Kansas, Kansas, Kansas (Ugh!)
It had to be Kansas. Kansas. Kansas.
Roy Williams may be over the heartbreak and heartache his leaving Lawrence caused in 2003, but it’s just getting worse with me. The tweets, emails and blog posts are already out there, claiming that Bill Self has built a better program at KU than ol’ Roy has at UNC over the last 10 years.
Statistics don’t show that (they’re pretty damn even, in fact), but the fact that Tar Heels have now gone home at the hands of the Jayhawks in three of the last six NCAA Tournaments makes it seem that way to a lot of basketball fans.
Both programs have been great all the way back to the Phog Allen and Frank McGuire eras, each having blip periods that caused them to change coaches. But the last 10 years have been basically even-steven, certainly close enough to disavow any notion that one guy has out-coached the other.
Kansas and Self have won more games and have a better record (300-58 for 84%) than Carolina and Williams (282-79 for 78%), but that is largely due to several factors over that 10-year span.
One, Self took over a Kansas team that Williams left in sounder shape than the one Roy inherited from Matt Doherty. Two, the Tar Heels had one dreadful season in the last 10 years, the 20-17 debacle that followed losing four starters off the 2009 national champions. And, three, Carolina’s overall pipeline to the pros has been better than Self’s at Kansas, which ironically has made it worse for UNC.
Thirteen players have been drafted in the first round during the Williams era, 11 of them who left a total of 17 seasons on the Tar Heel table. Compare that to Kansas under Self, which has produced nine first-round picks, one who left after one year, two who left after two and another two who left after three seasons. If you add Mario Chalmers, the MOP of the 20008 Final Four who was drafted in the second round, the Jayhawks have lost 10 seasons of eligibility in the last 10 years.
As for the NCAA Tournament, Self and Kansas have been there all 10 years but with less results than Carolina and Williams in nine trips. KU has one national championship (’08) and reached another Final Four (2012) and could still improve on those numbers this season. The Jayhawks have gone out in three regional finals, one Sweet Sixteen (and counting), one second round ouster and two embarrassing first-round upsets (Bucknell and Bradley in 2005 and ’06).
Carolina under Williams has those 2005 and ’09 NCAA titles, one other Final Four and three Elite Eight game goners. Sunday’s loss to KU was the third second-round ouster for UNC and Williams, who holds the record of 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with at least one victory. Both Self and Williams have won three national Coach of the Year honors at their current schools.
Their conference records are pretty close, with Self winning a few more regular-season and tournament titles in the Big 12 than Williams in the ACC. But, over that 10 years, the ACC has been the better league top to bottom and won three national championships to KU’s one for the Big 12.
So don’t give me that hoo-ha that Kansas has a better program than Carolina. They are both great. What skews the pooch are those three losses to KU in the three NCAA match-ups, and each one has a story to itself.
At the 2008 Final Four at San Antonio, the Tar Heels were a slight favorite over Kansas after winning both the ACC regular season and tournament and losing only two games all season. But this was the first time Williams faced Kansas, the still-angry KU crowd and all the storylines took away from the game itself.
The Heels played horribly, fell behind by 40-12 in the first half and made a late push that fell short in the 84-68 crusher. Williams (wearing the infamous KU sticker) stayed to watch the Jayhawks win the national championship two nights later, only after Memphis did not foul Kansas with a three-point lead and Chalmers’ dramatic bomb sent the game into overtime.
When the 2012 NCAA brackets came out, Carolina was on another collision course with Kansas in the Midwest Regional, hoping to have John Henson back at full strength from the wrist he sprained in the ACC Tournament. Of course, it got worse after Kendall Marshall went down in the second-round win over Creighton. With back-up point guard Dexter Strickland already sidelined by a knee injury, the Tar Heels were left with freshman reserve Stilman White, who played admirably in the 13-point loss to the Jayhawks in St. Louis.
The committee did it again this season, when it was an even worse scenario for Carolina, which lost two sophomores, one junior and one senior from its 2012 starting lineup that when whole was the only serious threat to Kentucky’s national championship. And the suits sent the Tar Heels to Kansas City (which is like playing Carolina in Greensboro).
