Posted: 10/6/2013 9:47:01 PM
It’s been a good year in the ACC. Clemson and Florida State are in the thick of the national title chase. Miami is undefeated and in the top 15. Virginia Tech has moved into the top 25. There are marquee wins over Georgia and Florida. Yes it’s been a good year in the ACC unless you are an ACC team from the state of North Carolina. This isn’t something new either. Except for Wake Forest’s 2006 ACC Title the last time a North Carolina school won an ACC Title was in North Carolina in 1980.
This year Wake Forest is 3-3 (1-2) with a home loss to Louisiana Monroe, and 56-7 shellacking at Clemson. Not that Wake Forest should have won, but Clemson could have named the score. NC State looked competitive against Clemson, but they are 3-2 (0-2) with a double digit loss to Wake Forest. Duke is 3-2 (0-2) is without an ACC win, and last year’s 6-7 season with a bowl was actually their best season since 1994. North Carolina was picked by many as an ACC darkhorse contender. They are the most disappointing of them all as they sit 1-4 (0-2).
That’s exactly 1 ACC win for the entire state of North Carolina ACC teams. Why are North Carolina’s ACC football team so bad?
I think there a variety of reasons and they aren’t the same for each school. Lets start with the easiest ones to explain Duke and Wake Forest.
Duke is the most basketball centric school in the country. Only Kansas is close to Duke when it comes to basketball defining your school. UNC is similar. David Cutcliffe has done as much as any coach has done at Duke in the last 15 years. He’s a well respected, and he’s improved Duke. The facilities are getting better, but this still a basketball school and a basketball culture. It’s simply very difficult to recruit there.
Wake Forest had some legitimate success a few years ago, but it was lightening in a bottle. From 2006 to 2008 Wake Forest won 28 games, and an ACC Title. Jim Grobe coached Wake Forest to success the only way possible. Red Shirt players and build them up to play when they are juniors and seniors. Catch the ACC namely FSU, Clemson, and Miami in a down cycle and take advantage. To their credit that’s exactly what Wake Forest did. In 10 years, we’ll look at that 3 year run as just a remarkable feat. Wake Forest has one of the tiniest student bodies in Division 1. There are under 5000 undergraduates. The stadiums seats less than 40,000. No matter what you do, Winston-Salem just doesn’t scream big-time football. Like Duke, it’s hard to get elite talent there.
North Carolina is the third team I want to discuss. One thing the Tar Heels have to fight is that they are a basketball school. Recruits will always be told you won’t even be the top sports program at your own school. That’s true, but UNC has had success. Under Mack Brown, the Tar Heels had 3 10 wins seasons from 1993 to 1997. During the 96 and 97 seasons, the Tar Heels were Florida State’s main challengers in the ACC.
There’s even been recruiting wins and high end talent. In 2009 the Tar Heels signed the number 6 class in the country according to Scout.com and have had 23 players drafted into the NFL since 2009. In my estimation the Tar Heels severely underachieved as program given their talent of the last few years. Former coach Butch Davis got quality players to Chapel Hill, but the academic scandal that rocked UNC was a major setback.
If you read the Raleigh News and Observer something new seems to come out almost weekly regarding this, though the NCAA rulings on this are probably at an end. The previous head coach to Davis, Jim Bunting never won more than 6 games in his last 5 years. The Tar Heels have suffered from mediocre coaching since the Mack Brown days. It remains to be seen if Larry Fedora is the answer. He’s not off to a good start.
North Carolina State’s football program is the most perplexing to me. Basketball is big in Raleigh, but the support for football is very good. The Wolfpack regularly have some of the highest percentage of capacity attendance numbers in the ACC. Normally they are 90% of capacity or better.
They currently have 3 QB’s on NFL rosters, Phillip Rivers, Russell Wilson, and Mike Glennon. When Chuck Amato was hired from Florida State it looked like he would turn NC State into a consistent winner. In 2002 the Pack started the season 8-0 on their way to an 11-3 season with a win over Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. Amato recruited Florida heavily and built the talent base, but 2002 would be the high water mark for Amato.
The Tom O’Brien hire never made sense to me, and he didn’t recruit well either. Only twice in his 6 years did he win 8 games or more, and never more than 9. Dave Doeren was brought in from Northern Illinois where he went 23-4 in two years. Tom O’Brien let the talent base erode, so Dave Doeren has work to do there.
When it comes down to it, Wake Forest and Duke have inherent disadvantages that will make it hard for them to ever be consistent winners. North Carolina has had talent but suffered from mediocre coaching and the recent academic scandal. NC State has the most potential and the best football culture of the four. Amato couldn’t sustain his early success, and Tom O’Brien was a questionable hire. Dave Doeren’s recent loss to Wake Forest proves it won’t be a quick fix at NC State.
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