Art’s Angle: Heaven Awaits

“Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven’s door.” 

 –Bob Dylan

The refrain in Dylan’s 1973 masterpiece could apply to both teams playing football Saturday in Kenan Stadium, a game which by all measures could be a classic in its own right.

For Duke, it means an unwanted visitor crashing the party of a team on the way to its own version of Heaven, Blue Heaven, with a Coastal Division championship and shot at the ACC football title in Charlotte.

For Carolina, it means fulfilling the oft-stated and long-awaited goal of returning prominence to a program rich with promise but falling short on performance.

One team’s Heaven in this case will surely be the other team’s Hell.

The Blue Devils are coming off their own trip to Hades, the more-than-bizarre last six seconds against Miami that turned a sure seventh victory into their first ACC defeat of the season and makes Saturday a must win to keep alive playing for the ACC championship a second time in three years.

Duke, 6-2, had won a game it seemingly lost for about 57 minutes, despite 20 penalties committed by the Hurricanes who had their own week from hell with the firing of Coach Al Golden and the death of a player’s parent who was a godmother to the rest of the team. Then, aided by three pass interference penalties that all looked pretty bogus, the Blue Devils drove to the apparent winning score with six seconds left on the clock.

The ACC – in a ruling every bit as bizarre as Miami’s eight-lateral kickoff return that began at its own 25-yard line, retreated at one point to the 5 and then swept down the left sideline to the end zone – suspended the officiating and replay crews for blowing the management and communication of the last play more than any particular call they made.

Duke will be madder than hell while knocking on Blue Heaven’s door at high noon Saturday, another strange starting time for one of the biggest games of the season that deservedly belongs in the 3:30 or later TV slots. The annual Battle for the Bell (reclaimed with a sloppy and expensive paint job last year) will be nationally televised on ESPN2.

Kenan Stadium has its first sellout in years, but rest assured the lady in the pines won’t be full for kickoff. Traffic snarls caused by the early start, the threat of rain and the lethargic culture surrounding Carolina football will assure that. Good seats are going for more than $100 (twice face value), which isn’t exactly Duke-Carolina hoops fare but better than the 10-dollar ducats usually available outside both football stadia. With every ticket apparently sold, the old girl should be full and rocking at some point.

The Tar Heels, on the cusp of their greatest regular season in history, can open Heaven’s door by beating the Blue Devils for a second straight season (after two consecutive losses following a 21-1 run of dominance in the once-classic series) and then defeat Miami at home and struggling Virginia Tech and N.C. State on the road to post 11 regular-season wins for the first time in their 122 years of playing football. Not a given, by any means, but at least it’s all in their hands.

On paper, the game should resemble last season’s blowout at Wallace Wade Stadium more than Duke’s two straight wins that both went down to the last possession. UNC has the third-ranked offense in the country and Duke the supposed 10th rated defense. But with college coaches putting their best athletes on the scoring side of the ball these days, a good offense almost always beats a good defense. (Witness some of the numbers being put up every week.)

And the Tar Heels have a really good offense, despite naysayers looking at their schedule and crowing “prove it” against a good “D”.  Duke has that, for sure, holding opponents to 295 total yards per game. Carolina, on the other side, averages 37 points and 470 yards. So something’s gotta give, right?

UNC can take a quarter off (i.e., vs. Wake Forest) and still hang 50 points on the scoreboard. Twelve of its 35 touchdowns have come on plays longer than 20 yards, which means the No. 21-ranked Heels are snapping the ball fewer times than any team in the current top 25. Their 7.65 yards per play is third behind only unbeaten Baylor and TCU, which take turns ringing up 70 points.

The theory is that Duke’s methodical-but-efficient offense cannot outscore Carolina’s quick-strike, multi-weaponed attack, and that’s a sound theory. The Tar Heels will have to help Duke by making uncharacteristic mistakes and turning the ball over on their own end of the field. Duke is smart, well-coached and generally does not beat itself (except on a last-second kickoff that resembled a game of old intramural Carolina Tag).

You know all the players on UNC’s explosive offense and improved, opportunistic defense. For Duke, except for over-hyped linebacker Jeremy Cash, you may need a game program or listen closely to the radio or TV announcers. But the beauty of this 98th renewal is that both teams have, at least for the moment, built solid programs that already have gone 3-0 against preseason Coastal favorites Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, both frankly looking to be in decline.

Neither Tech is knocking on any door right now and, pretty much, playing out the 2015 string. In contrast, the team that finishes with the most points Saturday in Chapel Hill will feel like victory has been Heaven sent.

