Friday, June 11, 2010

UNC players, not head coach, should and are taking the heat from fans this off season

Let’s be frank - some UNC alums felt Roy Williams had betrayed Carolina by not accepting the Tar Heel coaching job the first time it came open in 2000. Even after accepting the head coaching job in 2003, Coach Williams said he wasn’t sure he could ever repair the damage from turning down the job in 2000.

The 2005 and 2009 national championships certainly helped repair any damage. After the Heels lack of success last season, however, you’d think many Carolina fans would be grumbling about Coach Williams’ performance. By all accounts, the players listened to him less than any compilation of players he’s ever had.

Former Williams’ teammate and MVP of the 1971 NIT Bill Chamberlain seems to lay the blame more on the players than the coach. “I hate to say but Roy didn’t get full support from all the players all year long,” he told me. He pointed to selfishness and lack of hustle. “I think Roy aged more than a year this year.”

Of course it’s up to Williams to get them to play unselfishly and with hustle. After initially complaining about the players, for much of the season, he took the blame. But perhaps he recruited guys that are immature and haven’t bought into the Carolina way yet.

Chamberlain said, “Roy is insistent upon class performance, being a good person off the court, being a part of the community, taking part in all kinds of service functions for various groups around town, keeping them active and learning about campus life and other things not related to basketball.”

Maybe two or three of the key players don’t care about those things unrelated to basketball. Not sure. But from the off-season water-cooler talk from Carolina fans, I think the players, and not so much the coach, are taking the majority of the heat.

Recently, Roy Williams even received the ultimate alumni honor – the Distinguished Service Medal. So while bygones may be bygones as far as alumni attitude toward Coach Williams, the jury is still out on the players.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup: America's team reflects America's attitude


Brian Abernethy is blogging on the World Cup for the Capital Sports Report

Rising from relative obscurity to the international soccer limelight in just a few short years, the United States men's national soccer team now looks forward to its Saturday match against England with excitement rather than anxiety.

Falling victim to the ever-growing shadows of the NFL, MLB, NBA and college sports, United States soccer has had to battle adversity not only against its opponents on the pitch, but also vying for attention in the media. The lack of media attention and reward for their successes has made it very difficult for the Americans to continue to push themselves to succeed on behalf of the red, white, and blue.

When difficult victories are had in qualifying over smaller nations such as El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica, the nation feels ashamed that we haven't demolished the opposition and therefore assumes that our team aren't any good and aren't worth supporting. The problem with this assumption is that, unlike the olympics, smaller nations are no longer obsolete in their experience and talent in soccer. Having soccer as their national sport, they prove to be difficult opponents for not only our national team, but national teams across the world. So how will a team that struggles with the Guatemalas and Trinidads step onto the field this month in South Africa and not only compete with, but get results against the likes of England, Slovenia, and Algeria?

The answer lies not in our players, our coach, our opponents, or our experience.

The answer lies in our heart.

Considered a "second-rate footballing nation" by the rest of the planet, we've proven time and time again that while we may not have the talent, we certainly have the heart.

Not convinced yet? Check out these results from the last year:

USA 3-0 Egypt: Needing a 3-0 victory as well as help from Brazil, the US did its part with a comprehensive smashing of African champion Egypt on goals from Davies, Bradley, and the all-important diving header from Clint Dempsey.

USA 2-0 Spain (Confederations Cup Semifinal): The biggest victory in the history of United States soccer. Spain was ranked #1 in the world, with the US barely squeaking into the semis. Goals from Altidore and Dempsey along with heroics from the backline and goalkeeper Tim Howard help the Americans shock the world.

USA 2-3 Brazil (Confederations Cup Final): Taking a 2-0 lead and watching it slip away has taught us a great lesson, and experiencing the pain of having victory snatched from our jaws will prove invaluable this month in South Africa

USA 2-2 El Salvador: US fights back and gets 2 goals in the last 10 minutes to salvage a draw and a crucial point on the road.

USA 2-1 Honduras: US goes down 1-0 early, but fights back as captain Carlos Bocanegra gets the game-winner in the second half.

