Saturday, October 16, 2010

Random thoughts about Carolina's win at Virginia

North Carolina 44, Virginia 10. It was certainly a good way to break the curse at Virginia.

Dwight Jones was a big story on offense as he caught seven passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, including an 81-yard reception run on the first play from scrimmage. It should have been three touchdowns for Jones but officials inexplicably reversed a call to say that Jones was down at the half-yard line. Replays were inconclusive at best but he held the ball out as he was going down yet the officials moved the ball back to where his knee touched instead of where the ball was.

One other pet peeve about officiating that I have is that they let offensive linemen push the rusher forward for additional yardage. Once it even went for a first down in this game and it should have been a penalty on the offense.

Maybe after this win, the Tar Heels won't be relegated to ESPN3 on the computer instead of "real" TV the rest of the way. Don't know about you, but I get a choppy picture on the computer. Also, the color commentators on ESPN3 seem to be practicing for the big time. Drew Henson was the sidekick for this game. He pronounced tight end's Zack Pianalto's name as Penny Alto. The former Michigan QB has some insight but he's gotta work on the monotone voice - and pronunciations.

Bad news for Carolina and Pianalto, who has been having a big year. It appears he has some sort of fracture in his leg and could be lost for the season. He's certainly out against Miami next week. That's a big game with the winner still in the hunt for the Coastal Division - in fact with destiny in their own hands. Of course it would necessitate a victory over Virginia Tech.

Heels, Wolfpack games show it's a hard season to figure

North Carolina, which was considered a Top 15 team before the season, has been shorthanded all year and the ABC crowd has been having a field day with all the off-field troubles in Chapel Hill. But the guys left on the team have managed to win four games in a row and Saturday defeated the Cavaliers in Virginia (44-10) for the first time since 1981.

On the other hand, N.C. State, which was expected to be slightly above average, started off the season in dominating fashion and ran out to a 4-0 record and was ranked in the national polls. Expectations rose and thoughts ran wild. But the Pack has lost two of its last three games including an overtime loss (33-27) in Greenville against East Carolina.

East Carolina, with a new coach and few starters returning, was expected to have a losing season but the Pirates are now 4-2 and in the driver's seat in their conference. Historically, the Pirates may be an underdog when they play ACC teams but they are 4-4 against State over the two teams' last eight games.

State and Carolina, in opposite divisions of the ACC, are each 2-1 in league play. The Pack stands at 5-2 overall while the Heels are 4-2.

Wolfpack QB Russell Wilson has been unstoppable in the wins but human in the losses - he had three interceptions against East Carolina. Heels QB T.J. Yates was much maligned coming into the season but he's only thrown one interception all season and was 17 of 22 for 325 yards with three touchdowns against Virginia.

Nothing has been consistent this season so you can't say the two quarterbacks or the two teams are headed in opposite directions but it's interesting how many twists and turns there have been - and the season is only half over.

Miami not as dominating as expected but Devils give it away

Miami wanted to get out some frustrations after losing to Florida State last week but the Hurricanes had 90 yards in penalties, lost a couple of fumbles and couldn't put the Devils away.

However, Duke's Sean Renfree threw five interceptions, some of them tipped balls, and the Devils fell 28-13 at home. One interception was returned for a touchdown. Take away that pass and maybe just one other interception and it was a winnable game.

Strickland leads Blue, Barnes leads White as UNC teams tie at Late Nite with Roy

After a rather lackluster dance/skit show during UNC's annual Late Nite with Roy basketball season tipoff, the Carolina players divided up into two teams and played to a 31-31 tie during the 20-minute scrimmage Friday night.

The White team, led by freshman Harrison Barnes' unofficial 13 points, led the entire game, even getting up by 12 at one point. But behind Dexter Strickland's unofficial game-leading 16 points, the Blue team chopped away at the lead before freshman Reggie Bullock sank a three to tie it at 31-31 and that's the way it ended.

John Henson passed up an open three to give it over to Bullock who drained the tying bucket from the top of the key.

