(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:
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)
Question: What do you call that?
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.
I SAID, WHO'S WITH ME?!
I CAN'T HEAR YOU! GET LOUD!
FINE! I'LL GO ALONE!