Category Archives: ACC

Butch Davis should return to Heels’ sidelines

Butch Davis should not be fired.

I was one of the first to say it. Allow me, then, to be one of the first to say I was wrong.

When the NCAA violations and player-agent relationship revelations were coming to the surface at the beginning of this football season, and I was in the “Fire Butch Davis” camp. You don’t cheat at our University. Not at North Carolina. Maybe Davis didn’t know what was going on, and maybe there was nothing he could’ve done about it had he known it was going on, but the head coach of a major college program is the face of that program. And it was his signature hiring of the shady assistant coach, the one who brought these violations onto the University in the first place.

Maybe everybody is doing it, and maybe the system is broken. Those are points that can be argued, and have been throughout a tumultuous NCAA vs. College Football season. The problem was North Carolina found itself not merely in the middle of it, but at its epicenter. And that’s not the kind of scrutiny proud Tar Heel alumni will stand for.

Until now.

Davis’ job at UNC still probably isn’t on the firmest ground even after a trhilling Music City Bowl 30-27 double-ovetime victory over a .500 Tennessee team on Dec. 30. And, for all of the reasons mentioned above, maybe it shouldn’t be. If Davis is let go, I as one UNC alum will understand. It’s the price he and the University would have to pay for the ugly repercussions that led to 14 Tar Heels’ players being suspended — seven of them for the entire season — because of the NCAA problems. Winning is nice, but not at the cost of shame and rules-breaking.

But it was that win over the Vols that was emblematic of what the Heels were like as a football team — as a direct, highly-visual representative of the University — that enables those aforementioned proud alumni the opportunity to consider moving past the Season That Coulda Been with an ounce of actual pride in the process. Yes, there were injuries, quite of few of them, in fact, but every team every year deals with significant injuries. And the depth and talent issues in any given week that the Heels faced were brought on by none other than the program itself.

Still, UNC played the season with a vigor and relentlessness that we all want to see out of our teams each time they step onto the football field — and the composure they showed in a chaotic fourth quarter and overtime against Tennessee was stunning. There is one thing worse than a team allowing its vast talent to waste away and string fans along through a season of underachievement. And that’s a team that licks its wounds, shrugs its shoulders and turns it back on trying because it feels defeated the moment the opening kickoff is in the air.

The Heels never gave up on a season in which its promise was derailed for good before the opening game. Through the tumult, through the harsh stares and hard questions, the Heels kept on playing football and going forward through the season with a fight and a manner that can make fans and alumni, if not proud, then at least appreciative.

The players booted from the team for various reasons may have been the story of UNC Football this season. But at the end of the season, they weren’t the faces of the program.

And for that, Butch Davis deserves a second chance to rebuild North Carolina Football — the right way.

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Filed under ACC, Alex Podlogar, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, North Carolina Tar Heels, Sports, Sports columns, UNC Tar Heels

Side with Gaston Collins in this one

Indeed, my blog has been neglected for the better part of three months since I left The Sanford Herald as sports editor and moved on to a media relations position with Fayetteville State University athletics. Sorry about that. It is my hope to keep it updated when I feel it is necessary.

And after seeing Sunday’s article in The Herald regarding Gaston Collins, now it is necessary.

I don’t have any problem with the story, the fact that it was written or the balance of it, etc. Good story, and well done by Alexa Milan. All the bases were covered (I’ll get to that in a minute).

And when a parent comes forth with an accusation or a problem, working those concerns into a balanced article is what good reporters do. Done and done. No problem.

It’s just that I’ve been burned by one of the sources in the story in the past, so I happen to be a little leery.

But it’s more than that.

A lot more.

Because Gaston Collins doesn’t deserve this.

The crux of the story is that Collins, the Southern Lee basketball coach, has been requiring his players to attend church services on Sundays as a team, and if they did not do this, there would be repercussions. And honestly, if that were indeed the case, I think I would have a problem with that as well.

But I don’t have a problem with what Coach Collins is doing. And it’s because I’ve literally heard Collins speak to his team following a practice about this proposed team-building exercise. And the actual quote I remember is, “This is not required, but requested.”

Now, granted, maybe I dropped the ball on a potential story when I heard Collins say this and bring up the idea with his team. I do remember being taken aback by it, because it was something I had not heard of a coach doing. And on their surface, perhaps Collins’ words could be construed to imply potential repercussions if players didn’t consent to attending church.

That’s until you consider the source, which is important in this matter — on a couple of levels.

Go ahead, find someone else who would disparage Gaston Collins in any way. Go ahead and try. Speak to former coaches at Southern Lee. I’ve spoken to three of them in the last two days — coaches who have left the area and would face no repercussion for any sort of statements. Go ahead and see if any of them have any problems with Gaston Collins.

They don’t. They won’t. And it’s because of the widespread respect they each have for Collins not as a teacher, or a basketball coach — but as a man.

