62. This is the number of points put on the scoreboard by the Tar Heels in their first outing under head coach Larry Fedora.
Lamentably, this could also serve as a rough approximation of the number of students remaining in the Tar Pit at game’s end. Arms locked and swaying side to side, the loyal few students who remained to perform the alma mater with the exiting players sang out to an empty Kenan Stadium.
Perhaps this shouldn’t leave me incensed. There are, after all, a couple of obvious reasons for Saturday’s premature exodus of fans: 1) a 12:30 kickoff lent itself to a game played during the sweltering afternoon heat and
2) a 41 to nil halftime score left little doubt in people’s minds as to the contest’s ultimate outcome.
But simply because a high attrition rate amongst fans is understandable does not mean that it is necessarily excusable.
For quite some time now I’ve heard people describe Carolina football as a “sleeping giant”: a program with all the opportunities and resources needed to become a major player in the landscape of college athletics. We have a gorgeous campus, top ranked academics, and state-of-the-art facilities. We even have our own brand of pop-tarts for God’s sake! These are the same factors (minus the pop-tarts) that contributed to the building of powerhouse UNC programs in basketball and other sports, so shouldn’t it stand to reason that our football program can be equally successful?
I’m of the belief that we have every piece necessary to be a perennial ACC contender. So what’s standing in our way? What could possibly be holding us back? In hopes of an answer, I point back to Saturday’s empty seats.
When a Tar Heel player looks into the stands and sees bare bleachers, one can only imagine that he is hardly inspired to play to the best of his abilities. Similarly, when a recruit makes a visit to a game and bears witness to a lackluster fan presence, he is probably less than eager to join the squad. Is it any wonder that the nation’s best recruits tend to gravitate towards major SEC programs with rabid fan bases? Players want to play in front of a packed house. And who can blame them?
On the other hand, how can a team expect to play in front of a raucous crowd week after week if they aren’t competitive on a national level? This is our catch-22: a great fan base is difficult to come by without a great team to draw them in, but it’s nearly impossible for a team to thrive or develop without the avid support of their fans.
So where’s our resolution?
In my opinion the first step has already been taken: Larry Fedora has put a fantastic product in front of us. The team was electrifying on Saturday, coming up just 3 points short of the school’s all-time scoring record. In looking at the field, it was hard not to be impressed. I just wish I could say the same about the crowd.
It’s no secret that this program has been forced to endure dark times as of late, but as was alluded to in the team’s introduction video for this week (below), it’s a new dawn for Carolina football. We owe it to the players to be there when the sun comes out.