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R&R Q&A: TarHeelFanBlog.com

November 19, 2010

You didn’t think I’d pass up a chance to do a Q&A on the week of the Carolina game, did you? Hell no!

My questions were offered up to TarHeelFanBlog.com, in my opinion the best, most fair Tar Heel blog around. His blog has been the most reasonable blog from “Tar Heelia” regarding the NCAA investigations, which alone sets him apart from a lot of his compatriots.

Here’s what he had to say to my queries:

1. A lot of the lead-up to the game on the local airwaves has centered around how both head coaches view this game. Butch Davis insists on taking a big-picture view that the State/Carolina game, while more important than some on the schedule, is just one game en route to winning the league and getting to a BCS bowl. Tom O’Brien emphasizes this game greatly to his players and regularly refers to it as the biggest game on the schedule every year. Putting the results of the last three years aside, do you think one philosophy is a better way to approach the game?

Daytight compartments! Butch Davis is going for the Herb Sendek view of the game which is not necessarily wrong in face value. Players should approach all games with a certain level of intensity and focus. However, that ignores the reality of this game as it pertains to the noted hatred between the two schools. That could very well have something to do with UNC fans not necessarily regarding this game as a “make or break” deal vs NC State fans who consider beating UNC a primary goal of any season. All that being said, I do not believe Davis is giving this game the requisite shake it deserves, at least publicly. Maybe privately he spends his nights painting his face with wolf blood and wearing wolf entrails around his neck while riding Ramses around Kenan Stadium until dawn. Wait…what? Anyway, I sincerely hope he is selling it to his players on a different level than he is in public. We shall see.

2. Once again, the State/Carolina game is relegated to a noon kickoff and Raycom TV coverage. Other than obvious answer of “win more,” what needs to happen for this game to garner some more attention and relevance to folks outside of the two fanbases? Is there anything the athletic departments of both schools can do? Should the ACC front offices do what they can to emphasize it?

Here is the odd thing. I thought last year when they put it on the traditional rivalry weekend that was supposed to be a permanent change but behold this season it is moved back a week and UNC is playing Duke at the end of the season. I would think that would help sell it as a traditional rival game and maybe they get a better slot that way if it also has the bonus of having ACC title game implications. That could be the case if NCSU beat Maryland first before heading to Chapel Hill for a season finale with a trip to Charlotte on the line. Certainly that would rate higher on someone’s list right? Some of the other traditional rivalries do not have that going for them as much. Maybe the complaints from Tom O’Brien about not playing a divisional rival prior to the title game plus some of the old guard at UNC who want UNC-Duke to end the season won out and they changed it back. In my mind, they could sell it as a rival game by sticking it on that weekend. That still may not overcome the bigger issue of it being a niche audience in the ratings game versus more traditional national football brands like Florida-FSU, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Texas-Texas A&M, etc.

3. Here’s the money question, and I’m going to poke the bear a bit: You and I, along with former UNC football player @InTheBleachers, had a rather spirited conversation on Twitter a couple of weeks ago about whether a coaching staff should get credit for “overcoming adversity” resulting from the NCAA investigations. I took the stance that Butch should not be patted on the back for fighting through investigations that I feel he is, whether you agree or disagree, ultimately responsible for given that a head coach is responsible for everything that transpires in his program. That was obviously not a popular opinion among Heel fans and others. As a former college athlete, can you explain to me and other State fans why Butch seems to not only get a pass for his responsibility in the investigations but has been praised quite publicly for “overcoming adversity” when the bulk of the “adversity” is the personnel losses and distraction from the investigations that have occurred under his watch.

Interesting story that happened the same day you had that discussion on Twitter. It was during the UNC-FSU game as I recall and while I am in the living room watching that game, my four kids are in the kitchen/den area playing. Suddenly I get all this commotion and go in to find my five year old had taken a bottle of juice out of the fridge and spilled it on the floor. I was understandably upset and chided her for touching something she should not have. Anyway, my wife comes down, we get them to clean it up and meted out discipline as needed. Obviously I am responsible for my four children during that time period. Did I spill the juice? No. Did I tell anyone to spill the juice? No. Did I leave the cap loose on the juice to cause the five year old to spill it? No. Had I previously instructed said five year old not to attempt to get juice out of the fridge and pour it herself? Yes. Did I assume control of the situation, get the juice cleaned up and discipline the guilty party? Yes. So I am responsible for my children but not at fault for what they did. I also get credit for making sure the floor gets cleaned and no further goes wrong.

