Friday, September 3, 2010

Going Through the 5 Stages of Grief for UNC Football

"Hey Greg, we're gonna be awesome next year, lets go take a trip to celebrate"
Four years ago to the day I was a freshman at the University of North Carolina preparing to attend my first ever UNC Football game.  At the time Jon Bunting was the coach and most students I met at Carolina felt Tar Heel football was just a distraction (and a mediocre one at that) to hold us over until basketball season started.  I soon realized that UNC football did indeed suck as the team floundered to a 3-9 mark only beating Furman (by 3), NC State, and of course Duke (we sucked but we didn't suck that much).

However, when Bunting was shown the door at the end of the season and replaced by Butch Davis, an unfamiliar sense of optimism arose among the Tar Heel faithful.  This optimism was not as much rooted in a belief that Davis was a master strategist, but instead based on Butch's recruiting prowess.  In his first year he managed to bring in a monster (for UNC anyways) class headlined by top recruits Marvin Austin and Greg Little (cue foreshadowing music).

While the team was still unimpressive (amassing a 4-8 record) in Davis's first year, the team showed glimpses of talent.  With the development and addition of the talented recruits Davis was reeling in the Heels managed to put together consecutive winning seasons, each capped with a bowl appearance.  When a large group of talented juniors (mainly on the defensive side of the ball) decided to bypass the draft last spring, excitement was suddenly at almost record highs for the UNC football program.  The 2010-2011 would finally be the year when the Tar Heels established a football program that could at least be mentioned in the same paragraph as their basketball program....that was until about mid-July.

In the past month and a half, an investigation into the source of funding of one of Marvin Austin's summer trips has transformed into a full blown Inquisition into the entire football program.  Shockingly (sarcasm) we've found out that varsity athletes at major programs sometimes don't take their school's honor code seriously, and even have tutors write papers for them.  Regardless of how commonplace this actually is (and I'd venture to say it's pretty DAMN commonplace), UNC got caught and now 12 key players have been suspended for the opening game versus LSU tomorrow, including Marvin Austin who was indefinitely suspended. Given that the list of players suspended on the defensive end of the ball could be confused for Mel Kiper's Big Board, its relatively safe to say that expectations have dropped even lower than Glenn Beck's credibility. Ever since this fiasco began I have been going through the stages of grief for the North Carolina Football Program.

1) Denial- "I bet this is all just backlash of the Reggie Bush fiasco.  Marvin Austin probably didn't know he was breaking rules, but at worst he'll be suspended for a couple games and the team will be fine.  Right now this whole thing is being overblown"

In retrospect I was in more denial than Sammie Sweetheart was over her relationship with Ronnie through first five episodes of Jersey Shore.  And in this metaphor the press conference announcing the honor code infraction investigation was Snookie and JWoww's anonymous letter.  Wait, do I watch too much Jersey Shore?  Maybe I should just stop talking.....

2) Anger- "Why the hell did Marvin Austin tweet about his trip in the first place?  This is why college athletes shouldn't have twitter!  And who the hell brought up the tutor who wrote papers for players during the NCAA investigation? This is so unfair.  No one would have known anything if our players weren't such idiots!"

I still feel this way to some extent, and I am convinced this happens at almost all major programs.  However, I'm proud of UNC for valuing the concept of the student athlete.  I can think of some college basketball coaches who don't have the same values (Hint: his name rhymes with "Dawn Calimari")

3) Bargaining- "How can anyone know who got help from this tutor.  Look, I know Austin is going to be suspended for a significant portion of the season, but just let the rest of the team come out unscathed.  I'll accept a loss to LSU if the suspensions (outside of Austin and maybe Little) are only for a game."

This is ignoring the major bargain I'll always be willing to make.  If it comes down to our entire football program versus our basketball team being tarnished in the least, I'll grab a lawn chair and watch the UNC football team go down in smoke any day of the week.

This face doesn't exactly inspire hope
4) Depression- "This team is screwed.  We're going to go 4-8 because our offense still sucks and our defense is suspended.  Hell, forget this year's team, the entire program is screwed.  All our stars on defense are seniors and we're going to lose all our recruits after this.  Is it really still two months until basketball starts?"

Some of these things are still distinctly possible.  And if the investigation turns out to show that Butch Davis was involved he's out the door.  The man looked like he had just watched a family member die at last week's press conference.  Still I think that in all likelihood the program will not go down in flames, even if this season does.

5) Acceptance- "Unless our team overachieves versus LSU, we're going to lose tomorrow night.  UNC may not make a bowl and almost certainly won't win the ACC, unless the suspensions are only for one game.  Still Bryn Renner has shown promise and our defense still has talented albeit inexperienced players.  This is probably a 6-6 team that will surprise some people, but our shot at a contending football program may have gone down the tube."

In other words:


  1. "Dawn" rhymes with "John"? And cheating is fine if you don't get caught?

  2. Yeah I'm pretty sure it does. Say them both out loud a few times and you'll figure it out. And no, cheating is cheating regardless.

  3. "its relatively safe to say that expectations have dropped even lower than Barak Obama's approval rating" Would have been a much more believable comparison.

  4. Really dude... Jersey Shore? This is a football article

  5. This is a football blog post. I never claimed to be a journalist. Just trying to combine my sports insights with some humorous pop culture references. If you want dry facts try ESPN (but stay away from Bill Simmons)