Shoop Heads For Purdue

   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 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)

"In Larry I Trust"

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!!

Huddle Up, As Season Ends

With the 2012 Carolina football season drawing to a close, this is the last week of Chapelboro’s Huddle Up With The Heels. It has been a pleasure to contribute to this diverse special sports section, which was invented to inform, entertain and educate UNC fans of all ages.

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!

Just Win, Baby!

If Everett Withers keeps it up, he’s going to make it easy on Carolina’s new athletic director.
Withers began his season as UNC’s interim football coach with a slight blip that had some people chortling in their corn flakes – publicizing that the game ball from the opening day win over James Madison would go to his fired predecessor because this is really “Coach Davis’ team” or something like that. An okay gesture in private, but not the separation he needed to show from the beleaguered Butch.
Since then, Withers has been darn near perfect. He wants the “interim” removed from his title but he’s not campaigning for it. He is saying and doing all the right things, reaching out to the UNC faculty and using buzz words like “accountability” and “responsibility” which apparently Holden Thorp and the Board of Trustees thought was lacking in the last head coach.
Because most assistant coaches (with the exception of John Blake) are seen and not heard, we never knew how engaging, entertaining and enlightening Withers is. You get more direct answers out of one interview with him than in a season of “coach speak” from other head honchos. He startled the radio audience Saturday night in Greenville when his players came out of the locker room for the second half with a comfortable lead and told sideline reporter Lee Pace that they were “going for the jugular.”
His team starts games as if shot from a cannon, outscoring opponents 42-3 in the first quarter. It gave up the ball too often early but four take-aways at East Carolina evened their turnover ratio on the season.  After Bryn Renner threw six picks in the first four games, he was perfect against the Pirates. Withers says it his job to make life easier on his talented rookie quarterback.
His weekly radio show is amazingly informative. Withers explains technical football terms in such a way that you actually learn something. Did you know, for example, that one reason teams like to run plays toward their own sideline is so they can substitute quickly for the next snap before the defense has time to run players on and off across the field? Never thought about that, but it makes perfect sense.
On the field, so far, the Tar Heels play with the same combination of toughness and intelligence. In the red zone, they score touchdowns 83 percent of the time and give them up less than 40 percent, far better than how any of Davis’ four UNC teams began the season. Yes, Withers inherited outstanding interior lines, but offensive boss John Shoop is bringing Renner along beautifully with a balanced attack that does not allow the defense to cheat. If it does, it gets burned by the quick opener on the ground or one-on-one coverage in the secondary.
In short, the 2011 Tar Heels play harder and smarter than any team I can remember dating back to the Mack Brown era. These are kids who look like they care far more about football than who their head coach is, and Withers is ideal for that role. After a quarter century as an assistant, he clearly knows his stuff and articulates it candidly without giving away the ranch. He seems as comfortable as your favorite pair of loafers.
Now the schedule is turning out to be very much in his favor. Undefeated Georgia Tech looked like an “L” on paper and so it was against the favorite to win the Coastal Division of the ACC. But the next five weeks will be telling for the Tar Heels, who should easily get by a young Louisville team that struggles on offense and looks to have too much talent and discipline for Miami the following week, also at home. Even if they lose at Clemson, the ACC’s only other unbeaten, they can come home to whip Wake Forest and do something Davis couldn’t do in four tries, beat N.C. State on November 5 (in Raleigh).
That would leave Carolina 8-2 (and way bowl eligible) going to Blacksburg for the Thursday night
ESPN game on November 17. The Hokies could wake up like they have in other slow-start seasons, but right now they are the most beatable Beamer team in years. Should that be accomplished, followed by the almost annual edging of Duke, ol’ Interim Everett would finish 10-2 in his first fall as a head coach. And no matter who they hired as athletic director, that person could not possibly send Withers packing or back to the coordinator’s office.
Of course, there are some long-range issues to address, such as whether Withers can close on highly regarded recruiting classes like super salesman Davis. And can this career assistant generate enough excitement and unity amidst a traditionally lethargic football fan base, some of which is suddenly spitting mad over how Thorp bounced their man Butch. That is important because a large debt is left to pay on the Blue Zone, and the only way to do that is to sell the sucker out.
Head coaches at Carolina have had a history as scapegoats, dating back to when Jim Hickey took over after “Sunny Jim” Tatum died in the summer of 1959. Bill Dooley won two ACC titles despite his oft-ridiculed three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense. Dick Crum went to five straight bowls and won an ACC title without talking very much. Mack Brown went to seven straight bowls and never stopped talking his way out of two 1-10 seasons. Carl Torbush never should have gotten the job, and John Bunting never should have blown the only job he ever wanted. Davis falls somewhere between a scapegoat and scam artist, depending on your point of view.
After all that Carolina football history, unassuming Everett Withers could wind up the ultimate right man, right place, right time. Just win, baby, and he can take the drama out of it.
How many games do you think Withers has to win to keep the job?