Duke Researchers Find Radioactive Contamination In Coal Ash

Coal ash, the waste generated by coal-fired power plants, is already known to contain environmental contaminants such as selenium, cadmium and arsenic. Now, researchers at Duke say it may also be radioactive.

“Radiation is another set of contaminants that needs to be considered when we are trying to weigh the impact of coal ash in the environment,” says Avner Vengosh, a professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Vengosh and a team of researchers found radium isotopes and lead-210 in coal ash at levels five times higher than in normal soil.

He says this could pose a human health hazard if coal ash is not properly handled. Dry ashes can be easily inhaled. Wet coal ash can leak into ponds and rivers as happened in 2014 when tens of thousands of tons spilled into the Dan River.

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to begin regulating coal ash next month, but those regulations don’t yet include monitoring of radioactive materials. Vengosh says that needs to change.

“I think that naturally occurring radioactive materials should be part of an overall monitoring procedure to make sure that those contaminants that occur in coal ash indeed remain in coal ash, and not transferred or mobilized into drinking water or waterways around coal ash ponds or landfills.”

Duke Energy is preparing to move 20 million tons of coal ash from across the state to sites in Chatham and Lee Counties. Vengosh says he’d like to see increased transparency and monitoring to make sure that process is completed safely.

“The common sense answer is first, that all information is transparent and available, and second, that there is independent monitoring of what’s going on,” says Vengosh. “So I think if those two conditions are met, that we do know what’s happened and we can actually report that, then I would feel more secure about this process.”

More broadly, he notes that the energy industry as a whole is largely exempt from the Clean Water Act, leaving scientists in the dark when it comes to monitoring water quality and pollution.

“It’s a much larger issue of lack of regulation and lack of monitoring, and I think that kind of legacy is resulting in us waking up one day and seeing we have an issue or a problem someplace.”

The study was published September 2 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Researchers Use Smartphones To Track Flu on College Campuses

Katherine Heller is a statistician and assistant professor at Duke University. She and UNC epidemiologist Allison Aiello teamed up with researchers at the University of Michigan to see how a smartphone can help report and predict the spread of influenza on a college campus.

“This kind of data collection technique where we’re recording more data on a personalized level, on a more frequent basis, about people’s health, can be really beneficial in terms of the predictions that we’re going to be able to make or the advice that we’re going to be able to give people,” says Heller.

Using an Android app called iEpi, Heller and associates tracked the health and location data from 100 students at the University of Michigan over a 10-week period during flu season.

Students logged their symptoms on a weekly basis while their phones used GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies to monitor where they went and who they came in contact with.

Students also offered throat swabs for testing if their symptoms suggested they might have the flu. Taken together, these data made it possible to successfully predict who might get the disease next, and to offer iEpi app users a personalized daily health forecast.

Heller says this is part of a trend towards more individualized health care.

“Trying to record more individualized information about each person is really helping allow us to develop these kinds of algorithms where we can do prediction and recommendation about much more person-specific kinds of health advice.”

At the larger level, Heller says this kind of reporting could change how epidemiologists track the outbreak and spread of infectious diseases.

“This gives us much more insight into how disease is being communicated from one person to another, so something like an isolation intervention we might find is very effective in terms of trying to get some disease under control.”

Heller suggests it may prove useful for those with chronic health conditions as well.

“I think it also applies to a lot of other areas of medicine where we can potentially do a much better job if we’re tracking information about patients like diabetics or various other kinds of chronic diseases much more carefully and more continuously than we are currently. That will really aid physicians in being able to treat them.”

Flu season ramps up in October and runs through the spring. This year, one in five college students are expected to get the flu, and close living quarters can help fuel its spread. Officials say vaccination is the best protection.

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.

Chansky’s Notebook: Are The Clouds Clearing?

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

Another sign the worm may be turning at Carolina.

Last April, the best two-sport athlete in North Carolina committed to Duke because his favorite school, UNC, was still mired in the NCAA investigation. Last week, Chazz Surratt of East Lincoln High School in Denver, NC, de-committed to Duke and said he was flip-flopping to Carolina.

It may be another indication that the Tar Heel football and basketball programs won’t be hit with serious sanctions by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions when it metes out penalties sometime in early 2016. If so, take that, Brandon Ingram!

Surratt is a super athlete, a chiseled specimen with speed to burn and a great throwing arm. The 6′ 2″ rising senior quarterback led East Lincoln to a 16-0 record, passing for 4,338 yards and 51 touchdowns last season, while also rushing for 1,239 yards and 22 touchdowns on 156 attempts.

Surratt committed to Duke on April 21 over offers from Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, NC State, Tennessee, Wake Forest and West Virginia, among others, as well of course from Larry Fedora and the Heels. Too much negative recruiting about UNC caused Surrat to commit to David Cutcliffe and the Devils.

His mother confirmed that her son turned away from Duke last week and committed to Carolina on the same day. And while he will sign a football scholarship next February, he will also be invited to try out for the basketball team and give Roy Williams more depth in the backcourt, where Surratt averaged 20 points for East Lincoln last season. He was named the state’s best two-sport athlete by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

An AP all-state selection for both football and basketball, Surratt ended his sophomore season with 2,590 yards on 178-of-273 passing (that’s 65-percent) with 28 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1624 yards and 34 scores on 208 carries (a 7.8-yard average). Likely red-shirted in football, he will play behind Mitch Trubisky in 2017 and then take over when Trubisky graduates. It may be another omen that those dark clouds over Carolina are finally clearing.

Tokoto Projected 2nd-Round Selection in Tonight’s Draft

Three Duke Blue Devils are projected to be taken in the first round of tonight’s NBA Draft.

The National Basketball Association will welcome 60 new players during the two-round draft tonight in Brooklyn, New York.

NBA Draft Express is projecting Center Jahlil Okafor to be selected second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, Guard Justise Winslow to the Orlando Magic at number five, and finally Guard Tyus Jones to the Houston Rockets with the 18th selection.

The impressive trio from the reigning national champions may be outnumbered by Kentucky Wildcats in this year’s draft.

Kentucky seven footer Karl-Anthony Towns is projected to be the number one overall selection by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Charlotte Hornets may come away with a pair of Wildcats to add to former Kentucky star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Hornets are projected to select Guard Devin Booker with the ninth selection followed by Kentucky teammate Dakari Johnson in the second round.

UNC Junior JP Tokoto surprised many by leaving school early but now is projected to be a second-round selection of the Miami Heat.

New Duke Dean is a Tar Heel

The next Dean of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University is a Tar Heel.

Duke announced that Valerie Sheares Ashby, who has been a professor and chair of the chemistry department at UNC, will take her new post in Durham on July 1.

Ashby will oversee the university’s core academic units, which offer courses and degrees across the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

Ashby joined the faculty at Carolina in 2003.

Duke Legend Talks Final Four

The UNC basketball team fell to Wisconsin in this year’s Sweet 16 – but Duke is still alive, set to face Michigan State on Saturday night in Indianapolis.

It’s the Blue Devils’ sixteenth trip to the Final Four (and Mike Krzyzewski’s twelfth, tying John Wooden’s record). How has the game changed since Duke’s first trip back in 1963? What are the players likely thinking as they get ready for their first appearance on college basketball’s biggest stage? And what are Duke’s chances this year, against high-profile programs like MSU, Wisconsin and Kentucky?

Steve Vacendak is a Duke legend: playing under Vic Bubas in the 1960s, Vacendak led the Blue Devils to two Final Fours and won ACC Player of the Year honors in 1966. He went on to play in the ABA before returning to the college ranks to serve as Duke’s associate athletic director and head coach at Winthrop.

Vacendak spoke Friday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Duke and Michigan State tip off at 6:09 Saturday. Kentucky and Wisconsin follow, with tip-off set for approximately 8:49; the winners meet on Monday in the national title game.

(Aaron, who grew up in Spartan country, will be rooting for State and Wisconsin while superstitiously avoiding any and all TV screens.)

Police Investigate Noose Found On Duke Campus

Duke students, staff and faculty are looking for answers after a noose was reportedly found hanging from a tree on campus early Wednesday morning.

According to the Duke Chronicle, the noose was removed from the Bryan Center Plaza before 3 am, but pictures of it continue to circulate on social media.

In an email to students, Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Moneta described his “disgust and anger” and vowed “the Duke community will provide all the support necessary to help us all get through this. In time, each of these cowardly acts of bias and hatred will strengthen our resolve to love and support each other.”

This comes less than a week after a black student at Duke said she was taunted by a group of white male students yelling a racist chant. The derogatory song was reportedly the same chant sung by members of the University of Oklahoma chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in a viral video released earlier this month.

Campus police are investigating the latest incident.

Coach Smith Transcends Rivalry

Wednesday night will be the first meeting between rivals UNC and Duke on the basketball court since the passing of legendary UNC men’s basketball coach Dean Smith.

In memory of Coach Smith, shirts have been made by Chapel Hill’s Thrill City that are dark blue with the letters DEAN replacing the standard DUKE.

via Thrill City

via Thrill City

Reports estimate more than 500 of the shirts have been sold prior to tip off, on Wednesday night.