The play started out sloppy with two turnovers and three missed shots in the first minute. The crowd of maybe 16,000 plus didn't really get into it until Barnes broke free for a fastbreak dunk to give the White an 8-0 lead. He got the crowd buzzing again with a dunk after driving the lane to make it 13-4.

Barnes also scored to give the White its biggest lead at 28-16. The Blue scored seven straight including five from Strickland to narrow the lead to 28-23 with 3:25 to go.

When Leslie McDonald popped in a three with three minutes left, it appeared to be in hand for the White team at 31-23.

But the White team never scored again and the Blue team went on an 8-0 run. Strickland tossed in a three and then fed Henson a nifty pass for two to draw the Blue within three at 31-28 with 1:25 left.

It stayed that way until Bullock's three which ended the game in a 31-all tie.

Transfer Justin Knox muscled in for a couple of baskets during the scrimmage to give the Tar Heel fans a glimpse at his power. The 6-foot-9, 240-pounder is the strongest-looking player on the court.

The night started with a women's basketball skit, dance and scrimmage. None of it was particularly entertaining (in fact the men proved to be better dancers later) but there were a couple of nice moments especially when cancer survivor Jessica Breland returned to the team being introduced last, wearing a pink uniform.

UNC grad and ESPN announcer Stuart Scott hosted the evening and often spoke about the pride all Carolina fans should have. He addressed the football scandal when he said, "This year has been a little tough" adding that because of the tradition Carolina has it was "hard to believe it could happen here."

He praised the university for its response to the scandal and said the football team still "looks pretty good."

Highlights of the men's portion of the show included seeing John Henson in a Carolina Snuggie, seeing the coaches - including Roy Williams - dance with a dancing cane, and watching the videos, featuring players and Williams, which were takeoffs of popular commercials.

Carolina hosts Barton College in an exhibition game on Friday, Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m.

Photo Gallery

Friday, October 15, 2010

N.C. State has to be smart about marketing, promotion in crowded sports market

Basketball season finally begins tonight, and if you have been around the Triangle for a while, you know there's an extra zing in the air when all three ACC teams are strong. After watching Duke and UNC win multiple national titles, N.C. State has a chance to show its a competitive program with a team that features Tracy Smith inside and a fascinating freshman class.

But State has to leverage this, and the three opening acts tonight are a great example of the challenges N.C. State faces. It's obvious that across the board in athletics, the Wolfpack has to become more competitive. It's also obvious the school has to do more to market and promote the wealth of good stories coming out of West Raleigh. And it has to be smart about how it does it in a crowded sports market.

Tonight is a good example. North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State have basketball events on the same night, which sounds great until you realize how much that will stretch media attention. Television sports staffs are small, so getting to three basketball events, and high school football, is next to impossible. The newspapers will cover it but again, you are now competing for space in the paper against three other events. Plus the newspapers have to balance that against football game advances, high school football and so on.

It's also interesting to note that both UNC and Duke had media events Thursday, while State did not. Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe did speak to the Raleigh Sports Club on Wednesday, but this is a week, given the potential of this season, that you want as much exposure for the program as possible.

State should really push this year to get fans in the door and create some energy around this program. Why not have Lowe, or assistant coaches or players like Smith, appear on the morning TV news shows? Why not make sure key players are on radio shows this week? Why not put out a note to the media saying Smith and other returning veterans are available on a Tuesday afternoon - usually a slow day overall - in case someone has questions?

Why not add some spice to tonight's event by having greats like David Thompson and Tommy Burleson and Lorenzo Charles and others come in and sign autographs before the event?
Now, you may say tonight's events are really about fans, and a school shouldn't worry about the logistics the media face. But it is interesting that when new NCSU athletics director Debbie Yow faced the Raleigh Sports Club recently, one question she faced was how she felt about how the department markets its programs. You could hear the room go silent - this was a room full of experienced businessmen who knew exactly how important it is to market a product. Yow said that yes, the school had to do better, and was working on a comprehensive plan to attack the issue.

Why not use the basketball program to help sell the school? N.C. State should invite every high school senior accepted to the school to a closed basketball practice on a weekend, and have the chancellor, athletics director and other key school personnel there to answer questions about the school.