By then, UNC had made the NCAA Tournament only due to perhaps Williams’ best coaching job of his 25-year career. Reluctantly, in early February, he scrapped his two low-post offense for a small lineup of four guards and little presence in the paint. The Heels launched and made enough three-pointers to turn their season around and get another NCAA bid, but they went to the Dance living by the long bomb, which was enough to give Williams the hives.
And, yes, they died that way, shooting barely 30 percent for the game and giving in to Kansas’ best half of the tournament thus far. So Carolina under Williams is 0-3 against KU and Self. And, since they will never play in the regular season by mutual consent, it will stay that way until the next time they meet in the NCAA tournament.
With at least five guys 6-9 or bigger next season, Williams will go back to the way he likes to play and, sooner or later, he’ll see his old school again. The NCAA committee seems to like that kind of theater for TV.
Even though, as of this moment, we hate it.
All photography in Hoop It Up is provided by Todd Melet.
This notion of “Football First” or “Basketball First” fans at Carolina amuses me.
Having graduated from UNC and been around for four decades, I am hard-pressed to think of a Carolina alumnus or rabid fan who roots passionately for one of the sports and disses the other. If you’re a Tar Heel fan, your pull for the Tar Heels. Period.
Now, there are different levels of personal passion, for a number of reasons.
You might like unrushed football weekends in Chapel Hill over traffic jams to and from the Dean Dome. Or you might like the sport of basketball (especially Carolina and ACC style) over the longer, weather-affected gridiron game.
But I honestly don’t know a single person who wants one of the sports to succeed at the expense of the other. Including me, who has been painted by some as a “basketball-firster.”
Indulge me for a moment. I actually like football better than basketball. Having played it from 6th grade through high school, and watched many more college and pro football games, I understand the sport better. Even if you see a football play for the first time, you can clearly watch it evolve from snap to whistle. Aside from the few sets that Carolina basketball has been running for 40 years before it goes freelance, I don’t recognize most of the plays. In basketball, you don’t need to watch the game that way. If the possession ends with a hoop, we are happy.
I fell in love with Carolina in the fall before I ever saw a UNC basketball game. It was at Kenan Stadium on a gorgeous autumn afternoon. Against Clemson. Don’t think we won, but it did not matter. As a city kid, I was hooked on the beauty and pageantry and majesty of it all.
A few months later, at the old Carmichael Auditorium, I was mesmerized by Frank McGuire when he strode onto the court with his South Carolina basketball team. I knew he had a history in Chapel Hill and soon learned the whole story. In those years, Dean Smith was a youngster, still earning respect from his players and the fans who idolized what McGuire had done in 1957.
Personal passion aside, there is also personal access in the makeup of Carolina football and basketball fans. Relatively few could cram into Carmichael as the Tar Heels and Smith became national figures in their own right. Students and staff got a few thousand tickets and the rest went to Rams Cub members, who had begun funding athletic scholarships at UNC.
Nothing really changed when the Smith Center opened in 1986, because the fan base had increased more disproportionately than the seating capacity. Let’s run the numbers.
Of the 22,000 seats in the Dean Dome, say roughly 7,000 go to students and 3,000 go to faculty and staff. That leaves 12,000. The Rams Club donors who financed the building got to buy all of those seats, the higher their gift the better the ticket location and number they could buy. Some bought two seats but others bought as many as 12 and still have them. If it’s an average of four, that means only 3,000 Carolina fans (or families) own basketball season tickets.
Carolina tries to sell at least three times that many season tickets at (now) 63,000-seat Kenan Stadium. Plus single-game seats always go on sale, which happens rarely in basketball. So, simply put, more Tar Heel fans can go to football games than basketball games, and that access may increase their personal pride as well as passion in that sport.
Some see the lucky basketball season-ticket holders as elitists because they possess a commodity. But I am guessing the great majority of Dean Domers also spend football weekends in Chapel Hill, and cheer for the football Tar Heels on Saturdays.
Whether losses ruin their weekends like occasional basketball defeats sour their next days is purely a matter of habit. Carolina has won three ACC football championships since 1966, compared to roughly 10 times that many regular-season or tournament titles in basketball. Plus Carolina has won five national championships, while the football Tar Heels haven’t played in what is equivalent to a BCS bowl game today since Choo-Choo Justice ran wild in the late 1940’s. So expectations are lower and losses are easier to get over in football.
