Category Archives: North Carolina Tar Heels

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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The PODcast, May 7″

In Part 1 there’s some area baseball chatter before breaking down the moves at Grace Christian.″

The rally for Los Suns. Does UNC have a transfer problem? What kind of style basketball must the Heels play now? Also, the NBA playoffs are broken down before a little something hastily called the Sarda Segment.

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Bryan Lee and Cam Thomas go way back — before the NFL

North Carolina's Cam Thomas was drafted by the San Diego Chargers on Saturday. And his high shcool was there.

Interviewing for his first head coaching job, Bryan Lee was shown around the North Moore campus. Wanting to get a look at some of the potential players he might be coaching in the fall, Lee was brought to the gym to witness a few kids playing hoops.
That’s when he first saw Cam Thomas.
A mountain of a sophomore, Lee knew Thomas would be the foundation of his Mustangs program. He knew he would have a monster on the defensive line, one even the Albemarle and Thomasville coaching staffs would salivate over.
Lee also knew he had found a way to get North Moore into the end zone a lot more than the handful of times the Mustangs hit paydirt the year before.
One problem — Thomas’ mom wasn’t so sure about her son playing football.
Lee can be persuasive, though, and after getting the job and employing some careful conversations, Lee got his man among boys in pads and onto the practice field.
On Saturday, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Lee, in person, heard that player’s name announced over the public address system at the NFL Draft.
“That was a pretty amazing moment,” Lee says. “A once-in-a-lifetime moment, actually.”
A moment, it must be said, didn’t have to happen.

Thomas was drafted in the fifth round by the San Diego Chargers, a team with serious Super Bowl aspirations this coming season, with the 146th selection overall. The 6-foot-4, 330-pound rock of a nosetackle from North Carolina told Lee when the two talked not long after the announcement that he’ll report to the team on May 6.
“He’s said all the right things, the things he’s supposed to say, but it’s still just Cam being Cam,” Lee says. “He really put it in perspective. He said that when he got the call, a door opened for him, and now anything’s possible. And now it’s time to go to work.”
Lee said Thomas understands the odds he’s up against. Not every fifth-rounder makes the team, even ones like Thomas who rank among the top of their class as a run-stopper.
But Thomas knows all about long odds. He’s been over them with Lee before.
“We never really talked about Sundays when Cam was in high school,” Lee says. “Look, I was a first-time head coach. I didn’t really know what a Division-1 college player looked like, much less a professional athlete.
“But we talked about football getting him to the next level so that he could get an education, and what he could do with that.”

Two years ago, Thomas came to see his coach one more time before Lee moved closer to his hometown in southern Illinois.
It was a happy reunion, one that started when Thomas unfolded himself out of his $800 car.
The truth is, Lee and Thomas have talked about a lot of things over the years, and well before Lee moved on to Southern Lee to build the Cavaliers program while Thomas battled through a coaching change in Chapel Hill to play in all 27 games his last two-plus seasons.
As a lineman and a running back, Thomas starred under Lee at North Moore, though Lee likes to point out that it was really the other way around. Whatever. Southern Lee fans have a pretty good idea what Lee was about, moreso now that he’s gone.
But none of that, really, had anything to do with why Lee felt like he had to be in New York to hear his former player’s name called.
Lee can remember driving Thomas to his official visits to colleges. He can remember taking Thomas to the site of his ACT test.
He can remember the same short-sleeved white shirt and clip-on tie that Thomas wore each and every time he needed to dress up.
“This wasn’t a kid who had a lot of steaks in the freezer,” Lee says of Thomas’ upbringing. “To say he came from humble beginnings is an understatement. But he has an amazing mother and a great stepfather, and he was more fortunate than 90 percent of the kids out there because he had parents who kept him on the straight and narrow.”
And Thomas has already talked about what he hopes to be able to do for his family now.
“The financial door is open now, and he knows that,” Lee said. “It’s another door opening for him, one that he can open for his family.”

Another story stands out on this day for Lee.
The summer of Thomas’ senior year at North Moore, there was talk of a playoff appearance in the fall. Thomas was being heavily recruited in his home state, and the word was out about the rising Mustangs.
And so on the morning of North Moore’s first summer scrimmage, the team gathered at the school to board the buses to take them to the big-deal scrimmage at Catawba College.
No Cam.
And so they waited.
And waited some more.
And then Lee couldn’t wait anymore. He drove to Thomas’ trailer, and found his star there.
“Cam, what’s going on?” Lee recalls in telling the story. “We’ve got to go.”
“I can’t, Coach,” came the reply.
“You can’t?”
“Mom says I can’t go anywhere this weekend.”
“Geez, Cam, what did you do?”
“I didn’t clean my room. Mom says I can’t doing anything this weekend. I was supposed to clean my room.”
And so Lee left — without Cam Thomas.
“His mom had said no,” Lee recalls now, “and nobody changes her mind.”
On Saturday, perhaps because of all the times his mother or stepfather said no, the NFL said yes to Cam Thomas.
And Lee made sure he heard them say it.

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The PODcast — More Southern Lee Saga and Akeem Richmond’s NIT run

Sanford's Akeem Richmond is playing well at Rhode Island.″

Part 1

Sanford’s sports talk radio show, with Alex Podlogar and Ryan Sarda of The Sanford Herald, break down the problems with the posting of Southern Lee’s head football coaching job before going into Akeem Richmond’s run with Rhode Island in the NIT.

Part II″

The guys break down the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, take a look at the Bobcats’ improving playoff chances and finally, Ryan settles on his new favorite MLB team.

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The PODcast, March 12″″

Part 1 — Sanford’s best sports talk radio show breaks down the opening rounds of the ACC Tournament.