State can, and should, do more to promote what it has. For those who doubt the importance of that, just remember that Everett Case built up N.C. State, and lifted ACC basketball with it, by relentlessly promoting his sport to fans and the media.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

UNC's Ryan Houston cleared to play against Virginia

NEWS RELEASE - University of North Carolina senior tailback Ryan Houston has been cleared to play and will make his 2010 debut Saturday at Virginia. A native of Charlotte, Houston was held out of the first five games of the season while the University worked with the NCAA to determine his eligibility status.

Top sports handicapper doesn't like Carolina Hurricanes' chances

Doc Moseman, a pioneer of the sports handicapping industry, says the Carolina Hurricanes will need a lot of things to go right just to approach the 80 points they got last year in a disappointing, non-playoff season.

"It always seems to be all or nothing with these Carolina Hurricanes," Moseman says. "In their 13-year existence they have missed the playoffs seven times but have also reached the Stanley Cup Finals twice and the Eastern Conference Finals three times. Unfortunately this year has more the look of a 'nothing' year than an 'all' year."

The Hurricanes have a lot of youth and a lot of questions, he says. "This is a full-fledged rebuilding process," Moseman says.

A lot of veterans are gone as the Hurricanes have a youth movement which includes 18-year-old Jeff Skinner. "The only way fans may recognize the Hurricanes is by their colors and veteran holdovers, captain Eric Staal and goalie Cam Ward," Moseman says.

Of course you can throw in veterans Erik Cole, Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose in there too but the point is well taken.

Two years after compiling an impressive 97 points and a year after finishing with 80 points, Carolina’s over/under for points is 86.5. They are long shots to win the Southeast Division (+2000), Eastern Conference (+4000), and Stanley Cup (+6000). NHL odds are courtesy of BetUS.

Weather forecast nice for Friday night's high school football games

Here are 10 football games that are within driving distance in the Triangle area. After today's rain, Friday night's weather is nice with virtually no chance at rain. In bold is the predicted winner. Most games are at 7:30 p.m. You might want to check with local officials as some games start at 7.
My record last week was a perfect 10-0 for the first time this season. The season total is now 62-18.

Athens Drive at Panther Creek

East Chapel Hill at Northern Durham

Enloe at Broughton

Green Hope at Fuquay-Varina

Holly Springs at Apex

Jordan at Hillside

Leesville Road at Sanderson, 7 p.m.

Middle Creek at Cary

Northern Vance at Chapel Hill

Ravenscroft and North Raleigh Christian

Check the scores in our Sports Roundup on the left navigation bar.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Big home matchups for UNC and State women's soccer teams

If you haven't been out to a women's soccer match this season, Thursday night or Saturday afternoon would be a good time to go.

No. 2 UNC (11-1-1 and 3-1 in the ACC) hosts No. 7 Florida State (10-2 and 4-0 in the ACC) at 7 p.m. Thursday night while N.C. State (7-7 and 1-4 in the ACC), losers of four in a row including three by one goal, play host to Miami (8-4-1 and 2-2 in the ACC) at the same time.

The teams switch opponents for 1 p.m. matches on Saturday. State's game against Florida State will be the Wolfpack's final home game of the season. After this weekend, Carolina will have four ACC games left before the league tournament which is being held Nov. 3-7 in Cary while State has three ACC games remaining.

UNC Statistical Leaders
Goals: Alyssa Rich & Kealia Ohai, 7
Assists: Courtney Jones, 8
Points: Alyssa Rich, 19
Saves: Anna Sieloff, 27

NC State Statistical Leaders
Goals: Kristina Argiroff, 5
Assists: Kristina Argiroff, Tanya Cain, Jennie Krauser, 4
Points: Kristina Argiroff, 14
Saves: Kim Kern, 65

UNC's Yates goes from interception machine to completion machine

North Carolina senior quarterback T.J. Yates has the lowest interception percentage in the country at .063. Last year there were only three games in which he did not throw an interception.

UNC coach Butch Davis says Yates is not as overly protective and cautious with the ball. He says that from last year to this year, Yates has a greater understanding of the Tar Heels offense and what it takes to be successful in it.