But that doesn’t mean Tar Heel fans don’t want to win as much in football, and we have had so-called big-time teams before – from Bill Dooley in the ‘70s, to Dick Crum in the ‘80s and Mack Brown in the ‘90s. The story hasn’t been so pretty since Brown left in 1997, but that’s because we made some god-awful decisions and managed them poorly, sort of like what happened in the ill-fated Matt Doherty years, which were rectified by the return of Roy Williams.
I wasn’t a close friend of Mack Brown’s, but was close enough to have introduced him to his second wife, Sally, then a successful real estate developer in Chapel Hill. I know he did not want to leave UNC when Texas began throwing steer-troughs of money his way. We had just opened the Kenan Football Center and Brown had yet to move into his office. Sally was making a ton developing high-end neighborhoods in Chapel Hill.
Brown said to Athletic Director Dick Baddour, “If you want football to be as big as basketball, I want to make what (basketball coach) Bill Guthridge makes, and I don’t even know what he makes.” According to Brown, Baddour said that was impossible, that it would bankrupt the athletic department and that football will never be as big as basketball at UNC.” Even if you believe that, you don’t say that, especially to a football coach you are trying to keep.
The loss of Brown was the first of about a dozen major personnel blunders committed by Baddour, who eventually at the direction of Chancellor Michael Hooker offered Brown what he wanted. But, by then, Brown had accepted the Texas job, where today he is among the highest paid coaches in the history of college athletics.
Brown left a top-ten program in the hands of career assistant Carl Torbush, followed by loyal UNC alum John Bunting, both of whom for different reasons killed Carolina’s recruiting momentum. Brown’s NFL talent-laden Tar Heels turned into ACC middleweights that earned an occasional minor bowl bid. Even Butch Davis, with all the money and facilities he commanded, could not get to more than the Music City Bowl and left Carolina 0-4 versus N.C. State. Those relative failures make many UNC fans turn to basketball before they really want to.
I sat in Baddour’s office after Davis was hired, supposedly to explain why I had told someone that the Board of Trustees and not the athletic director had found our latest coach. This was after Trustee Paul Fulton was strutting around the Bobcats Arena one night, accepting handshakes and homage like Vito Corleone, saying it was a “team effort” to reel in Davis.
I asked Baddour if he was heartbroken over what had happened to Carolina football since Brown left, as I was, and said I did not care who hired Davis and was just glad he was here. Baddour leaned forward and said, “I hired Butch Davis.”
“Great, congrats, now let’s win some football games,” I responded. We shook hands and parted pleasantly.
But, of course, it did not go as any of us had hoped or, frankly, expected. Davis lost a lot of equity with Carolina fans when his new agent, Jimmy Sexton, wrangled a $291,000 raise and contract extension out of Baddour after going 4-8 his first season. Highly ranked recruiting classes did not produce highly ranked teams, rather disappointing fourth-quarter finishes in too many games and, eventually, the scandal we are all living through today.
There are no Basketball-first fans at Carolina, as far as I can tell. I have written five basketball books because, thankfully, someone wanted to buy them. If there were a market for UNC football books, experts like Lee Pace would have written several by now. Ironically, there finally may be some interest in one, but that’s because people would want to know exactly what has happened over the last 15 years. And it would not be a pleasant story.
Maybe such a book will have a happy ending. All Carolina fans, from what I can tell, would welcome that.
Don’t you agree?
A Way Out
You remember the classic Kevin Costner movie in which he seemingly had No Way Out of his pickle as a double secret agent?
Carolina avoided that dilemma in the first phase of a path to restore its reputation and integrity. It can also keep its football program on track as a contender in the Coastal Division of the ACC, which could always lead to a conference championship and ultimate BCS game.
With Dick Baddour’s announced resignation, Carolina can begin the search for a new athletic director whose first duty will be to hire the Tar Heels’ next permanent football coach. So the right plan is in place; let’s not screw it up by adhering to Churchill’s old adage “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
In other words, there are times when UNC might be able to promote a young star from within, but not this time, with such a big assignment on top of the in-basket.
