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With today's announcement of a basketball alumni game scheduled the night before the home football opener in celebration of North Carolina's 100th year of basketball, the brass at the oldest public University in the United States has made a statement much louder than the one they made with Butch Davis' raise following his rookie 4-8 campaign.
But I'm not going to settle into the pulpit and take the holier-than-thou approach by saying that the university doesn't want the football program to pull up alongside the hoopsters in UNC lore. Sadly, for anyone with hopes of a perennial football power in Chapel Hill, it's something much more troubling than that.
It seems to me that UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour simply doesn't believe Davis can hold up his program on his own—that he needs Roy Williams & Co. to help him along.
That's the kind of attitude that eventually led Mack Brown to Austin. How's he doing over there, anyway?
Reasoning aside, this attitude—whether intentional or a subconscious tendency—is dangerous for UNC football.
The argument I expect to hear most from North Carolina fans and non-fans alike is a simple one: If people are in town for the alumni game, they'll go to the football game. It's a win-win.
No. It's a win-lose. UNC basketball wins. UNC football loses.
I won't take the easy road in this argument, either. It would be too simple to say, "Ten years from now, what are fans going to remember?"
So I pose you with this question, Tar Heels:
For the next two-and-a-half months, what are fans going to be talking about? And what about the week or so afterward?
You guessed it. Carolina basketball...more than two months before the first game. With preseason football mags hitting the shelves—and UNC ranked in the top 25 in many of them—UNC basketball is stealing the thunder again.
And there is no need for it.
The statement released on TarHeelBlue.com says the game is just the beginning of a season's worth of celebration. They're celebrating from the night before opening kickoff through (Tar Heel fans hope) April?
Why not something a little more time appropriate? How about the night before Late Night with Roy (UNC fans are counting down already, anyway)? That's still about two weeks before the NBA opens its marathon season.
And if the UNC administration is desperate to pair it with a home football game, why not just two weeks before the first basketball practice (Oct. 2), the night before the Virginia game? That way, fans get to see a once-in-a-lifetime hoops scrimmage AND the oldest rivalry in the ACC—two games worth talking about.
If you think the same post-basketball hangover would affect Tar Heel fans' memories that weekend, too, you might be right...if the football team hasn't taken care of business on the field against East Carolina and Georgia Tech the past two Saturdays, but then Davis would have no one to blame but himself.
But the date is set. In fact, it seems to have been for quite a while—check out Adam Lucas' response to one Mr. Andy Fishel on Nov. 24, 2008.
So on Sept. 5—when Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant are manhandling Citadel backs, receivers and QBs—Joe Fratbag and Jane Sundress, along with Mr. and Mrs. Charles K. Benefactor—will be reminiscing about what an amazing show they saw last night in the Dean Dome...and walking out in the third quarter so as to beat traffic.
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