USA 2-1 El Salvador: US again goes down 1-0 early, but grabs the lead before halftime on headers from superstars Altidore and Dempsey.

USA 3-2 Honduras: USA clinches their spot in the World Cup by going away to Honduras, where no team had won yet, and getting a victory.

USA 2-2 Costa Rica: After teammate and friend Charlie Davies is injured in a fatal car crash, Jonathan Bornstein heads in the equalizer from a Robbie Rogers corner in the 94th minute to make the US finish #1 in CONCACAF.

USA 2-1 Turkey: Falling behind 1-0 in the first half, the United States comes back and gets the victory via Altidore and Dempsey to secure a win in their final match in the USA before heading to South Africa.

These nine matches in the past 12 months where we proved that what skill we possess is supplemented by our heart and determination to give us results are no anomoly. Make no mistake, this team has what it takes to make a splash this summer.

The very same heart that gained us our Independence 234 years ago and makes this great nation what it is today will be worn on the sleeve of every American player for as long as they're still breathing.

Open your eyes, England. You're in for another surprise.


Despite rumors, the Terps aren't leaving the ACC

One of the persistent rumors out there is that the Big Ten wants to add Maryland. But frankly, this isn't going to happen.

First of all, Terps athletics director Debbie Yow recently told radio host David Glenn that the school isn't moving.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a waste of time,” Yow told Glenn on the air. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Secondly, Maryland was a founding member of the ACC and benefits from being in the league. You'll hear the Terps, and Gary Williams, groan about the ACC being too North Carolina-centric, but leaving for the Big Ten doesn't solve any of Maryland's problems. The Terps wouldn't add any natural rivals, other than possibly Penn State, and would lose the traditional ties to ACC schools.

While it makes for interesting conjecture, it's simply not going to happen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pack's Irving wants to return to the hunt

N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving is almost 100 percent, he told WRAL's Jason Jennings, and he can't wait to return to the field.

Interesting note from Jennings' piece - Irving loves to watch animals on the prowl.

"I'm just fascinated by animals and how lions, cheetahs and jaguars hunt. It's intriguing to me," Irving said.

Of course, State fans can't wait to see Irving doing some hunting himself from the linebacker position.

Nebraska move will change college landscape

The college landscape could change quickly, and soon. The Omaha, Neb., paper is reporting Nebraska is moving to the Big Ten, which delivers a huge blow to the already wobbly Big 12. You have to believe that means much-desired Texas will be evaluating its options.

It's hard to imagine Texas playing in a conference with a school as far north as Minnesota, or Michigan playing in Austin in a conference game, but in this world, anything is possible. All this makes the ACC's decision to act early and decisively look prescient, since part of John Swofford's thinking at the time was the league wanted to be proactive on expansion, rather that reacting.

Still, any conference move has to have some sort of geographic tie. The ACC wasn't looking to add Virginia Tech, but the Hokies have been a superb addition. Meanwhile, Boston College and Miami are in big markets but lack big fan bases. Ultimately, the ACC needs the Hurricanes to return to power in football.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pack's Wilson would be wise to turn to baseball

The Colorado Rockies made Russell Wilson a fourth-round pick Tuesday, and as hard as it might be for Wolfpack fans to accept, the wise decision for him would be to turn pro.

Right now, Wilson is saying he plans to return.

“I know football camp starts August 3,” he told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “I haven’t talked to the Rockies and I haven’t gotten into a deep conversation with coach [Tom] O’Brien about that, either. We’ll figure all that out. The Lord has worked everything out for me so far. I expect him to continue to do the same for me. … Everything is going to work out just great.”

But remember, it's common for prospect to use their options as leverage at this point. Wilson may love football, but if the Rockies offer significant dollars, all that can change.

Wilson accelerated his classwork to finish in three years, so he doesn’t have to return to school in the fall for academic reasons. Wilson always said he loved football and planned to return to State, but in talking to him, you got the sense that what was going on was much deeper than that.

First, the fact is there are few 5-foot-11 quarterbacks in the NFL. So his professional career in football was a longshot, at best.

He always seemed to be preparing himself for a shot at baseball – finishing in three years, playing last summer in Gastonia and then even trying pitching this year.

