Another View, Mine: December 2018

John Nieman

Many years ago, the venerable coach Dean Smith (the greatest basketball coach in the history of the game) was asked if UNC was a basketball school. His answer is legendary among those of us who are soccer-mad and consider ourselves progressive thinkers. He responded, “I really think we are a women’s soccer school.”

It’s been decades since that moment and we are, both as a school and a nation, at something of a crossroad as to where we are going. The basketball team is still first-rate, but not necessarily a lock for Final Four. The women’s soccer team is among the elite, but other schools have risen to the same heights. The school is still seen by many as a liberal bastion in a conservative state, but we may be building an expensive home for a memorial to “southern heritage.”

And so now where are we going with football?

I have expressed many times in this space that I no longer find football in general to be watchable, so my opinion on this subject should be viewed through that prism. But what are the pros and cons for bringing back Mack Brown?

From my limited experience with college football in the 70s, a college head football coach is more of a CEO than a coach. He promotes an overall plan for the team, hires the numerous coaches and directs their actions, and serves as a spokesman for the project.

Coach Brown was a highly successful coach in his career, but he last coached in 2013. I’m sure that he has kept pace with any and all innovations in the sport and so I have no doubt that he can handle the “xs and os”.  With regard to hiring assistants and others, I would have some concern about his connections with the latest wunderkinds. Ideally, you want up-and-coming football minds when you are rebuilding. Will UNC go there, or rely on veteran assistants?

And what does the hiring say the direction the football team is going?

Coach Brown left UNC (almost under cover of night) to go to a football school.  Hiring him out of retirement certainly isn’t the action of a football school or even a school that aspires to be a football school.

Clearly the administration is merely hoping to preserve the tradition of Carolina Football: a fall distraction to mark time before basketball season. Just be sure to be bowl-eligible.  Give the alumni a holiday trip.

Maybe it’s for the best.  Perhaps the continued mediocrity of the football team will cause students and therefore future alumni to explore the wonderful world of “non-revenue sports.” You know, the ones that are competing for national championships year-in and year-out.

On the subject of non-revenue sports at UNC, congratulations to former UNC soccer star Gregg Berhalter on being named head coach of the USMNT. Maybe congratulations are a tad optimistic. The recent history would suggest that the head coach is burdened with insanely-high expectations coupled with having to deal with a national federation that has historically lacked direction and a professional league that is not the most supportive of the national team.

To take nothing away from Coach Berhalter’s abilities, the fact that his brother is the COO of the national federation had to play a role, if only to make working with the federation improved.

Turning to a completely unrelated subject, Joey Logano is the new NASCAR champion. Good news, nobody is really of­fended by it. Bad news, nobody is really offended by it be­cause nobody cares.

The really good news is that now that Brian France is on the sidelines, there may be some real positive change to the sport. I’ve expressed in this space some of my thoughts on some changes, but I really hope that the people who are close to the sport and close to the power will effect some real, positive change. Something has to be done.

I am one who also needs change. Backsliding has resulted in negative change. Fat Boy Index: 294.