Maroon and Blue
by Jim Alderson, 11/28/00
Our West Virginia tailgate was graced by a good friend of mine who often shows up in my written stuff as Restaurant Boy. His name is Chuck Forro, and he is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Like the good Tar Heel that he is, Chuck wasted little time at our gathering in breaking out the wine and cheese. While we tore into the outstanding cheese (which was an apt appetizer for the excellent scallops wrapped in bacon Chuck later grilled) like ravenous wolves into a calf, Chuckís invitation to sample what was probably a superb red (Restaurant Boy knows his wines) was declined by us all, and was explained by my buddy Larry with the comment, "We are beer and whiskey kind of guys." I have thought about that comment a lot in the last week.
Like many Hokies, my reactions to the news that Frank Beamer was displaying something more than casual interest in the Carolina job brought a variety of emotions. Chief among them was that the Coach was again jerking Tech around for money, and doing it a scant two years after he informed us he would no longer engage in that sort of behavior. It seems that coaches, like British secret agents, should never say never.
I also experienced the revulsion common among many Hokies that it was the Tar Heels, the very epitome of ACC arrogance, guys that for the most part make the Hoos seem like a neighborhood softball team (although I must confess that I am acquainted with several Carolina alumni and none fit the stereotype embodied by our old friend Doc, the clownish Art Chansky or a few of those posting to the Tarpit). That Frank was even considering relocation to the heart of the beast seemed an affront to all that was good and decent. Well, he was, and it came darn close to happening.
I also knew that this dalliance was trouble. North Carolina can become the real deal in football. Mack Brown gave an inkling, and the main reason they are not a current fixture in the Top Ten is the rather breathtaking display of the Peter Principle by Carl Torbush. They have excellent facilities; the Kenan Center is a larger and more opulent edifice than our own Merryman, although I do wonder about Frankís reaction when he gazed upon, in what would have been his office, the giant aquarium specified by Mack?
They have a beautiful campus in one of the countryís more desirable locales, they possess one of the richest athletic departments in the country that provide almost unlimited budgets (the only thing they could not buy Mack was fans who would purchase bowl tickets) and, despite the common perception that they are a school more attuned to Final Fours than BCS bowls, have demonstrated over the last decade a solid commitment to winning football. Sooner or later, they are going to become a power, and Frank would have made it sooner.
When Alabama came calling, I had the gut feeling that for all of the Tideís football glamour, Frank did not want to spend the remainder of his fifties and the prime of his coaching career establishing new recruiting contacts. That would not have been the case at Carolina, where he and his staff could simply continue to mine the fertile Tidewater recruiting fields that have provided his Tech teams with gobs of talent. The idea that a new Tech staff would be struggling to establish relationships with the high school coaches so vital to successful recruiting while up against what used to be our staff simply redirecting existing ones was, to put it mildly, horrifying. Again, it almost happened.
I think a reasonable question to ask is: why did this almost happen, and why were Tech fans put through such a tumultuous few days that precluded and prevented proper enjoyment of what should have been our grandest of times, another thrashing of the Hoos? The televised and stilted making of nice between an obviously drained and exhausted Frank Beamer and Jim Weaver, looking like a guy who had just gotten the call from the Governor while walking the Green Mile, may or may not have offered clues.
Was this the result of what, at least on the surface, appeared to be some rather spectacular bumbling on the part of Jimmy and those above him, or was Frank indeed eyeing what he perceived, at least for some period of time, to be greener pastures?
Was this almost a serious miscalculation by Frankís superiors that resulted in an equally-serious power play (he should change the name of his Website to Hardball.com) or did the lure of building a second national power almost prove that enticing?
Like most of you that have endured this emotionally charged atmosphere these last few days, I have read and heard a lot. I really donít know, having gotten little from the self-serving comments uttered by all parties from the Merryman press conference on. What I do know is that I and thousands of other Tech fans have been put through the wringer, again, and I for one donít like it, and I suspect Iím not the only one.
But I suppose I will get over it, again, first when the ticket applications containing the increases necessary to finance this little drama show up, and then when what we hope will be a very good 2001 Tech team takes Worsham Field next September. What I might not get over quite so fast is the feeling that all of this was unnecessary.
Rants aside, Frank Beamer is again where he professes he wants to be, with the beer and whiskey guys rather than the wine and cheese set. My friend Chuck, who expressed the mixed feelings about the entire situation that result from a desire for football success from both his alma mater and a team he has watched in person at least once a year for the last several and seems to have grown rather fond of, now observes as Carolina athletic boss Dickie B moves to what is becoming old hat for the Tar Heels, Plan B. Tech has survived, and so will Carolina.
I do have a comment that I often use in another context which seems appropriate after all of the turmoil the two schools were put through: Geez guys, enough is enough.
Jim Alderson,who first made his mark with his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports. While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1. For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.