He's also been healthier. "For the first time in his career, he's really had kind of a consecutive 15, 16, 17 months of health," Davis says. "You cannot underestimate how important it is to go through an off-season where you can lift, and you can get bigger and stronger and quicker.

"And you can go through spring practice with the fractured ankle that he had and missed seven weeks, then with the shoulder surgery, I think those two things really kind of somewhat limited his ability to improve himself."

Yates has only one interception in 160 attempts and that was a tipped pass off the hands of a receiver at Rutgers. The one interception is the fewest of any quarterback in the ACC. He had a string of 117 passes without an interception and has since thrown 61 passes without being picked off.

O'Brien raves against East Carolina fans


One of Tom O’Brien’s better traits is he doesn’t try to act like every game is the same. Every N.C. State fan knows the North Carolina game is bigger than Western Carolina, and every Wolfpack fan knows what it means to play East Carolina, too.

N.C. State travels to Greenville for Saturday’s 2 p.m. contest, a game that many ACC coaches might dread. But listening to the ACC teleconference, you got the feeling O’Brien relishes a game like this.

“We know how important this football game is within our state,” O’Brien said. “They are coming off a great victory Saturday in Hattiesburg [over Southern Miss]. We look forward to a tough game.”

O’Brien didn’t mince words when saying what Greenville was such a tough venue.

“The fans. They are great. They are loud. They are enthusiastic,” he said. “We go down there with a big bull’s-eye on our chests. The whole atmosphere is, ‘Whatever it takes to beat State.’”

By the way, O’Brien is 9-3 at NCSU against in-state schools.

History or not, UNC needs this game in Charlottesville


So what were you doing in 1981? Butch Davis was an assistant coach at Oklahoma State, Mike London was playing defensive back for the University of Richmond, and Dick Crum was leading UNC to a 17-14 victory over Virginia in Scott Stadium.

That win didn’t seem remarkable at the time. In fact, it made Carolina 12-3 in Charlottesville since the ACC began in 1953. But now, Dick Crum is … well, wherever he is … and Carolina has had as much luck in Charlottesville as a Hokie fan hoping to hook up on the Corner.

With the Cavaliers breaking in new coach Mike London, you’d think this might be the Tar Heels’ chance to win for the first time since ‘81. Carolina is now 3-2 and is finally gaining some resolution on its roster, while Virginia is 2-3 with wins over Richmond and VMI.

This is a huge game for Carolina, with history as a weight. The Cavaliers stuck UNC with a bitter loss two years ago, winning 16-13 in Scott Stadium on a day Heels fans thought the streak might finally end. That was Davis’ only trip to the Bermuda Triangle of Carolina football. Davis said Wednesday he is not putting any emphasis on the historic nature of Saturday’s game.

“What transpired 10 years ago shouldn’t have any relevance on what will happen this Saturday,” he said.
Well, maybe it shouldn’t – but it does. Programs on the ascent find ways to smash those negative marks as they build wins and confidence. A look ahead for UNC shows only three games where it would be favored – this one, William and Mary and Duke. The others  - at Miami, at Florida State, Virginia Tech and N.C. State – won’t be easy.

History or not, this is a game North Carolina needs.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Shannon says Miami will be angry this Saturday at Duke

Miami comes into Duke's Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday after a lackluster loss at home to Florida State.

"They will be angry," Coach Randy Shannon said of his Hurricanes. "They are disappointed, upset." He added that today's practice was very physical and the players were very enthusiastic.

"You can tell false enthusiasm and this wasn’t false enthusiasm," he said. "There were some big hits in practice today. Guys were going after each other offensively and defensively. Anytime you have that you feel good about it but you have to bring that to the game."

Duke is coming off a decent effort in a close loss at Maryland two weeks ago but will be underdogs at home this week to Miami.

Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe says his team used the off week to not only heal physically but to heal mentally. "I think confidence has suffered to some degree," he said. "Confidence is never given, confidence is earned. So it gave us a chance to get back our confidence, and hopefully we’ve done that."

They'll need it against an angry Miami team.

