When Everett Withers and the remains of the Butch Davis coaching regime were not retained, only one member of the old staff stayed in Chapel Hill.
John Shoop was still under contract for the 2012 season at UNC, so for the first time since grade school Shoop spent an autumn off the football field. Besides a completely new experience, he said it turned out to be one of the best years of his life.
He grew a beard and wore cool, outdoorsy clothes. He watched his son and daughter in their school activities, like a normal parent. The Shoops actually took weeks and weekends off to travel, see the world and visit family and friends.
While the early morning meetings and late-night game-planning were not part of his life and he barely stepped on a football field, the game he has loved forever was never far from his mind. He wrote a weekly column for Chapelboro, previewing the local college and high school games of note. He called Friday night prep games on WCHL radio with play-by-play sidekick Paul Connell.
And, as the only member of Davis’ staff who still lived in Chapel Hill, Shoop unobtrusively remained an advocate for the players he had recruited and coached at Carolina. He wanted them to succeed under new coach Larry Fedora and he supported the players who had been through two awful years of NCAA investigation and suspensions plus several entangled in the academic scandal.
“The year was an unbelievable blessing for us,” Shoop said this week after being named the new offensive coordinator at Purdue. “I loved helping out on the radio, filling in for D.G. Martin occasionally, doing the high school games and writing the column. We loved all of it. But the most important thing we did was to continue supporting the UNC players who had gotten caught up in some of what happened here. We advocated for student-athlete rights, particularly the young men who we had recruited to UNC.”
Shoop uses the word “we” when he speaks, because he and his wife Marcia are a team in such endeavors. Her website www.marciamountshoop.com became popular with UNC players and their families during the NCAA problems, and her spiritual blog “Calling Audibles” was often a frank and telling memoir of her view on the controversy and those it touched.
The Shoops were particularly close with fullback Devon Ramsay, who was suspended for much of the 2010 season and then reinstated when Ramsay’s mother hired an attorney and challenged the suspension. Upon returning to the field in 2011, Ramsay was injured and spent most of the last two seasons rehabbing his knee before graduating last May.
“We had a small party for Devon at our house before I left for Purdue,” Shoop said. “A lot of folks came, friends and teammates. He’s staying fit, hoping to get a shot in the NFL, and I’m doing everything I can to help him; he’s a really good fullback. Either way, that guy’s got so much on the ball that we all might be working for him some day. He is what’s right with college athletics.”
Despite how his tenure at UNC ended, Shoop holds no grudge over what happened to the coaches and program that earned four straight bowl bids from 2008-11. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“We have feelings deeply invested in this place and many of the people here,” he said. “We’re not bitter; it’s the reason we stayed. We wanted to do what we could to be part of the solution.”
Shoop knew he would return to coaching, continuing to network and stay in contact with the industry during his year off. He said he had several offers from colleges and NFL teams but found Purdue to be the best fit for him and his family.
With almost 40,000 students, Purdue is one of the biggest of the Big Ten schools and, though not nationally prominent in recent years, the Boilermakers have a rich tradition, having produced players named Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Leroy Keyes and Drew Brees. Shoop found similarities between Chapel Hill and West Lafayette, Indiana, particularly the opportunity to live out in the country as he did here but still close enough to campus. He has known new Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell and offensive line coach Jim Bollman since they worked together with the Chicago Bears, where Shoop was the offensive coordinator for three years including the 2001 season when they finished 13-3 and made the playoffs. Hazell and Bollman moved on to work for Jim Tressel at Ohio State. Every year, the Carolina and Ohio State staffs spent time together. With Hazell and Bollman landing at Purdue, going with them felt right.
“Our offensive philosophies were kind of similar at Carolina and Ohio State,” Shoop said. “We both liked to be physical, run the ball from a pro style offense. We see the game similarly. And I’m excited that this is the first time I’ll be an offensive coordinator for an offensive head coach. I’ve always worked for defensive head coaches, so this will be fun.”
He did not settle on Purdue until it became clear that Butch Davis was not taking another head coaching job for the 2013 season. Shoop said he stayed in touch with his former boss over the last year “and it is fair to say he was close” to starting over again at another school.
“It’s something we would have considered,” Shoop said of going with Davis, “and I’m surprised he didn’t get one. But he will, he deserves another chance.”
Happily, Shoop has gotten his.
(Read John Shoop’s final, touching column for Chapelboro)
With the 2012 season in the books and the Heels finishing out 8-4 and Coastal Division champs, I would say that there is a lot to be proud of in Chapel Hill and at the Kenan Stadium Football Center!! Here are just some quick observations/reasons about why I and so many others are “all in” with Fedora and this staff and are thrilled with what the future holds.
1. No excuses!! Coach Fedora came into an absolute mess with NCAA sanctions and with it, the opportunity for upper classmen to hit the road and transfer. Additionally, there was a wavering fan base that was upset with any number of matters – some fans were upset with the way Butch Davis was treated and how he was shown the door; the Ivory Tower academia group was upset with the “over emphasis” that is put on college athletics and have strayed away from academics; some fans just wanted to move on and forget the entire nightmare of the past two years. And then, in rides Coach Fedora and the first thing he does is install an up-tempo spread style offense that requires pro style players and a 4-2-5 defense even though he inherited basic 4-3 personnel. Again, there were no excuses, but more of a challenge to the fan base to bond together to support these players on those magical seven Saturdays every Fall in Kenan Stadium. The rallying cry was be loud in the Tar Pit, be obnoxious and come early/stay late! From all accounts I’m seeing and hearing in the community, Coach Fedora as well as Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham have made huge strides with all fan groups and that’s what leaders do.
