On Sunday, Bubba Cunningham and the UNC Athletic Department made decision to “take our football program in a new direction.”
Just three years after the wonder that was 2015, my freshman year, in which the Tar Heels won 11 games in a row and an almost playoff berth (say what you want, that is a hill I’m willing to die on).
But since the last game of that season, there were clear issues.
You simply just can’t justify giving a record number of rushing yards up at the end of your best season, losing five games with the best quarterback in the team’s history, recruiting classes at the bottom of the conference and then going 5-18 over the last two seasons.
Not to mention the obvious lack of control on a team that had a plethora of penalties, suspensions and concussion problems. To top it all off, Fedora’s last moments on the field were highlighted by a bench-clearing brawl.
Or should I say, a two-team celebration.
So with that being said, I was hopeful on Sunday morning and even a bit distracted, as I sat in church. If anything, we can’t get any worse, right?
And then I saw it. A tweet from Kirk Bohls that looked like a parody but is becoming more and more realistic as the day goes on.
Well, you could color me surprised – and albeit a bit unsurprised – when Bubba, in some stroke of ingenuity, proved to all Tar Heel fans that while the ship can’t sink much further, we can just turn the ship around.
We could’ve shopped around for coaches, or at least contacted App State’s Scott Satterfield, – we didn’t – but instead we chose to hire former Carolina coach Mack Brown on Tuesday, less than 48 hours after firing Fedora.
Mack Brown, legend of the 1990s in Chapel Hill, is a national champion. He also owns some of the best Carolina seasons and the second most wins of any coach in UNC history, 69.
He will be 68 years old before he coaches his first game back in Chapel Hill.
Already the oldest coaching conference in the NCAA at over 52 average years of age, Brown will be nothing short of a welcome sight in the ACC, I’m sure.
UNC fans, scrambling to make light of the situation, changed their attitudes to talking about how Brown can be a ‘CEO’ for the team, acknowledging how much money he’ll make the university and fawning over the polo shirts that he used to wear during games.
If it was curiosity that killed the cat, it might just be nostalgia that kills the Tar Heels.
But it makes sense that we’re clamoring for any glimmer of hope that we can hold onto. Only three years ago, we were on top of the world, and now we’re turning back the time machine to a coach that hasn’t stepped on a field with a headset in five years after being run out of Austin, Texas by angry, burnt orange pitchforks.
The talk of assistant coaches has exploded, with analysts like Bohls (in the tweet above) predicting that Brown will bring in top assistants to get the ball rolling for the Heels. “Homerun hires” are what we’re calling them now.
In the short-lived aftermath of coming to terms with the burden of paying Larry Fedora $12 million over the next four years, we’re already trying to pull in coaches that were just on bigger contracts than that.
At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if I started seeing posts that go something like:
“All we gotta do is use Mack’s name to bring in guys like Bill Belichick, Bear Bryant and Khalil Mack to run things and we’ll be fine.”
I don’t think that any of us really knows how to solve Carolina’s problems right now, after a season of illegal shoe dealing, four quarterbacks and more than handful of late, close losses. But I do know that we’ve got a good future in guys like Cade Fortin, Michael Carter and our unbelievable ability to make players like Cole Holcomb appear from thin air.
And maybe, the date of the news break is no coincidence and we got a Cyber Monday deal on this hire, which the contract afterwards (5 years for $3.5 million a year, a bargain in today’s coaching market) confirmed. We could certainly use it.
But in the midst of all of this social media clamoring, there is something comforting in the ability of Tar Heel fans to find hope, even in the oddest of times. Even in our confusion, we’ll welcome Coach Brown back into Chapel Hill with open arms, for however long this next crazy saga in Carolina Football history is going to last.
If anything, it could be a chance to spite the University of Texas, because I know that’s something all Tar Heels can get behind.