Little says he is 'remorseful' for actions affecting UNC

North Carolina receiver Greg Little apologized Tuesday for his actions that led to him being suspended from the team for the season. Keep in mind that the statement was surely managed by his attorney and was released by the school, so it has a formal feel in the language. Also, it's not like he spoke with reporters and answered tough questions about his actions - or was in a position to ask the coaching staff or university to share some responsibility.

Still, the statement is extensive and shows some real remorse. It's noteworthy that Little, who is from Durham, originally committed to Notre Dame before switching to UNC. Here is the statement, with our questions in italics:

“One of my greatest accomplishments was receiving a scholarship to the University of North Carolina. Perhaps, but he was also offered by Notre Dame. Representing the University was a true honor and I am so appreciative of Coach [Butch] Davis and his staff for giving me the opportunity to achieve my dream of playing for North Carolina. OK, OK, then why did he commit to Notre Dame?  I want to apologize first to my teammates, coaches, and the support staff for letting them down. To the community of Chapel Hill, students, alumni, and supporters of the University, I am terribly remorseful.

"The recent decision from the NCAA regarding my eligibility as a collegiate athlete is extremely painful, and has been a distraction from the team throughout the past five months. Five months ago was June. The NCAA visited July 12 and 13. Sounds like this was on the minds of the program a month before the NCAA arrived. My situation should not take away from any of the team’s current accomplishments or future accomplishments.  Now that I am no longer a part of the program, I hope my actions will not distract the team any longer.

"For the remainder of this semester, I will continue to pursue my education at North Carolina.For this semester? Will he graduate this semester? Does that mean he will not take classes next semester if he needs them to graduate? I understand the negative connotations associated with my punishment, but I would like to continue to be active in the community and participate in various outreach programs that I have always enjoyed. Classy comment there.

"There are defining moments in everyone’s life. I will use this as one of mine to shape and mold my morals and values as person. My time at UNC came to an abrupt conclusion, but I will forever be a proud supporter of the Tar Heels and the University of North Carolina.”  Great point - and he still has a chance to play in the NFL

Poll indicates not much interest in attending Hurricanes games

Even though Capital Sports is getting 100-plus unique visitors to its site each day, only a handful of people were interested in responding to this week's poll question: The Carolina Hurricanes open the home schedule Oct. 27. How many games will you attend this season?

I'm assuming that means that our readers don't have a good feel for how many games they will attend or that they don't care enough about hockey to even answer the question.

Of the respondents to the poll 55 percent said they would not attend a Hurricanes game at all this season. Only one voter said he would attend 10 or more games. Two others said they'd attend one or two while one voter said he'd attend three to five games.

Hurricanes games aren't inexpensive but they are a fun time and the club has managed to make it more of a family-friendly event than at some other NHL arenas.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Banks a hit with Redskins; Devin Thomas released, picked up by Panthers

Garner native Brandon Banks seems to have a solid hold on punt return duties for the Washington Redskins and is getting more chances on kickoff return duties after Devin Thomas was released a few days ago.

Today, the Carolina Panthers picked up Thomas, a receiver out of Michigan State who was the 34th overall selection by the Redskins in 2008.

Banks broke one big return during Sunday's victory over the Packers but it was called back by a penalty. He returned three punts for 47 yards and two kickoffs for 33 yards.

"He's got great quickness and he plays with a lot of confidence," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said today. "When he went in for the last punt return, he said, 'Coach, this game's over.' ... He's got a lot of belief in himself. He can make something happen so hopefully he continues to do what he's been doing."

Davis resolves to 'restore confidence' of UNC in its football program

North Carolina coach Butch Davis, with his program rocked Monday by the announcements that three stars will not return to the team, vowed to do what he can to “restore confidence of people who love this university.”

“I give you my word and I promise you we are going to work every day to restore that confidence,” Davis said Monday in Chapel Hill at the Kenan Football Center.

Earlier Monday, the school announced that defensive tackle Marvin Austin had been dismissed from the program and receiver Greg Little and defensive end Robert Quinn had been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA. See full posts below on UNC's announcements.

