While fans on Wake Forest message boards, season ticket holders and even the frequent readers of this blog have felt a certain way about head coach Jeff Bzdelik and athletic director Ron Wellman, it was hardly news on a national stage.
Pretty much all that changed as ESPN.com's Eammon Brennan wrote not one, but two articles about the state of Wake Forest basketball and where the fans stand on it.
The two articles centered around Ron Wellman and the athletic department's decision to no longer accept live phone calls to the weekly "Jeff Bzdelik Show," originally reported by the fine Dan Collins of the Winston-Salem Journal.
This decision came after Jeff Bzdelik was asked three very difficult questions last week regarding the direction of the program while he has been the head coach.
While I do not thoroughly approve of the manner that the questions were asked in, I think the intent behind the questions was well-deserved and frankly much needed.
These articles hit home to me primarily because I think it captures the Wake Forest fan base's feelings towards Jeff Bzdelik and Ron Wellman extremely well.
The first article by Brennan focused on the decision by Ron Wellman to not have live calls anymore on the show because of one hard week. He attacked the decision and called it "softer than newborn kittens Drake buys and puts in matching sweaters...to send to ex-girlfriends as Christmas cards."
Soon after this was released, he apparently received e-mails and tweets from fans that was out of left field for a fan base that just had their University skewered in a national outlet. Wake Forest fans responded with with overwhelming support for the article and basically thanked him for noticing what was going on in Winston-Salem right now. As he put it:
It was not. To my surprise, Wake Forest fans immediately started sending emails and tweets, and it was the strangest thing -- not only were there a lot of them, but almost every single one thanked me for ripping their program.
This prompted another article that Brennan released just over an hour ago titled, "The agony of the Wake fan revealed." The "agony" that he is referencing is the fact that Wake Forest has such a dedicated fan base and deserves better from the college they relentlessly support. Once again, Brennan's own words do justice to the way that most Wake Forest fans feel:
Needless to say, this is not the usual response. Usually, on those rare occasions when you rip a college basketball program with a dedicated fan base like Wake's, they jump in to defend their coach or the situation, or they decide to take out their aggression and troll you on your Twitter feed. Wake fans aren't doing that. They're now so despondent they are actually rooting for their program to be criticized as widely and loudly as possible. They're being polite. These poor people are one step away from blaming themselves.
I normally wouldn't be writing a post like this so soon after the original. But I really didn't know things had gotten this bad. I assumed Demon Deacons fans weren't in the best place, sure, and like any self-respecting college hoops blogger, I check in on Blogger So Dear and other fan sites/message boards from time to time. But for all the struggles Wake's had in the past two years, I also figured there was some measure of patience at work.
He also included quotes from e-mails and tweets that he provided. I highly encourage all of you to click on the articles and read them because I think that they encapsulate how most of us feel right now in a very good manner.
As I said earlier, I think the questions and call-ins for last weeks radio show were not done in the best taste by the Wake Forest fan base. They were asked in an immature manner and while they got the jabs in reflect poorly as a fan base that Brennan refers to as "polite".
I like to think that Wake fans are better than mocking a head coach on a live radio show. I get why they did it, but think that it could have been done more tactfully.
I also understand why, in a vacuum, that this decision by the SID was the correct one (that is, the decision to take out live phone calls from the radio show). Their job is to protect the head coach (from apparently anything that is not "rainbows and sunshine").
However, the radio show is not done in a vacuum and this is not the first thing that the administration has done to essentially ostracize and isolate the fan base by telling them that their opinions effectively do not matter at all. By leaving Jeff Bzdelik out there on the radio show, you know, the guy that makes somewhere in the ballpark of 1 million dollars a year (or in his first two years, $95,238 per win), it would have been at least a show by the powers-that-be that they respect the opinions of the fan base.
My primary problem with the decision to stop taking live phone calls on the "Jeff Bzdelik Show", and that is the manner in which Ron Wellman and the SID continues to look down upon the fan base by taking what they perceive to be the "moral high ground".
As Ron Wellman states in the W-S Journal article:
"More and more schools have eliminated the call-in, because callers tend to get on and, rather than asking a question, they preach," Wellman said. "And this is our show. This is an opportunity to talk about Wake Forest basketball, the direction we’re going. And if the fans want to ask a question, we’ll respond to a question.
Mr. Wellman is absolutely correct, many schools have eliminated the call-in show because of lunatic fringe fans (specifically noted were N.C. State and UNC). These schools, however, have not ever experienced the type of futility that Wake Forest is currently undergoing right now.
In fact, no ACC team HAS EVER undergone the struggles Wake Forest has had the past 2.5 years. Three consecutive years of being over 200 in Ken Pomeroy's ranking is absolutely unheard of given that the lowest any other school has ever finished before Wake Forest's past two efforts was Clemson in 2003 at 117.
The second part of Ron Wellman's statements were what upset me off the most and deeply entrenched it once again as Ron Wellman/Jeff Bzdelik vs. everybody else.
"This is OUR show. This is an opportunity to talk about Wake Forest basketball, and the direction we're going. AND IF the fans want to ask a question, WE'LL respond to A question."
In other words, if WE deem it acceptable because it is OUR show, the fans will be lucky to get their question on air.
I'm sorry, but this is one of the most arrogant things that I have ever heard from a man who is supposed to represent the entire fan base and Wake Forest University as a whole. Instead he is deciding to deride the fans and flex while making yet another power move to isolate the fan base and show that his way is the best (and only) way.
So once again, when the AD and SID could have made a show of good faith to show that they are concerned about an opinion other than their own, which is ABSOLUTELY THE ONLY AND RIGHT WAY, they completely blew it and continued to insult an already upset and irate fan base.
I understand that this is a very difficult time for nearly everybody that either supports Wake Forest basketball or happens to be employed to work in the SID/AD right now. I know that it is hard to defend the record or demeanor of Jeff Bzdelik both on and off the court, but it's just one media faux pas after another for this SID.
Instead of trying to extend an olive branch and say, "hey, we understand you are frustrated, we just want your continued support so let's talk about this in a peer-to-peer way," the AD once again views the AD-fan base relationship as more of a "parent-to-child" relationship where the AD knows what's right, and if the fan base can't play nice (by the rules that the AD sets), then they are just going to take their ball and go home.
That is absolutely no way to act to people that donate their hard earned money, time and efforts to continue to support a product that is frankly not worth supporting right now. If it weren't for the hard working student-athletes that have continued to give it their all despite time-after-time of being thrown under the bus by their head coach, I too would not even bother to go to another game the rest of the year, much less continue to waste time and efforts writing about the Wake Forest basketball situation.
Ron Wellman and the SID absolutely need to wake up and realize that if they continue to act in ways that are detrimental and shunning to the fan base then there will be absolutely no support, even after Jeff Bzdelik is fired at the end of this season.
The athletic department that I grew to love and respect because they always did things the right day for over 20 years has completely destroyed their entire body of work. This is beginning to become blatantly obvious not only for Wake Forest fans and supporters, but national media members as well. A very sad thing indeed for a once prestigious and well-thought of AD.
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