Baddour has held the position for 14 years after being promoted from John Swofford’s senior associate in 1997, when Swofford became Commissioner of the ACC. Baddour, who had previously worked for the Dean of Students and the UNC law school, was basically a compliance guy whose job it was to know all the rules and make sure they were followed.
The late Chancellor, Michael Hooker, wanted Matt Kupec to succeed Swofford because Kupec was UNC’s chief development officer and Hooker believed that fund-raising would be the athletic department’s biggest priority moving forward. But legendary basketball coach Dean Smith, who himself would retire two months later, favored Baddour. And in Dean’s prime, he was the most powerful man at the university.
Loyalty was Smith’s greatest strength and also his greatest weakness, so he supported Baddour, the good athletic department soldier for years. And by backing Baddour, Smith knew he could control who coached the basketball team after he retired. That’s the way it played out, with Bill Guthridge taking the Tar Heels to two Final Fours in three years before stepping down. But the plan hit a bump in the road when Roy Williams decided to stay at Kansas in 2000, the first time he was offered the job.
Williams eventually answered Carolina’s call to come home three years later after Matt Doherty was terminated. Doherty turned out to be one of four major-sport coaches hired by Baddour and eventually fired. The others were Carl Torbush, John Bunting and now Butch Davis. So, aside from the high marks Baddour has received in other areas, hiring head coaches and properly managing those hires was not his strongest suit.
That he has stepped aside to allow UNC time to hire his successor and, in turn, find the next football coach was admirable and speaks volumes about Baddour’s love for Carolina, where he graduated in 1966 and will have served for 45 years. But it is imperative that Carolina goes away from its popular practice of promoting from within because it’s easy and cheap and familiar. The next athletic director must be experienced in hiring head coaches and bring some new ideas to the department. “The Carolina Way” is not the only way, and UNC has been remiss to look at other schools and borrow ideas and ideologies from the best of them. There is nothing wrong with injecting new blood and vision into the mix.
And, like the buyout Davis will receive, hiring an experienced sitting AD from another school at market value will cost Carolina more money. According to the News and Observer listing of state salaries and rankings among ACC athletic directors, Baddour is the eighth-highest paid A.D. for a program considered the best in the league and among the best in the country. As an example, Duke hired Kevin White from Notre Dame and White earns nearly three times what Baddour makes. Market value for a major athletic program is about a half-million dollars a year.
In short, the hiring of the next football coach cannot be even a minor mistake. It must be a home run, and if a pool of the right candidates is developed that can certainly be accomplished. To his credit, Davis left UNC football with better players and facilities than he inherited, and any forthcoming NCAA sanctions will be attributed to him and likely give the new coach a bit of a honeymoon period in which to get established and put his own mark on the program.
Whoever Chancellor Holden Thorp chooses to find Baddour’s successor, the candidates will likely include former UNC football player and current South Carolina Athletic Director Eric Hyman, whose senior associate is ex-Tar Heel star athlete, Charles Waddell. Hyman reportedly would return to his alma mater. Norwood Teague, a UNC grad and one-time marketing director, has been the A.D. at Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) for five years. Teague hired unknown basketball coach Shaka Smart two years ago, and was able to keep him from taking a bigger job after Smart led the Rams to the 2011 Final Four as the Cinderella team of the season.
With the clock ticking on the Davis controversy, Thorp made the right 11th hour call.
The 2011 football Tar Heels, free from the constant presence of an NCAA investigation under a head coach who would have been besieged all season, can now play football unencumbered, improve as their schedule toughens and produce another winning record and bowl team. The players can certainly retain loyalty and respect for Davis, even play the season in his honor if they want, but the important point is they can now reunite what has been a divided fan base that, whether Butch supporters or critics, loves Carolina above all.
Meanwhile, the plan to find their next permanent head coach can be carried out. Hopefully, UNC is smart enough to bring in the best and most experienced athletic director available. That person will not only have to hire a new football coach but within 10 years may also have to choose the next women’s soccer coach, women’s basketball coach and (gulp) men’s basketball coach.
We need the right hire to make those hires right, too.
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:
- 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.
- 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.