Austin, a senior, and Quinn, a junior, are considered top NFL prospects, and Little has NFL potential as well. The future of five players - running back Ryan Houston, cornerback Charles Brown, defensive linemen Michael McAdoo and Linwall Euwell and safety Brian Gupton - remain unresolved.

UNC athletics director Dick Baddour spoke to the media Monday, opening the news conference before Davis, and said he was particularly disappointed that the three lied to investigators about the benefits they received.

Baddour also said the players lied in a statement sent out by the school, an unusually harsh move for an athletics director who is usually reserved and careful in his comments.

“It’s particularly  disappointing because at the very beginning of this process, Coach Davis, myself and all the compliance people were in front of our student-athletes driving home the message of how important it is that you be honest, that you be forthright, that you give us an opportunity to help you, and the way you do that is by being honest in your descriptions,” Baddour said.

Davis said the three players will not practice with team or be allowed to work out on UNC facilities. But Baddour said the players would be allowed to retain their scholarships.

Both said the program should have been more alert to the possibility that people would try to influence the players, especially as Carolina began to attract elite players.

“We need to do a better job," Baddour said. "Most of what was going on here in terms of the trips was happening when school was not in session. Coach [Davis] already has a program in place to deal with that.

“I agree that given the magnitude of the players that should have been on our radar more. We know that now. We do want to treat student-athletes as much like students as you possibly can. We should have acknowledged the level these guys are and people are going to be coming at them.

“I wish we had done more. I’d like to re-live that part.”

Davis, too, said the UNC football program will begin to educate players about what constitutes “extra benefits” earlier in their career. He also said the program was more closely monitoring what the players do away from campus, and said UNC is asking agents and financial advisors to set up meeting with the administration and to hold those meetings at the football offices.

“I’ve got to do a much better job of being on top of these things,” Davis said. “We’ve already put some things in place to hopefully help us from having this happen again in the future.”

UNC kicks Marvin Austin off the football team

The University of North Carolina has dismissed senior defensive lineman Marvin Austin from the football program for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules., the school announced Monday.

North Carolina based its decision on recent information gathered as part of the joint investigation with the NCAA.  Austin’s case was not submitted to the NCAA for reinstatement. A senior from Washington, D.C., Austin had been suspended indefinitely since September 1 for violating team rules.

Carolina announced Austin was off the team just moments after announcing the NCAA had ruled Robert Quinn and Greg Little were permanently ineligible. (See post that follows). In a strong statement, Athletics Director Dick Baddour said the three had not been truthful with NCAA and UNC officials about their actions.

“It’s a sad day when three young men are no longer able to represent their school based on actions they have taken and decisions they have made contrary to NCAA rules," Baddour said in a statement. "Unfortunately, they made serious mistakes in judgment in accepting extra benefits and then not being truthful with our staff and NCAA representatives. Now they must forfeit the privilege of playing again for the Tar Heels. Although they are responsible for their actions, they are part of our university and our program and we will support them as they move into the next phases of their lives. I know they love to play the game, but I hope they will learn from their mistakes and lead productive and responsible careers.

"As an institution, we must learn from these mistakes and work with the NCAA and others who love the game of football to repair the environment in which they occurred. College football is a wonderful game, but we need to closely examine and address the agent-related problems. The University of North Carolina pledges to do all it can to do that.

"I hate that these issues have hurt the University of North Carolina and our fans. We have so much to be proud of as a University. We will learn from this and we will become a better program as a result.”

UNC's Little, Quinn are permanently ineligible, NCAA rules

North Carolina football players Greg Little and Robert Quinn are permanently ineligible, according to a decision Monday by the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff. The decision was announced Monday morning by UNC.

The university declared both student-athletes ineligible for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules. According to the facts submitted by the university, the total value of the benefits is approximately $4,952 for Little and $5,642 for Quinn.Little accepted diamond earrings, as well as travel accommodations for the Bahamas, Washington, D.C., and two trips to Miami, among other benefits. Quinn accepted two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings and travel accommodations for a trip to Miami, among other benefits.
Little, Austin in preseason

Based upon information gathered by the institution and the NCAA Agent, Gambling and Amateurism staff during its joint investigation, unethical conduct charges were found against both student-athletes for providing false and misleading information. According to the facts submitted by the university, each player was not truthful during three separate interviews with university and NCAA enforcement staff members. Further, Little and Quinn only provided more accurate information when presented with evidence that was contrary to their assertions, UNC announced in a statement.