2. He’s not a politician and does not deflect blame. The common thread in college football and the NFL is that when a new coach comes in and there are bumps in the road the immediate response or tilt of the coach is that “these are not my players” or “once we get my kind of kids/players in here, the results and style of play will elevate.” Coach Fedora came in with the immediate attitude of winning NOW and winning every game. Again, against all odds of the no postseason carrot and the opportunity to technically be the conference champion, Fedora found a way for the players to buy in. To me that is truly deserving of ACC Coach of the Year status even ousting the miraculous doings of what David Cutcliffe orchestrated over in Wallace Wade this year.
***I cannot continue without stating many thanks to Coach Davis and John Shoop, who did a fantastic job of leaving the shelves pretty well stocked in the transition year….Thank you coach!
3. Momentum. These assistant coaches and Fedora have so many great selling tools going into this recruiting cycle and offseason. An 8-4 record and being Coastal Division champs (technically), the gaudy and X-BOX type numbers you can help generate in this offense which is recognized on a national level (RUN GIO RUN), a team that produced 10 All-ACC players this past season and lastly, against all odds, the Heels could well be Coastal division pre-season favorites with the way the division is trending and shaking out. These are all points that will be made in living rooms across the country as Coach Fedora brings in top level talent to run his Nascar-style offense and attacking defense.
4. Culture change. Southern Miss, do you guys wish you tried a little harder to keep him as your head man? For those of you who do not know, Southern Miss was 12-2 in 2011 and were Conference USA Champions under Coach Fedora. A year later, not so much. The Golden Eagles went 0-12 after Coach Fedora settled down in Chapel Hill. My memory of college football may be limited to the last 30 years but I can’t remember (and didn’t find online), a team that swooned so fast. This might be a first in college football. Is this all representative of only the head coach? No. But he is a pretty big piece of the puzzle and I guarantee if you ask those returning players at Southern Miss, they would be dying to have had Coach Fedora back. At UNC, a big culture change was the uniforms, swag, colors, threads, gear or whatever you want to refer to it as, but that not only rejuvenated the players but it fired up the fans including this one especially when we saw the fighting Fedoras come out of the tunnel rocking the Chrome Foot helmets against the Wolfpack. If you don’t think that had a huge impact on that game just take a look at this all-access video and see the reaction from the players. If you think that the uniform combinations have been awesome this year just wait until next year. Word from a source is that new combinations of colors were ordered recently with Nike and it will put us on track to be the “Oregon” of the Southeast. I can’t wait to see them – and more importantly neither can the players and the recruits whom we’re pursuing who will be wearing the new threads.
What does 2013 hold for the Heels? I know that we will start out of the gate with a daunting task in Columbia, South Carolina against the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and the Ole’ Ball Coach, who will have in his back pocket the preseason lock national player of the year in Jadeveon Clowney. With that being said folks, the future is extremely bright on the Hill. We have our leader in place, our fan base is unifying again and the black cloud is leaving beautiful Chapel Hill!!
Smart. Fast. Physical. 2013 Here we come!!
Appropriate for today, we are most thankful to have John Shoop, Carolina’s former offensive coordinator, contribute “The Shoop Scoop” every Thursday. His latest piece is a moving tribute to some of the youngsters he recruited and coached at UNC. Don’t miss this from-the-heart tribute from a good friend of WCHL and Chapelboro. When the Tar Heel coaching staff turned over, it was our gain that Shoop remained in the community with his family for a year to call the color on weekly high school football broadcasts and write his Huddle column. Thanks, Coach.
Freddie Kiger is one of Chapel Hill’s greatest ambassadors, and the former teacher and long-time media personality used his vast historical knowledge to post a unique Friday column that shared some jewels about the town and university just before game day. In his last piece this Friday, Kiger reflects on the 85th anniversary of the Dedication Game in Kenan Stadium. As with all of FK’s writings, this final post is filled with facts and whimsy about our history.
As we had in our Drive To A Championship basketball special section last winter, UNC students from the Carolina Fever group contributed their oft-insightful and mostly humorous takes on the view from the Tar Pit. In football, it was Andrew Darvin and Alex Collette who made us laugh and think about things from a young perspective. Thanks, guys, and go get painted up.
Brian Chacos, a newcomer to Chapelboro but a Tar Heel lineman forever, took a Tuesday turn to tell us the players’ perspective before, during and after games – big wins and tough losses. Chacos, who played for John Bunting, says the thrill of strapping on those pads and entering Kenan Stadium through the home tunnel will never leave him and still juices his fall Saturdays.
And, of course, our Monday Morning quarterback has been the indomitable BobLee, whose 12-year-old BobLeeSays blog has become one of the most popular and hilarious on the Internet. BobLee always delivered with a follow-up piece that put the game, and all of its machinations, into a perspective that if not so proper be damned!
Occasionally, we also had guest columns, such as Kristin Tucker’s tailgating tips and Dave Kirk’s view from afar.
To all of you, plus the great action photos shot by Josh Drye and contributed by the Daily Tar Heel, thanks for making Huddle Up With The Heels regular reading for Carolina football fans this season, Coach Larry Fedora’s first and one we hope ends with a big victory over Maryland Saturday. See you next year!
No school has ever been charged with its associate head coach and recruiting coordinator (John Blake) being a paid by an agent while on the university payroll. Since that is unprecedented, there is no telling what kind of sanctions will follow. Also, the academic fraud among players and accused tutor Jennifer Wiley being hired privately by Davis are serious sins in the eyes of the NCAA, according to reports.
It is time for UNC to take stock of its current position and begin planning for the future. The Ohio State model looks like a good one to emulate.
That’s my opinion on the UNC football scandal, what’s yours? Comment below.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/davis-should-go-now