Wilson’s numbers aren’t spectacular – he hit .306 in 47 games, 25 of them starts, with two homers and nine steals. He took a shot as a pitcher and had an ERA of 5.84.
Wilson is listed as a center fielder in the baseball draft ,and that’s a telling bit of news. He played infield at State, but could easily project to outfield with his speed.

That Wilson went in the fourth round is surprising. Given his poor numbers in Gastonia, he didn’t project as a high prospect.

But the Rockies saw tools that they liked. And you can bet this – Colorado wasn’t making that pick unless it knew it had a chance to sign Wilson.

So Wilson may have fled the pocket one last time. And good for him – he’s a class act who deserves a professional chance.

As for N.C. State? Well, the Wolfpack is in good hands with Mike Glennon. But depth at quarterback, a luxury in college football, may have just vanished.

One Carolina Tar Heel out in DC, one Carolina Panther takes his place


Former UNC player Ethan Albright, 39, may have played his last game as a long snapper in the NFL, just two years after making the Pro Bowl team. The Washington Redskins' new coaches have brought in free agent snapper Nick Sundberg, who was signed as a rookie in May 2009 and then waived by the Carolina Panthers in September 2009.

Albright, who started out as a tight end with the Tar Heels, moved to the offensive line and started his long career as a deep snapper. The 16-year NFL veteran had been with the Redskins since 2001 and was considered the model of consistency over his career. He did have a high snap on a field goal attempt last season but the holder Hunter Smith, also a casualty of the new coaching regime, got the ball down fine only to see the 23-yard field goal shank off the leg of Shaun Suisham in an overtime loss to eventual Super Bowl champs New Orleans.

Albright, who lives in Greensboro, has not been picked up by any other team and is a free agent. While the Redskins have cleaned house, having gotten rid of 16 players from last year's roster, I'd like to see them consider bringing Albright back if Sundberg doesn't work out. Long snapper is a position that can be played by a 40-year old and the Redskins need to have some consistency and continuity. They already got rid of several other character guys like Ladell Betts, Rock Cartwright and Cornelius Griffin.

While there needed to be changes in the Redskins and while new coaches want to bring in their own people, I'm not sure I'd toss aside someone experienced like Albright for someone like Sundberg, who hasn't played in an NFL regular season game and ended last season on the Ravens' practice squad.

Monday, June 7, 2010

High picks continue for the Triangle, UNC

It wasn't long ago when high picks in the baseball draft were rare in this area, but that's not the case now. The University of North Carolina has been stuffing the draft with top picks, and that trend continued Monday.

Tar Heels pitcher Matt Harvey was the seventh pick overall, to the New York Mets.

Carolina now has 12 first-round picks in school history, and five - Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller, Dustin Ackley and Alex White - were picked since 2006.

Bard has a 2.03 ERA for Boston as a reliever this season. Marlins prospect Miller has struggled in AA ball. The Mariners tried Ackley at second base, but he struggled to hit. He is back at first base now, his position at UNC, but is still hitting just .251 with one homer and 18 RBI for Double-A West Tennessee.

White, a Cleveland Indians prospect, is 2-1 for Akron in the Double-A Eastern League, with an ERA of 1.83.

Watching expansion go by

The ACC finds itself in a far different position today than seven years ago when the league was at the forefront of the latest expansion wave.

This year, the Pac-10, Big 10 and Big 12 are in major play with a number of scenarios possible. The Pac-10 is poised to add between two and six teams, poaching from the Big 12. Nebraska and Missouri seem destined to join the Big 10, maybe by the end of the week.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe must feel like his league is so much sand running through his fingers. It's disintegrating before our eyes.

Meanwhile, John Swofford is forced to be a bit player in this latest high-stakes game. The ACC simply can't match the massive TV revenues of the current SEC or expanded Pac-10 and Big 10. While the Big Ten Network has a high ceiling for growth depending upon which markets it adds, the ACC's TV contract with ESPN/ABC doesn't allow it to immediately profit from new markets.

One possibility for the ACC would be to head north and pick up a couple of Big East leftovers if that league is raided by the Big 10. Given the revenue disparity, there's no chance any SEC teams would consider joining the ACC.