When reaching permanent ineligibility for each of the player, the staff noted the cases included multiple occasions where the players accepted benefits that were clearly against NCAA rules. The staff also noted that the players provided false information despite multiple opportunities to correct their assertions.

During the reinstatement process, NCAA staff reviews each case on its own merits and the specific facts. Staff decisions consider a number of factors including guidelines established by the Division I NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement for the type of violations and value of benefits, the athlete's responsibility for the violation, as well as any mitigating factors presented by the university.

When a school discovers a player has been involved in an NCAA rules violation, it must declare the player ineligible and may request the eligibility be reinstated to the NCAA national office staff for consideration. Reinstatement decisions are made independently of any NCAA enforcement process.

The university can appeal the decision to the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement, an independent panel comprised of representatives from NCAA member colleges, universities and athletic conferences. This committee can reduce or remove the condition, but it cannot increase the staff-imposed conditions. If appealed, the student-athlete remains ineligible until the conclusion of the appeals process.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Skinther fans may be tilting back to burgundy and gold

When the Panthers franchise moved into Charlotte in 1995, a Raleigh-Durham radio station had an event where you could bring in your old Redskins t-shirt to be burned in a bonfire and receive your new Panthers t-shirt.

Let me first say that anyone who did that was never really a Redskins fan or they had worn it out so much they were going to throw it away anyway. But many fans remained fans of the Skins and wanted to support the new “Carolina” team. When the Redskins played in Charlotte for an exhibition game, there were literally hundreds of people walking around with a Redskins hat and a Panthers shirt or vice versa.

Some, mostly those in the vicinity of Charlotte, were making the transition I suppose while others were making the point that they are fans of both teams.

I remember one drunken, foul-mouthed Panthers fan that night who took exception to all the split loyalties being displayed in the urinal line. (For the record, I'm not fond of much conversation at the urinal anyway.) But those like him have to understand that most adults have been fans of another team and that team in North Carolina for decades was (and some would argue still is) the Redskins.

Since the Redskins have only appeared in the playoffs three times since the Panthers came along, and since such DC icons as RFK Stadium and owner Jack Kent Cooke have died, things changed and it worked to the Panthers advantage in winning over fans. Plus, after more than 15 years as a franchise, and a Super Bowl visit, the Panthers also have some younger fans who never were a part of the Redskins history.

But most people who ever were a Redskins fan are either still a Redskins fan and despise the Panthers for taking the Skins off TV after they’d been on for 30 years (radio for 50) or they still otherwise hold a soft spot for the burgundy and gold.

A female relative of mine didn’t really understand why Redskins fans wouldn’t just become Panthers fans now that “we” had a team. Telling her that Charlotte wasn’t exactly “we” didn’t seem to help her understand the plight of the North Carolina Redskins fan. Then I asked her how she would feel if her favorite Soap Opera was being preempted every time it was on in favor of a locally produced Soap Opera. Couldn’t she just become a fan of that new Soap Opera? She finally understood.

Now, with the excitement of having Mike Shanahan as coach and with Donovan McNabb becoming the quarterback, a lot of attention has been on the Redskins. Considering that the Panthers are struggling (boy, was that an ugly effort against the Bears today) and the Redskins are playing exciting ball (four of the five games have come down to the last seconds – and boy, was that an thrilling comeback against the Packers today), some with split loyalties (Skinther fans) might just be tilting back to the burgundy and gold.

The winless Panthers lost their fifth game of the season 23-6 to the Bears and former Panthers All-Pro Julius Peppers. The boos from the fans went from being directed at Peppers to being directed at the Panthers, who are the lowest-scoring team in the NFL. Rookie QB Danny Claussen was ineffective and benched in favor of Matt Moore who started the season as the club’s QB. If the people who are fans of the Panthers (and the Panthers only) are restless, imagine the Skinther fans who can either stick with the negativity of the Panthers season or lean back toward the positivity of the Redskins season.