Part II — Sanford’s best sports talk show chats about Tiger Woods’ possible return to The Masters, some Bobcats basketball scheduling while continuing Ryan’s quest to find a new MLB team.

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Playing the percentages with the ACC Tournament

There are some who look at the 2010 ACC Tournament and see a flat-out free-for-all.

And there are others who see two teams at the top and a bunch of also-rans.

A year ago, I tried to break down the ACC Tournament by assigning percentages for the likelihood of each team winning the whole shebang. Maybe it didn’t take real foresight to pick Duke to win in 2009, but I also had Florida State with a real chance of winning (the Seminoles were runners-up) and made it clear that I didn’t think eventual national champion North Carolina would get past the second day.

So with a little bit of credibility still kicking around, let’s assess the prospects for each team in the Granddaddy of all conference tournaments.

The Single-Digit Club

Yes, it’s true that there is only one team in the entire conference with a losing record. One might even think that means any of these 12 teams is capable of ripping off four straight for a miraculous ACC run.

Careful there, Rameses. Step back from the ledge.

Has anyone seen Sylven in art class lately?

No. 9 seed Virginia Cavaliers

They have the worst record overall, but in this weird ACC season, they’re rank as a 9 seed.

That said, with Sylven Landesberg figuring college has little to do with class, the losers of 10 straight are clearly the most unlikely of teams to reverse their losing ways. 0 percent chance of winning

Miami basketball? Why bother?

No. 12 seed Miami Hurricanes

They have 18 wins, including over the likes of Nova, South Carolina and Minnesota. OK, so the Nova win looks impressive, until you realize the Nova is for Nova Southeastern, not Villanova. The Canes get Wake Forest in the opening round today, and it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to win the game. But they’re more likely to play well for 35 minutes and then fall apart at the end. 2 percent

Not the year Marcus Ginyard was looking for.

No. 10 seed North Carolina

Yes, Tar Heels, N.C. State has a better chance at winning this tournament than you do. Georgia Tech blasted UNC in their second meeting, the Heels are hurt and soft and Maryland would loom in the quarterfinals. Buh-bye. 5 percent

What happens if the Pack gets blown away in the opening round?

No. 11 seed N.C. State

OK, not much of a better chance there, Pack. Still, the draw isn’t that bad for State. The Pack opens with up-and-down Clemson, then would face Florida State in the quarters. Not likely, but not terrible either. 6 percent

Can Joe Trapani muscle BC on a run?

No. 8 Boston College

The Eagles should thump Virginia, and then would get a third crack at Duke. At home, BC played Duke tough, and with four guys who average in double figures, a bad shooting day and some foul trouble could get BC into the upset picture. 9 percent

Second-Class Citizens

Shouldn't Derrick Favors and Georgia Tech be a lot better than they are?

No. 7 seed Georgia Tech

Had UNC had a decent year, this would have been the conference’s clear choice for Underachiever of the Year. But man, they have talent. And lost only by two at Maryland, the quarterfinal opponent. 12 percent

Which Wake team will show up?

No. 5 seed Wake Forest

The Deacs should just be a lot better than they’ve played. That four-game skid before the win at home over Clemson in the finale leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But Ishmael Smith can be unguardable at times, and the frontcourt is solid — or at least should be. 14 percent

Solomon Alabi is supposed to be a big-time NBA prospect. OK then.

No. 3 seed Florida State

I don’t like the Clemson matchup at all in a potential quarterfinal meeting, and aside from beating Marquette in November and maybe Virginia Tech, who has FSU beaten? 15 percent

Can Malcolm Delaney go on a Randolph Childress-like run?

No. 4 seed Virginia Tech

One big concern for the Hokies? They don’t blow anybody out (unless you count N.C. State). Not UNC-G (59-46), not Campbell (71-60), and not even Delaware (74-66, OT) or Iowa (70-64). Their ACC wins have only come by an average of 8.4 points. By comparison, Duke has won by 16.1 points in its ACC wins. Remember, this isn’t a great conference this season. 16 percent

The Cream

Demontez Stitt and the Tigers could be primed for a run.

No. 6 seed Clemson

Don’t sleep on N.C. State, but after beating FSU twice this season, the Tigers should get to the semifinals without much trouble. They split with Maryland, even scoring 79 points on the Terps in College Park in a loss. Maybe the Tigers aren’t a great team. But this is a good draw to make a run. 19 percent

Greivis Vasquez may be the best player on the floor this weekend.

No. 2 seed Maryland

Perhaps the hottest team entering the tournament, the Terps have the confidence of having beaten Duke in a well-played game (though it was at home). Clemson looms as a tough test in the semifinals, though Georgia Tech could pose a problem as early as Friday. But the Terps are balanced and tend to have the best player on the floor in Greivis Vasquez. 25 percent

The Winner

Stay away from foul trouble, shoot at least 44 percent from the field, and another title is yours, Mr. Singler.



This is the Blue Devils’ annual, personal playground. And none of their potential matchups before the finals — BC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest or Miami — pose any real threat. Unless one of the Big Three is in early foul trouble and they have a bad shooting day, the Blue Devils will win this tournament.

It’s just what they do. 50 percent.

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The UNC Tragedy

Sadly, this could go on a lot longer.

But the Feed John Henson line is funny.

But I must say this, or I’ll lose my General Alumni Association card:

“The Tar Heels won their second national championship in five years just last season.”

That makes me feel better — at least until Duke loses in the NCAA Tournament.

I hope.

I’m also hoping the Heels’ next line of recruits won’t so much resemble the “hype not matching actual talent” likes of players like Chris Burgess and Shavlik Randolph.

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