(Smith Cameron Photography)

Saturday is the first big test of the Mack Brown magic.

No other coach could have shaken Carolina football out of the apathy that had finally overcome the program in Larry Fedora’s last two losing seasons. The alumni and fan base had moved on from anger to the annual excitement of another basketball season. Kenan had become mostly empty and silent as the gridiron Tar Heels left people the worst way – uncaring.

Bubba Cunningham had no choice but to make a coaching change, although that was also wrought with danger. He would have a big buyout to pay, and almost any new coach faced a wait-and-see response, except for one.

Brown was available and, despite 67 years and millions in the bank, wanted one more shot at coaching but only at a place that was familiar and welcoming.Chapel Hill was that place, and he hit the ground running like he had almost 30 years ago to the day.

Season ticket sales spiked immediately, and Mack’s infectious charisma captured the attention of alumni who are easily distracted toward hoops.

Brown’s salesmanship was on display from his first public appearance, and he shared the halftime intro at the Deandome with the apparently remarkable staff he had hired and scored quickly in recruiting by flipping star signees from Florida State, N.C. State and Penn State. And, as spring practice commenced, the next recruiting class was well on its way here.

Ramped-up promos have tried to make a festival atmosphere and unrevealing spring game (with scouts from 2019 opponents on hand) a big deal, and that day has historically been a non starter at UNC with a smattering of fans. Only once was that not true, when ESPN was televising, and Carolina opened just the side of the stadium the cameras would show.

A surprisingly big turnout to see whatever the Tar Heels have to offer will be the first indication that the wait and see has morphed into unconditional love for Mack being back.

Let’s be there to prove it.