Personally, I wish I was half the man and person Gaston Collins is. And so is just about everybody else who has met him or dealt with him for any significant time. Knowing what I knew about Collins as a person, I knew that his words — “not required, but requested” — simply meant what they mean. That’s why I didn’t have a story when I heard them. Gaston Collins, lie? Not on your life. As for futher background, consider how much more community service Southern Lee basketball does compared to any other team in the Lee County area.

A couple more things: I am thrilled that Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss commented to The Herald about this matter. Considering how rarely LCS comments on  potential controversies surrounding varsity athletics, this should tell you everything you need to know. Also, kudos to LCS for allowing Collins to defend himself and comment in the story. This is clearly not always the case, either.

Clearly, Collins should face no sanction against these accusations. Let him continue to teach and coach kids in Lee County. He’s one of the best role models our area has.

And if someone can’t see that, then he must have an agenda of his own.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, The Sanford Herald

The PODcast, prep football preview edition

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.08.19-12.31.01-dedit.mp3″

In Part I, we break down the upcoming seasons for Lee County and Southern Lee.

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.08.19-13.00.00-d.mp3″

In Part II, there are brief previews for Northwood, Western Harnett, Chatham Central, Jordan-Matthews, Overhills, and Union Pines.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Cape Fear Valley Conference, Chatham Central, Designated Hitter, Lee County High School, Northwood, Overhills Jaguars, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, Tri-9 Conference, Union Pines, Western Harnett

The PODcast, July 6

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.07.06-12.00.00-dedit.mp3″

In Part 1, Sanford’s sports talk radio show breaks down the varied approaches for the county’s three summer league baseball teams. After that, Ryan recounts his time spent last week at the Lee County Mud Motorsports Complex.

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.07.06-12.30.00-d.mp3″

In Part II, the guys look at the latest in NBA free agency and quickly rant about baseball’s All-Star Game. After that, it’s only perhaps the most embarrassing Sarda Segment of all time. Feel free to comment below. Can Ryan go any lower? Look out, Grace Christian basketball.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, All-Star Game, Designated Hitter, Grace Christian, LeBron James, Lee County High School, Major League Baseball, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, WDCC 90.5 FM

Time to wait and see with Cavaliers

Walking up to sign his son in for one of the physical exams given by Southern Lee High School on Wednesday, a Cavaliers football parent summed up the previous 24 hours succinctly — and perfectly.

“Well, let’s see if we’re on the right track,” he said.

Inside the Southern Lee gym, milling about to at once meet future players and their parents as well as size up potential members of his coaching staff, was freshly minted Cavaliers coach Tom Paris, who at dusk only the day before had been named as Southern Lee’s third head coach in as many summers.

It’s been a whirlwind 2 1/2 years since Southern Lee stunned conference champion and No. 2 seed South Johnston in the state’s biggest upset of the first round of the playoffs. Mounting losses have gone hand-in-hand with abuse allegations and he-said, she-said bickering since the program’s signature moment.

Caught in the crossfires have been the student-athletes who were once considered the foundation of a burgeoning program on the rise. With the constant chaos enveloping them, who could blame these kids for allowing football to take a back seat in their lives?

One victory and two removed coaches now two years later, Southern Lee finds itself at a familiar crossroads again. A new coach is saying all the right things, parents seem willing to give the new guy a chance and a scouting combine has already been scheduled less than a week after the new hire.

So then, where does everybody go from here?

Good question, and one that will only answer itself in time. Because if there’s one thing that can be learned from the past two years, it is that no one can predict with any kind of accuracy what exactly is going to happen in regards to Southern Lee football. So there is no use in even trying.

Events will unfold, and considering what the program has been through the last 24 months and 20 regular season games, one thing we can all probably bet on is that there will be struggles before there will be celebrations. That’s part of the rebuilding process, and to think Southern Lee will avoid some tough days ahead is naive.

Like last season, the Cavaliers’ success on the gridiron is not likely to be gauged by the won-loss record. Maybe, though, part of it will be. No doubt that is a best-case scenario. No team wins big without having first won a little, and winning a little right now would be huge for Southern Lee and everyone involved.

That’s not the point right now, though.

The point is that Page 1 of Southern Lee’s latest new era must begin immediately. Vitriol has been slung with little regard for personal feelings among many different parties over the last few months — and years. There has been rampant criticism, the usual skepticism, and, perhaps at times, a lot less realism than the time period has called for.

Is Tom Paris the right man for the football job? No one can say for sure right now. Judging by the amount of work that needs to be done, even Paris said on Wednesday he felt a form of anxiety about the whole thing.

Considering what the program and the community most closely associated with it has been through over the last couple of years, it’s actually endearing to hear a little honesty like that.

But to get honesty on a consistent basis, one must have trust. Trust is the bedrock of all things we do in conjunction with another in life, even those as basic as blocking and tackling on a football field. Paris seemingly coaches under a trusting philosophy, saying that the players must understand that they are accountable to each other first, and that the coaching staff will be accountable to them through preparation.

