Chansky Notebook: UNC Winning The Hard Way

If champions find a way to win, the Tar Heels must be champions.

Larry Fedora said his team went into Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech facing the perfect storm. Frank Beamer coaching his last home game after 29 years in Blacksburg, the Hokies needing one more win to secure their 23rd consecutive bowl bid, senior day, black uniforms, Metallica revving up an already crazy crowd. The whole schmeer.

Yet, Carolina had to find a way to win to avoid going to N.C. State this week to wrap up the ACC Coastal Division. If the Tar Heels kept playing like they had the last month, it would have been no problem. But they played tight from start to finish and made uncharacteristic mistakes. Fumbling six times and losing three and committing nine penalties, several by veteran players.

With four minutes left, they had found a way, ready to score again and win comfortably by more than two touchdowns. Then Marquise Williams, upon whose shoulders this magical season has rested, lost the ball on two straight possessions, giving him three turnovers for the game. Shades of South Carolina – the last time the Tar Heels lost.

Going to overtime, how confident were you? If you’re into bad karma, the UNC basketball team was blowing a 16-point lead out in Iowa and it looked like a black Sabbath upon Tar Heel Nation. But the UNC defense, which had given up two touchdown passes on fourth-down after near goal-line stands, this time held the Hokies to a field goal and gave the offense a chance to win.

It looked easy when the Heels had a first-and-goal at the three but another false start made it third-and-goal from the 8. They had to get into the end zone or face a second overtime, which would have really been pushing their luck.

Marquise to Quinshad for only the second time this season, and they were celebrating with Fedora, destined to be for ACC Coach of the Year.

Ten straight and going to Charlotte to play top-ranked Clemson, which trust me does not want to face the 11th-ranked Carolina in what will be a wild scene at Bank of American Stadium. Before that comes N.C. State, and as tight as the Tar Heels were Saturday in the foothills, their sphincters should be loose and ready to take on the Wolfpack in the fairgrounds.

Eleven straight wins would be a school record for one season and the first time a UNC team has ever won that many before the post-season. That, and last year’s bad loss to State, should be plenty to play for.

Stroman On Sports: An ACC Champ?

Week one of the college football season was rough for UNC, but Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech all look legit. Can any of them (or another ACC school) break into this year’s College Football Playoff?

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School professor and WCHL sports commentator Deb Stroman weighed in on that question and more with WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Monday.

Chansky’s Notebook: Make Your Own Noise

Larry Fedora hopes his passion will trump pessimism.

UNC’s football coach met the media at Pinehurst Tuesday and was asked immediately about telling recruits what HE thinks about the future of the Tar Heels. Fedora is saying he is confident that the NCAA won’t keep his team from playing as many games as it deserves to play.

Fedora has been getting commitments from kids who are excited about their four or five years in Chapel Hill. Obviously, they think the future is bright or they wouldn’t have committed. Fedora isn’t even talking much about the NCAA, unless asked; he’s leaving that to rival recruiters. He’s going positive about all UNC has to offer on and off he field.

What else is he to do? Well, maybe you should sign at Duke or State because we’re afraid of the big, bad NCAA? The smart money is on no sanctions that affect the current Carolina team. Why would they? These kids had nothing to do with what went on here in the past. Fedora is the new coach looking only forward.

The 2015 Tar Heels actually got three votes to win the ACC championship and even more to capture the Coastal Division. They have most of their offense returning and a defense that only has one way to go under new coordinator Gene Chizik. There is a lot to be optimistic about, and Fedora is an optimist.  He knows only one speed, so why not show confidence and present his vision of Carolina football? Other schools may be trying to dissuade kids from coming – that’s what they are hanging their hats on, Fedora says – but he’s spinning a far more positive story. And succeeding. Imagine what he will do when the NCAA cloud is finally lifted?

Fedora asked for, and received, a seven-year contract when he took the UNC job after his last regular season at Southern Miss. He knew it might be rough sledding at first and it has gotten progressively tougher since going 8-4 and tying for the Coastal championship in 2012. The team bottomed out going 6-7 last year and, frankly, looked like some players quit the last two games. That toasted Fedora.

Until someone says something different, the Tar Heels have everything to play for in 2015. His job is to keep his eye on the ball and beat South Carolina in Charlotte on September 3. If so, it will be hard to hear anything else above all that noise.

UNC Linebacker: “Our Goal is to Win an ACC Championship.”

Atlantic Coast Conference Media Days are underway.

Players from around the ACC were in the spotlight for day one.

North Carolina finished up last football season with a 6-6 regular season record followed by a 19-point loss to Rutgers in the Quick Lane Bowl.

But middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer says the Tar Heels are looking forward.

“Last year, a multitude of things went wrong,” he says. “We’ve moved past that. We have a new staff, so we’re not even worried about what happened last year. We can’t change it.”

Schoettmer was referring to the new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, who was brought in to lead the Carolina defense. The linebacker says it didn’t take long for Chizik to make an impact.

“Over the course of the spring, communication that’s what really got better,” he says. “And then tackling, we missed way too many tackles last year.

“Poor tackling angles and tracking angles is one of the things that Chizik associated with that when he came in. He went back and watched every game last year and those are the two things he pointed out, poor tracking angles led to missed tackles.”

While the Tar Heels defense was historically bad last season. The offense, to use the word of Quarterback Marquise Williams, is loaded.

“We are very loaded with all the returning guys. We just have one guy missing, that’s Jack Tabb,” he says recalling the tight end from last year. “With Ryan Switzer, Mack Hollins, Landon Turner, TJ Logan, Elijah Hood, with so many weapons on offense I can’t be any happier.

“I’ve been smiling all day because I have a great opportunity to come out and make some plays with some big-time names.”

Expectations are high in Chapel Hill for the defensive side of the football under Chizik to catch up with the high-powered offense the Tar Heels will sport under head coach Larry Fedora. Schoettmer says there is a lot left for this year’s version of the Tar Heels to accomplish.

“We made a bowl game [last year] with six wins. That’s not something we’re proud of,” he says. “We’re definitely happy we went to a bowl game, but our goal is to win an ACC Championship.

“You don’t do that by winning six games. You do that by winning 10 games, 10-plus games. That’s what we’re looking forward to and focusing on this fall.”

Head Coach Larry Fedora will address the media at the ACC Kickoff on Tuesday.

Clemson Tabbed to Win ACC

UNC has been picked to finish fifth in the always up-in-the-air Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference at the Football Kickoff at Pinehurst Resort.

The voting media members selected the Clemson Tigers as the favorites to claim the conference championship.

Clemson was picked to finish above three-time defending champion Florida State in the Atlantic Division ahead of Louisville, NC State, Boston College, Syracuse, and Wake Forest.

In the Coastal Division, the media members tabbed Georgia Tech as the favorites followed, in order, by Virginia Tech, Miami, Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Virginia.

Clemson Quarterback Deshawn Watson was voted the ACC Preseason Player of the Year. Tar Heel Quarterback Marquise Williams finished in a tie for third in player of the year voting.

The media preview wraps up Tuesday in Pinehurst.

UNC Hires Crawley As Assistant Coach For Women’s Basketball

Sylvia Crawley will return to her alma mater to serve as an assistant coach for the UNC Women’s Basketball team.

During her years as a player at UNC, Crawley competed in 124 games, making 101 starts. She compiled 1,158 points, 582 rebounds, 123 blocks and 90 steals. She ranks ninth on the UNC career charts in both blocks and field goal percentage.

Crawley was the captain and coaches finals MVP of the NCAA Championship team back in 1994.

She spent more than a decade playing professionally before becoming head coach, first at Ohio University, then at Boston College. She owns a 105-88 career record spanning six seasons.

Most recently, Crawley was an assistant coach with the Indiana Fever of the WNBA in 2014.

In a press release, Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell says Crawley’s return is a “tremendous hire” for the women’s basketball program.

“Sylvia is a former ACC head coach and a true Tar Heel,” says Hatchell. “She will be a wonderful addition to our staff and will assist us tremendously with recruiting and all facets of our program. A wonderful person, coach and one of my girls. We’re excited to welcome her back!”

Chansky’s Notebook: Good Steal, Virginia!

Virginia’s fairy-tale finish was one for the crooks.

It had been 60 years since Wake Forest won the ACC’s last College World Series, and Virginia stealing the title was the least likely scenario to break that drought. After all, the Cavaliers barely got into the ACC Tournament, not the NCAA Tournament. They had to sweep Carolina in Chapel Hill the last weekend of the regular season to finish 15-15 in the conference standings and assure themselves of a play-in spot at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

After Wahoo Wah defeated Georgia Tech to make the actual tournament field, Virginia promptly lost three straight and was a surprise at-large entry into big baseball dance, sent out to California to play San Diego State on its home turf. But then the season suddenly turned for Coach Brian O’Connor’s young club.

