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Support the players by filling Kenan Stadium

By Eddy Landreth
Staff Writer

The dilemma is not a simple one.

Forget the propaganda coming from UNC officials concerning the reaction to the firing of football coach Butch Davis. The administration claims it has been fairly split between those for and those against the firing.

No way.

The response has been decidedly in favor of Davis and against the actions of Chancellor Holden Thorp and the board of trustees.

The people who give their hearts and their money to Carolina football are angry. The question is how to express this anger toward Thorp and the board of trustees while not simultaneously harming the players, whom these folks wish to support.

The first impulse by many is to stay home on Saturdays and let the gleaming aluminum serve as their vote against the destruction of UNC’s football program. As attractive as that option may seem, the end result would only serve to punish the players, who have been punished enough already.

“If the fans don’t come to the games, they are not supporting us,” senior wide receiver Dwight Jones said. “We do a lot of hard work. We want to put on a show for the fans.”

Playing college football in the 21st century requires nearly 12 months of grueling work. It’s running sprints and lifting weights in January and February; it’s banging on one another in spring practice; it’s doing an unholy amount of work beneath the record-breaking heat of another Carolina summer, well before August camp begins.

It is also the public humiliation of being portrayed as a renegade program filled with young men bordering on being criminals.

“We have been through a lot,” Jones said.

There is no doubt that some of it has been self-inflicted. A handful of players cheated in school and/or took improper benefits from agents or their representatives. But there are 85 young men on scholarship at Carolina. A year ago, three – only three – took large sums of money from people outside the program.

Around 14 or 15 percent were accused of cheating, but only about 8 percent were actually determined to have committed academic fraud. The others were pronounced guilty but eventually were found innocent.

Now the man who rejuvenated a program beaten into the ground by the administration in the years following Mack Brown’s exodus to Texas has been removed, although he was not named in the NCAA’s allegations.

But brooding about this and lingering on it as these players prepare to start another season is not going to bring Davis back. Staying home will not force Thorp or anyone on the board of trustees to resign.

The young men who have chosen to remain at UNC are the same ones who picked Carolina over many of the Tar Heels’ biggest rivals and some of the nation’s most prominent football programs.

Sophomore offensive lineman James Hurst started at left tackle throughout his freshman year. Outside of quarterback, there may be no tougher spot on the field to play as a freshman. There is not one school in the country that Hurst could have chosen and not been welcomed with open arms.

And he is just one of many excellent athletes Davis and his former staff brought to Chapel Hill to breathe new life into Carolina football. Their wish is that the fans will remember this and come to Kenan Stadium this fall and help them realize the dream they shared when they chose UNC.

“Obviously, we want them to come support us,” Hurst said. “We’re playing for the University of North Carolina. That is what we do, regardless of who is coaching. I can understand people are upset, the timing and everything. [But] it happened. It’s over.”

These youngsters are the reason it is important for the fans to put on their blue shirts and hats and fill Kenan Stadium on Saturdays, regardless of whether they withhold their donations or how many letters and emails they write to the administration.

Now is the time for all those who genuinely care about Carolina football to do what the administration has not – support the players and coaching staff who are working so hard to keep the program afloat.

“We’re the University of North Carolina, and we’re playing to represent them,” Hurst said.

4 Responses

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  1. Jeff Grady

    Ditto Eddy. I would also like to add that we should act like Carolina Ladies and Gentlemen at the game. There is no bigger BD fan than me, and no one is more put out at HT’s behavior than me. I’m also down on our academic personnel. I’ve lost respect in general for them . (I’ve always had some disdain for them as many were so arrogant when I was in undergrad and graduate school.) But, I’m not going to act like a school kid at the game in displaying my disapprobation. I’m gonna pull for this team like never before. I think we are gonna be very, very good. And I think Coach Withers is the man who can carry on what BD started. He’s got the right stuff. I’m truly Tar Heel born and bred. Most of our professors can’t make that claim. Now…I shouldn’t get started. I want to be nice.

  2. Bruce Hines

    Eddy – your insight and logic are always greatly appreciated about the current situation with the Tar Heels. These are good kids caught up in a bad situation made much worse by our Chancellor.

    As the previous author stated, I grew very tired of the attitude of the academic instructors while an undergrad at UNC. 60,000 folks show up on Saturdays to see this team represent the University. Fans/crowds never show up to see our scholars speak. UNC sports is simply the public face across the nation for UNC, not our academics.

    All the fans I know are still really mad! I don’t personnally know any that support this weak cowardly position. Thorp blew it and made the situation much worse just as it was beginning to blow over. I suspect the Miami situation would have taken us out of the headlines completely. I plan to be there for all games cheering for this team of intelligent, hard-working young men. I also plan to be there to “boo” the Chancellor loudly if he shows his face. I believe many many others will do the same. Thorp, please stay home on Saturdays to make it a better day in Kenan.

  3. Jim Conner


    As an ardent fan and an alum, I have to disagree with your attitude toward Chancellor Thorp. You are indeed correct that Coach Davis was not named in the allegations, but do you really believe that he had no inkling of the wrongdoing, especially when John Blake came in with such a tainted reputation? I might even give the coach the benefit of the doubt that he did NOT know, but he surely should have had his finger to the wind.
    I agree that we need to rally around this team, their coach and our university and that includes the chancellor and faculty.

  4. vernon glenn

    Will NEVER abandon Heels…having said that, there are a few ‘other folks. who until proven otherwise need to take a long hike off a short dock…EL feel free to give me a shout if should ever suit, all the best and keep it coming, Go Heels!, VG