Davis Should Go — Now

UNC can still begin moving beyond its regrettable football scandal of the last year, regardless of its final fate from the NCAA. Ohio State has conveniently provided Carolina with the model it should use in order to separate a scandalous past from a brighter future.
The Buckeyes, whose transgressions aren’t nearly as severe as those charged to the Tar Heels, immediately looked ahead by removing decorated head coach Jim Tressel after he bore responsibility for the violations by several of his players. The school installed assistant Luke Fickell as interim coach for the 2011 season.
The dirty laundry Ohio State still must deal with is off to the side and out of the public’s face, while its fans can focus on the new season without the controversy hanging over their heads on a daily basis. And perhaps Tressel’s firing and the Buckeyes vacating all of their 2010 wins, including the Sugar Bowl championship, may lessen their forthcoming NCAA penalties.
Carolina should do the same – immediately – before practice begins in August. Few objective observers truly believe that Butch Davis will survive the NCAA and academic allegations, for which he bears responsibility as the head coach and CEO of the football program but has yet to admit. Chancellor Holden Thorp, to this point a staunch supporter of Davis, told the Raleigh News and Observer that the Michael McAdoo plagiarism case “is another sad part of the whole episode.”
So Carolina’s leadership has two choices:
  1. Allow Davis to coach the 2011 season under constant inquiry and suspicion over what else may come out and what will result from the October 28 hearing with the NCAA.
  2. Remove Davis as head coach, let coordinators John Shoop and Everett Withers coach the team and give the players and fans a break from the non-stop controversy.
If Davis coaches this season, he will face the media at least 50 times after the Operation Football press confab on July 25 in Pinehurst — between training camp, weekly teleconferences and live press conferences and after each of UNC’s 12 games, home and away. There will be constant questions over what has transpired, what may yet be revealed and the NCAA hearing. It’s unreasonable that Davis and Carolina can stonewall their way through such an inquisition.
Even if they can, does the team really need that distraction?
If Davis were removed, UNC’s pile of dirty laundry would be “off to the side” and the Tar Heels could play football out from under the cloud of controversy. How refreshing that would be at this point. Whatever advantage UNC has by Davis’ presence would be negated by the side show he will create after emerging from being virtually underground for the last 7 months.
Making such a move would also give Carolina a chance to plan for the future, and there is an obvious way to do that, as well. Whoever’s in charge at UNC these days (and that’s debatable) should say, “Enough is enough” and start repairing a tarnished image.
“That so many who have nurtured and protected that reputation for so many years . . . haven’t publicly called for Davis’ head is the saddest part of the whole sorry episode.” – Scott Mooneyham, Greenville Daily Reflector

Dick Baddour, who is in the last year of his contract, could announce his retirement effective next June 30 and spend his remaining time in office dealing with the dirty laundry and preparing for October 28. UNC could begin a search for a new athletic director, whose first duty would be to hire a head coach. The next AD should come from the outside with experience in hiring coaches and overseeing those hires when necessary, an area where Baddour failed miserably.
Carolina has a history of no contingency plan that has resulted in the hiring of Carl Torbush, Matt Doherty and John Bunting, all of whom were eventually fired.
Where will UNC be if, next December, the NCAA hands down the major penalties that most knowledgeable pundits are predicting? Georgia Tech received four years of probation and a $100,000 fine for one player receiving impermissible benefits totaling $312. Two years ago, Michigan got three-year probation because its coaches exceeded the weekly 20-hour limit for practice. Clearly, the Tar Heels’ violations are more numerous and egregious.
“Butch Davis and North Carolina could face NCAA penalties more severe than USC even received.”Sporting News

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.

“ . . . if proven, those violations rank alongside any of the last decade.” – Sports Illustrated, July 11, 2011
By the terms of his contract and from the hue and cry of alumni, whose university’s reputation and integrity have been seriously compromised, Davis could never be retained if Carolina receives a major NCAA probation. But if UNC waits until November or December to fire Davis and does not have a new athletic director in place by then, what coach would want to come under such a chaotic situation? Certainly, a lame-duck Baddour hiring the fourth football coach of his tenure is not an option.

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.