The Cavaliers won three in Cali, got the super regional back to Charlottesville and won two straight from old ACC rival Maryland of the Big Ten and advanced to the College World Series for the second straight year with club not nearly the equal of the 2014 team that lost to Vanderbilt in the finals.

In Omaha, Virginia patched together shaky starting pitching and great relief work by big Josh Sborz to beat Arkansas and Florida two out of three. Presto! The Cavs won their side of the pool and were back in the best of three finals against guess who? Vandy, from the dominant SEC, was trying to match South Carolina’s back-to-back College world Series championships of 2010 and 11.

And when the Commodores, who by the way have the son of former UNC basketball player and coach Randy Wiel, won the opener 5-1, it looked like good night and lights out for Virginia. But the Wahoos came back to shut out Vandy in Game 2 and rally for a 4-2 win in the do-or-die finale to take home their first national championship in baseball and the school’s 23rd NCAA title in all.

It was bittersweet watching O’Connor’s team get done in its second trip what the Tar Heels of Mike Fox could not do in six visits to the College Worlds Series in eight years. O’Connor, in his 12th season in Charlottesville, has turned Virginia into a college baseball power from once being the near doormat of the ACC. Congratulations to underdog Virginia for finally bringing home the college baseball title.

Great steal.

2 Tar Heels on Women’s All-ACC Team

With the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament ready to get started on Wednesday, the conference announced their All-ACC teams on Tuesday.

Two sophomores from the UNC team were honored with first-team selections – Forward Stephanie Mavunga and Guard Allisha Gray.

Duke Senior Elizabeth Williams is also on the first team.

On Thursday, UNC will face off with the winner of the Clemson – Georgia Tech game in their first ACC tournament action. You can hear that game on 97.9-FM and 1360-AM WCHL.

Atlantic Coast Conference and University of Maryland Reach Legal Agreement

GREENSBORO – The Atlantic Coast Conference and the University of Maryland announced today they have reached a mediated agreement that ends all litigation between both parties.

Maryland has agreed that the ACC will keep the sum of $31,361,788 previously withheld in order to resolve the lawsuits, and the ACC has agreed that Maryland will have no obligation to make any other payments to the ACC. In addition, the lawsuits filed in the State of North Carolina and Maryland will be dismissed.

“On behalf of the ACC’s Council of Presidents, I am pleased that all parties can move forward, returning our focus where it belongs – on our student-athletes, intercollegiate athletic programs and institutions of higher learning,” said Donna Shalala, Chair of the ACC Council of Presidents and President of the University of Miami. “There is great excitement surrounding the ACC and its 15 member institutions and we extend our best wishes to our colleagues at Maryland as we all look ahead to the upcoming academic year.”

“I commend our Council of Presidents and specifically President Donna Shalala for steering us to this resolution,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “This agreement allows everyone to fully focus their energy and efforts on prioritizing the student-athletes, especially in this significant time of change within the NCAA restructuring. We wish the University of Maryland well and appreciate their past contributions as we collectively look toward the future.”

“The University of Maryland is proud of our long and storied 61-year association with the Atlantic Coast Conference,” said Wallace D. Loh, president of the University of Maryland. “Today’s agreement helps usher in exciting new eras for both the University and the ACC. We wish the conference and our ACC university colleagues well.”

“Our student-athletes, coaches, staff, fans and alumni will forever hold dear the memories of six outstanding decades in the Atlantic Coast Conference,” said Kevin Anderson, Director of Athletics at the University of Maryland. “Today marks the next chapter in the history of Maryland Athletics, and we look forward to creating new memories in the decades to come.”

The ACC and the University of Maryland consider this matter closed and will have no further comment.

ACC MBB Championship Moved To Saturday

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced the Men’s Basketball Tournament championship game will now be played on a Saturday evening, a change that kicks off the tournament a day early.

The ACC regular season will now end on the preceding Saturday, with the 62nd annual tournament starting on Tuesday, four games on both Wednesday and Thursday and the Friday semifinals preceding the championship on Saturday.

Sunday afternoons have been the host of the championship game since the 1982 tournament, and ACC Commissioner John Swofford said he believes the conference’s players, coaches and fans will enjoy the switch.

“It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved,” Swofford said.

All 14 tournament games will continue airing nationally on ESPN and the ACC Network.

The 2015 tournament will again be held in the Greensboro Coliseum, a host to the event for the 26th time in conference history. The 2016 tournament will be held in Washington, D.C.; the 2017 and 2018 tournaments will be held in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.