To me, based on the evidence at hand, Butch Davis is in a similar situation. Yes, he is responsible for what goes on in his program. However, there is cause to believe he did not know what was going on with players taking benefits nor did he have direct involvement. It is also plausible to believe he did his part to ensure his players knew the rules and they ignored him. I also think you have to separate parts of the investigation. The piece, for which Davis bears the most responsibility, John Blake (as far as we know) has no connection to the players taking impermissible benefits or the academic issues save for Marvin Austin. Blake has no bearing on the two areas which have caused Butch Davis the most issues in terms of personnel which are (1) the impermissible benefits taken by Robert Quinn,. Greg Little, Deunta Williams and Kendric Burney and (2) the academic scandal. The academic scandal appears to be the work of one tutor and players doing what many, many players at every school in America do. The benefits can be seen as the actions of the players themselves.

Now is Davis, as captain, responsible for what happens on his ship? Sure. Should he get credit for weathering the mess? Yes. Here is why. First of all, it is not like he set out to create a mess so he could persevere through it and look like a champ. Secondly, none of the issues in play resulted from Davis doing things on which to gain a competitive advantage. If Davis lost 10 players who had taken money to come to UNC in the first place then no, he does not get credit for someone on his staff trying to buy players to make the team better. However, none of the issues that occurred were done to try and make UNC better but rather just players making bad choices.

In that respect I have a hard time not crediting the body of work accomplished by Davis here which included pressing players into service he never intended to use and coaching up a team that could have easily cashed in their chips at 0-2. The body of work matters and if the evidence says Davis is not directly at fault, it is okay to praise him for pulling the team through. There are limits mind you and in the game that set off the discussion Mike Patrick and Craig James crossed those limits. Then again, this is Mike Patrick we are talking about here. To this day Mike Krzyzewski still has to check behind himself before sitting on the toilet to make sure Patrick is not attached.

4. It’s Senior/Redshirt-Junior day for the Heels tomorrow, and perhaps the most visible of the seniors that will be honored is TJ Yates. He’s had a great final year and put up some incredible passing numbers. He’s gone from being booed on the Jumbotrons at the Dean Dome to savior of a beleaguered, undermanned team. What clicked for Yates this year? Has he completely won back the Tar Heel fans’ support or do they still harbor a fear that “Bad TJ” will make another appearance these last two games?

Well “Bad TJ” did show up vs Virginia Tech to the tune of four INTs. Two of those were not his fault, one of them being Erik Highsmith having the ball taken from him in the endzone by a Hokie defender. I think the most important thing that clicked for Yates is he predisposed to throw the ball away if nothing is there. He has stopped forcing throws and is content to let a cheerleader catch the football out of bounds than try to squeeze it into triple coverage, under throw the pass and give up the pick six. Having Dwight Jones emerge after Zach Pianalto went down was a huge boost. People forget Yates was a good QB his first season and his numbers last season, aside from the INTs, were not horrendous. For a pocket passing QB to be good he has to have receivers and the offense has to be setup for him. I think both those are true right now and Yates is making good decisions to boot.

5. Looking at the matchups, unit by unit, where do you think the Heels will have an advantage or a disadvantage?

I think it is possible for the UNC secondary, which has been below average since getting 3/4 of the starters back, is due for a big game. If Russell Wilson continues to be a tad INT happy, Kendric Burney and/or Deunta Williams are both due a huge game with an INT or two. You never know what to expect from the running game. Somehow UNC gets production from whoever is back there even if it is Hunter Freaking Furr. VT did a good job shutting down Dwight Jones last week so I imagine that game film has been on a loop in the film room for Mike Archer and Jon Tenuta to study.

6. Is this the year UNC breaks “the streak?” Give me your prediction.

I think UNC finally gets it done. It is an ebb and flow thing. NCSU needs this win for ACC title reasons but UNC needs it for bowl placement and given the troubles an eight win regular season would be a big freaking deal to the players.

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