Had the NFL put the Panthers in the AFC (which might have made more sense with nearby NFC markets established not only for the Redskins but for the Atlanta Falcons), Skinther fans could have watched both teams on regular TV (one on CBS and one on FOX) and could have rooted for both the Panthers and the Redskins. But the Panthers ownership didn’t want that - they not only lobbied to be in the NFC but at least one member of the ownership team that I spoke with at the time was hoping to get placed in the NFC East to start a Cowboys-Redskins type rivalry with the Skins.

While there are hard feelings, especially among Redskins fans, that could fuel a rivalry, the Panthers have played the Redskins only nine times in the regular season over the years and are just 2-7 against them.

A lot of people who have come to North Carolina (and the Triangle area in particular) in the last 15 years don’t really understand the history of support for the Redskins (which I have barely touched on) or even understand that many North Carolinians just east of the Triangle area can actually get to DC quicker than they can get to Charlotte. They also don’t know about the DirecTV study which shows that the most Redskins fans outside the DC market are congregated in the Triangle area of North Carolina. (Pass this on to your non-native friends as a service.)

You know, those Skinther fans may actually have it good because they have insurance that if one team isn’t doing well, perhaps the other one is. This year the pendulum is swinging (for now at least) toward the Redskins. Too bad they have to go to a sports bar or purchase DirecTV's Sunday Ticket to watch them now though.

Wolfpack, Heels on a collision course

Yes, it's still six weeks away and NC State has big games ahead with ECU, Florida State and Clemson while North Carolina has big games in the meantime with Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech. But the UNC-State game set for Nov. 20 is looking like an intriguing, emotional matchup.

At the first of the year, most thought the experienced Tar Heels would handle the Wolfpack at home. Then, once the experience drained and the Pack looked good in winning their first four games, most thought that N.C. State would handle the Tar Heels.

Since then, State QB Russell Wilson showed he was human in a disappointing loss to Virginia Tech, which scored twice in the last minutes to win at State. UNC QB T.J. Yates who had been carrying the offense had a subpar game against Clemson yet the Tar Heels found a way to win.

With UNC players becoming eligible again and the team having an us-against-the-world team strengthening mentality - and with State (and Wilson) rebounding well against BC and with fans and presumably players desperately wanting to kick the Heels when they are down - this could be a special game.

Regardless of what happens with the teams records between now and Nov. 20, these teams are going to be emotional and go at it hard against each other. And, it looks as if they are evenly matched with no clear-cut favorite. Of course, with the way this season has gone, that part of the equation could change.

UNC investigations getting old; overshadowing NC teams accomplishments

N.C. State's offense looked powerful in a shellacking of Boston College, Coach Tom O'Brien's first win over his former team. Johnny White's runs and UNC's fourth-down conversions led to a 21-16 victory over Clemson, a team the Heels haven't defeated in almost a decade. East Carolina comes from 20 down to defeat conference favorite Southern Miss in the waning moments 44-43.

Yet, the news leads with the fact that Devon Ramsey, a fullback at Carolina, has been dropped from the team because of the ongoing investigations into academic fraud and inappropriate connections to NFL scouts. The speculation is that UNC could have to forfeit two of the games in which Ramsey played. Another player who has been held out all year, it was announced, will not be back this season.

The ABC crowd was enjoying the travails of Carolina but now it's overshadowing their team's efforts, performances and wins. If the Tar Heel players weren't admirably fighting through the adversity and hadn't won their last three games in impressive fashion, I'd be tempted to call for forfeiting the season just to stop all the bleeding and move on.

UNC officials have been diligent (holding out anyone they thought might have been involved) - Ramsey evidently fell through the cracks.

I'm not going to speculate about what sanctions there may be. Let the chips fall where they may, whenever they fall. As hard as it is, I'm going to try to focus on UNC's play on the field, as well as the fine play of State and the excitement of ECU.