Trust, of course, is only tested under adverse conditions, something Southern Lee football has already had far too much experience with, much of it outside of the locker room. More importantly, it is something that can only be earned over time.

And trust has been fleeting at Southern Lee. Constant change will do that.

“I’m disappointed that we’ve had to hire another football coach,” said Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss on Tuesday after Paris’ hiring. “I think the deal with any program, whether it’s an academic program or to have a solid school, you need consistency. And a revolving door is never what you want in any program, whether it’s in the classroom position or in a coaching position. From that standpoint, I’m hopeful that Tom will stay with us and build the program.”

Moss is right. And on the surface, it seems like such an simple equation.

We all know it isn’t.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

The PODcast returns, June 29

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.06.29-11.59.01-dedit.mp3″

In Part I, the guys return to the airwaves for the first time to break down the most recent moves at Southern Lee High School.

http://media.podhoster.com/podlogar/2010.06.29-12.30.00-d.mp3″

In Part II, there is loads of NBA free agency talk before a quick rant about the World Cup.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, LeBron James, NBA, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, WDCC 90.5 FM, World Cup

Paris: Cavs have a lot of work to do

SANFORD — Tom Paris knows what the Southern Lee Cavaliers have been through the last two seasons. And he knows those players will always have the stinging thoughts of one win in their last 20 regular season games stuck in the backs of their minds.

Some coaches entering a program following back-to-back miserable seasons might want to get as far away from those memories as possible.

Not Tom Paris. The new Southern Lee coach wants to use every last bad memory to his — and the players’ — advantage.

“They’re not going to forget the struggles of the last two seasons — the players are just looking for the opportunity for the shadow of doubt to resurface,” Paris said on Wednesday, a day after his hiring as the Cavaliers’ third new head coach in as many seasons. “Nobody wants to say ‘here we go again.’ They’re all worried about that.

“But we’ve got to use that to our advantage. They have to understand that if they want to avoid what’s happened around here the last two seasons, then they’ve got to do the work it’s going to take to escape it.”

Paris, a 19-year coaching veteran with head coaching experience, hit the ground running less than 24 hours after Lee County Schools approved the recommendation of his hiring. He was at Southern Lee on Wednesday as prospective Cavaliers’ athletes took physicals, meeting with several future players and potential coaching staff members.

Paris will also conduct a scouting combine at 3 p.m. on Monday, which will be followed by a parents meeting at 5:30 p.m.

No doubt about it, Paris understands that there is work to be done, and that it must get started right away.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” the former Richmond County, Scotland County and Hoke County assistant and coordinator said. “I’m not going to try to sit here and pretend otherwise. A lot has got to be done in a short amount of time, and it’s not going to be an easy task.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m excited about it. I think it’s a great opportunity to go into a place that does have talent, and hopefully rekindle a desire to go out and get the most out of it.”

Paris spent the last two seasons at Hoke County and coached Whiteville from 1997-2000, a stretch in which he twice led the Wolfpack to the state playoffs in a period before the NCHSAA went to a split-class tournament format. He is also an accomplished track and field coach.

But football is Paris’ bread and butter, and it will be for the Cavaliers’ players as well. Paris promises a fundamentally sound squad that will gamble only when the risk overwhelmingly benefits Southern Lee.

“We’re not going to try to beat people by wheeling and dealing,” he said. “I don’t believe in that. I don’t think you can be fundamentally sound if you’re moving and blitzing all the time.”

“Football is blocking and tackling,” Paris added. “We’re going to do those things very well.”

Personnel will dictate much of what the Cavaliers do schematically, Paris said, but winning football won’t come unless the players are accountable to each other for their actions and play on and off the field.

Make no mistake, Paris plans to instill discipline.

“We’re not going to have internal struggles,” Paris said. “We’re not going to deal with strife because of attitudes and egos.”

“As long as they are accountable to each other, they won’t have to be accountable to me,” Paris said. “And it shouldn’t take but a couple times for them to see that they rather be accountable to each other than to me.”

Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss was impressed with Paris.

“(His past principals) spoke very highly of his ability to work with parents and work with students to build programs,” Moss said. “When I sat down with Tom, he was very concerned about the overall program, not just football, but how we work with student-athletes and the qualities that make them great citizens, not just athletes. All of that was very impressive. He has a strong resume and I think he’ll do a wonderful job for us.”

Paris is planning on it, though he knows time is short with summer workouts and the first game coming on Aug. 20 at home against South Johnston.

But improvement can come together in a hurry — as long as the players realize the opportunity granted them.

“They need to step up and understand that they are instruments of change,” Paris said. “If they don’t want to do that, they’re going to be right where they’ve been the last two years.”

The players can keep that in mind, Paris said, because it is his first step to turning the program around.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Cape Fear Valley Conference, Designated Hitter, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald