The 'Comparables'

In the eternally wacky down-the-rabbit-hole world of sports rivalries, no school’s fan base will EVER acknowledge than any other school, or its pathetic loser fan base, could be comparable to “us”.  But, yea verily, if there was a high tribunal overseen by some Solomonesque magistrate, I believe said magistrate would feel that UNC & UVa might be adjudged as “comparable”.  I adjudged them to be. 

My esteemed Good Sports compadre – Art Chansky – is on on-air record as adjudging no such thing.  In Art’s defense, he has lived in Chapel Hill for multi-decades and light-blue Kool-Aid flows thru his veins like maple syrup thru a virgin Vermont forest.
The athletic and academic rivalry twixt UNC & UVa was well-established and flourishing when Duke was still Trinity….. and Wake Forest was located in Wake Forest.  Everett Case was an Indiana farm boy and Mother Gabriel’s son Roman was toddling about Wilmington.  Tar Heels v Cavaliers pre-dates them all.
To me (and this is MY column!) UNC and UVa are incredibly “comparable” in more ways than there are bricks in Monticello.  …… primary (adjoining) state liberal arts institutions ….. charming “college towns” ….. the primary providers of doctors, lawyers and politicians for their respective states ….. long “greek” traditions both fraternal and sororial ….. and a seriously in-bred conviction that each is innately superior to the other “because”.   And that’s not even counting the inordinate number of khakis and navy blazers that proliferate on their respective verdant campuses. 
I appreciate that well-worn bromide that UNC is “a sleeping giant” as to its potential to dominate Big Time College Football.  I don’t believe it, but I appreciate that some folks do.  I also appreciate those who think professional wrestling is real and we faked the moon landing.  Hey, I believe in leprechauns and the single bullet theory.
As an alumnus and long time follower of UNC sports, I always cheer for “the Heels” regardless of the opponent du’ jour.   But I pay particular attention when that opponent is what I consider “a comparable”. … such as UVa.
I have my own criteria for determining “comparables”.  If you think ANY school could be comparable to UNC, I allow you to have your own comparables.   
If, after the past 2+ years, you still believe “everybody else does it but UNC”.  “It” being nefarious circumnavigation of those silly NCAA rules.  Then Dickie Baddour has some beachfront property in Topeka to sell you. 
If you truly believe all other schools’ coaches are low-down dirty birds EXCEPT UNCs.  All other student athletes are knuckle-dragging thugs and all other fans are toothless in-bred cretins then I doubt you read anything I write and are not reading this.
UVa and UNC ARE comparable.  So is NC State, Duke, Wake Forest, GaTech, and possibly Maryland.  I believe those ACC institutions are in the same ballpark with “us” as to their level of commitment to athletic excellence as part of their overall institutional mission.
A slight expansion of my definition of “comparable” would bring in Clemson and VaTech.
None rises to the comparable level of UVa.   When UNC takes the field / court versus a UVa team, I feel we are competing against our mirror image.  If we (UNC) can whup’em more times that they whup us I feel we are doing a lot of things right within our own established boundaries.   To whup Florida State in football with any regularity we would have to expand those boundaries. 
We whupped the Hoos on Thursday night for the third time in three years in Football.  Before that… not so often.  Ouch.   The overall series is Good Guys – 59 …. Them – 53.   (NOTE: This does not factor in the “lost wins” from the recent unpleasantness.)
In Basketball we have whupped’em pretty consistently since Ralph left some years ago. 
In other sports “we and them” seem to break pretty even over the past several decade or so of competition.  I believe that is how it should be…….  among “comparables”.

For more BobLee check out

The ACC's first 20 years

 Just as the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is poised to expand again, North Carolina’s basketball victory over South Carolina in Las Vegas last week brought back memories.

They are memories of a time when the ACC was young and South Carolina was part of the small family. Well, sort of.

That “sort of” story is just part of “ACC Basketball: The Story of the Rivalries, Traditions, and Scandals of the First Two Decades of the Atlantic Coast Conference,” a new book by Sam Walker.

During most of those first 20 years, South Carolina, a founding member of the conference, was part of a family that stayed together, even if not altogether happily.

Those first years took the ACC to the top as a basketball conference, a position it still holds.

The book opens with a description of the first ACC conference basketball game. On December 2, 1953, Maryland played South Carolina in Columbia before about 3,000 fans. If you do not remember who won, you are not alone. The next day, the newspapers in Washington and in Columbia gave only short reports that few people noticed. (Maryland won, 53-49.)

Not much attention. Not much respect.

Walker compares that debut game to a meeting between the same two teams in 1971, when 14,000 fans crowded Maryland’s Cole Field House to see Lefty Driesell’s young Maryland team upset Frank McGuire’s second-in-the-nation-ranked South Carolina team in overtime, 31-30. 

McGuire and Driesell turn out to be major characters in a major-character-filled book about sports, higher education, and American cultural change.

Earlier in the 1970-71 season, a game between the two teams in Columbia had to be ended with 4:52 remaining on the clock. A brawl broke out, and one of the South Carolina players struck Driesell twice in the face.

McGuire and Driesell exchanged unpleasant comments in the press, Driesell accusing “McGuire of smiling while ‘they were going wild out there,’” adding “‘if I was Frank McGuire, I would not bring my team to College Park.’”

McGuire responded, “I don’t care what Lefty has to say. There are a million Lefty Driesells in the world.…You won’t see the day I’m afraid of him.”

McGuire might not have been afraid, but he wore a bulletproof vest to the game in College Park.

By 1971, it did not take a McGuire-Driesell rivalry for ACC basketball games to be the lead stories on the sports pages. By then ACC basketball games were big-time sports stories all winter long.

The 1953 and 1971 Maryland-South Carolina games are bookends for more than 300 pages of ACC history.

Coincidentally, two months after the 1971 game, on March 29, 1971, South Carolina’s trustees voted to resign from the ACC. Their reasons had more to do with the conference’s academic standards for football recruits than McGuire’s various feuds with conference officials.

Walker writes about other colorful coaches, like Everett Case, Press Maravich, and Bones McKinney. And he writes about the not-so-colorful one who probably made the greatest positive impact on the ACC during that time, Dean Smith.

Attendance and public attention were not the only differences between the 1953 and 1971 games. In 1953, there were no black players in the ACC. At the game in 1971, Maryland had black players and a black assistant coach. Today, it is hard to believe it could be any other way.

 “How many more ACC basketball books can there be?” my wife asked me. “Think about Civil War books,” I told her, trying to say that there would be plenty more. But this “ACC Basketball” book, written by a prize winning historian and published by a university press (UNC Press) sets it apart and makes it a must-have reference for students of the game and the times.