Little, Sturdivant etc) knew they had potential to greatly increase their draft positions and possibly be first round picks with another good season. With the exception of DE Robert Quinn (who is actually the highest rated NFL prospect on the team), the main draft prospects are all seniors, so they are gone this year no matter what. It wouldn't be convincing them to enter the draft. Only Quinn could stay one more season, but there is talk he could be a top 5 pick, so I HIGHLY doubt he sticks around after this year anyway. Furthermore, I haven't heard his name involved in this at all.

    Also, David Cutcliffe is the man. My younger brother played baseball with his son when we used to live in Knoxville, back when he was UT's offensive coordinator. He could not be a nicer guy. I was pretty disappointed when I found out he was going to dook, but you could not ask for the program to be in better hands. I have nothing but good things to say about him.

  7. William, no idea if you'll see this comment, but you're absolutely right about the mythical booster story. I have no idea where I heard it, or even if I heard it at this point. I've edited the main post itself to reflect you go to UNC games?

    Also, great to hear about Cutcliffe. This might be a lame fan move, but I think I'm going to follow both teams. Especially because they rarely play at home on the same weekend, so there's no reason why I can't see a live game most weeks.


  8. William, no idea if you'll see this comment, but you're absolutely right about the mythical booster story. I have no idea where I heard it, or even if I heard it at this point. I've edited the main post itself to reflect you go to UNC games?

    Also, great to hear about Cutcliffe. This might be a lame fan move, but I think I'm going to follow both teams. Especially because they rarely play at home on the same weekend, so there's no reason why I can't see a live game most weeks.