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2006
14
Nov

Football, Basketball and Back and Backer

Things can definitely be filed under the ‘Never A Dull Moment’ heading. There was Tech’s titanic intersectional game against traditional power Kent State . Then was a trip to Cameron for outstanding November basketball. The traditional media and the masters of DickieB provided the cherry on top: to the wild jubilation of all of those who attempt to find humor in the deadly-serious world of college sports, the delightful news was received that Butch was BACK! Plenty of column fodder has been assured for the next five years.

Things kicked off with the Kent State game. One does wonder exactly what Little Johnny and his scheduling mavens down at Grandover had in mind when providing Tech with an OOC date in the middle of November. Exactly how much was ESPNU, the crown jewel of the Disney Empire, paying to have this game scheduled at this time? Ratings were no doubt off the charts.

After two high-profile and emotional wins over Clemson and Miami, there was simply no way the Hokies were going to generate much emotion for the Golden Whatevers and they didn’t. Tech won because they were the better team. Better teams usually win, unless, of course, they are coached by Butch, but more on that in a bit.

Little Johnny, apparently still trying to figure out this whole ‘football thing’ [turning the conference landscape upside down to grab the Canes sure does seem to be working out like a charm, eh, Little Johnny?] and perhaps distracted by early warnings that Butch Mania would soon be sweeping his alma mater, should be advised that the second week of November is not the optimum schedule location for OOC games against MAC teams. Florida State hosting a Directional Michigan this weekend should also provide all the excitement of Hillary’s re-election campaign, too. The portion of the earth that encompasses the ACC to Little Johnny: November is the time to be playing CONFERENCE GAMES.

It also should be noted that the second week of November is generally considered football season. Yet, a mere forty-eight hours after Tech had finally beaten down the Kent State challenge, I found myself invited to witness a Duke game at Cameron. No matter the time of the year, the answer to that is always Yes.

While the 11th day of the 11th month is a time best suited for honoring veterans and playing significant conference football games, it does not seem a prime time for playing basketball ones, unless one is an avid NBA fan, which I ain’t. Why is it that any suggestion that football season might add an extra game or even a few more than that for a very few teams through a playoff, it is always drowned out by the shouts that the football season is already too long, which it ain’t. Yet, every year, it seems, basketball season encroaches a little more onto sacred football time. Pretty soon basketball season will be starting before the football one.

That would certainly be fine with them at Duke. While all of the empty seats in Cameron’s upper deck seemed to indicate that the Devils were not yet completely into basketball mode, it is at least a step in the right direction for Duke. Finally, they will be playing some games this year they actually can win and they did, over some overmatched crowd called Georgia Southern.

An early-season trip to Cameron also provided this correspondent with the opportunity for amusement, which came from asking those sitting near me, “How about that Ted Roof, huh?” Responses ran from blank stares to the occasional “Who?”

This is a very young team fielded by Coach K, his youngest ever in his 27 years on Methodist Flats. Certainly it is the youngest fielded by Johnny Dawkins, who practically runs the Devils hoops program as Coach K finds other things to occupy much of his time, such as coaching a second team and teaching classes at Duke. JohnnyD might be fielding a young team, but, considering how long many of this impressive collection of blue-chippers might hang around Cameron before heading to the NBA, a team with no seniors and only one junior might also be considered a veteran one.

The Duke team is flat loaded with talent, as Duke teams generally are. While we are continually assured by the Heel-centric North Carolina media that Ol’ Roy is never again going to lose even a single game at Carolina and no more than 2-3 teams on the schedule are even capable of scoring on the Heels, Coach K just might get interested enough in Duke basketball this year to make things interesting.

Which brings us to the flagship school of the Old North State . Even as the Peter Principle Era of Big John Bunting painfully comes to a close with high-profile games against State and Duke, excitement is building. Even as Ol’ Roy begins what Woody tells us will be the greatest basketball season ever experienced since Mr. Naismith hung up the peach basket and Dean his whistle, that ‘other’ sport is snatching the headlines. Dean never had to worry about that, did he, Ol’ Roy?

It seems that Carolina has decided that, by cracky, they are going to be really, REALLY good in both sports. It is now inevitable, we are told, since the Tar Heels have just concluded the master coaching stroke of all time by hiring none other than Frank’s old buddy Butch Davis. Yep, THAT Butch Davis .

The coach best known around the Hokie Nation as The Guy Who Couldn’t Beat Frank will be introduced as the next Carolina coach seconds after the Heels and Duke stumble their way to the end of Big John’s rope. The NC media and the handful of Heels still paying any attention whatsoever to football are agog. As well they should be, as they are joined by fans of Tech and that other place Butch had great difficulty beating, Florida State . Tech’s rise to football prominence coincided with Miami hiring Butch and all of the ensuing Tech consecutive wins over Butch’s Canes [5], and the wide rights abruptly ended at FSU, since the games were no longer that close with Butch stalking the Miami sideline.

Butch is BACK, which means, of course, that pretty soon Carolina football will be Back and Backer [bonus points to anybody reading who remembers that one]. While Carolina fans will soon be listening to Butch begin post-game press conferences with ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time’ to explain away yet another coaching gaffe, other fans will be laughing out loud as they recount yet another of Butch’s coaching blunders.

Yes indeed, Butch is a monster recruiter as long as he is sitting in the middle of the country’s biggest talent pool. Who knew that an even greater gold mine of talent was untapped in the RTP? It had better be, or the Franklin Street celebrations will soon come to an abrupt halt.

Yes, Butch won a few games at Miami , virtually all of them due to a serious talent advantage over the opponent. If the talent levels were even remotely close, Butch usually lost [see all of those games against Tech, Florida State and the McNabb years at Syracuse ]. Yep, Carolina fans had better hope that the Triangle contains a vast array of high school football talent that so far has escaped detection by Big John, Chuckie, Ted, Jim, Skippy and every other coach in the country. Butch winning big is likely to require it.

Most not caught up in the euphoria of Carolina soon being Back and Backer will notice that when Butch finally lucked into a Michael Vick injury and finally beat Frank, he quickly skedaddled off to the NFL. This was also a time when the NCAA began noticing that while Miami had lost a number of football scholarships due to their latest probation, there did seem to be an inordinate number of dual-sport Canes who never seemed to be competing in the sport that had awarded them their scholarship. That would be Miami swimming; the Carolina Swimming coach had best be looking for new employment.

Many will also recall that in the NFL Butch experienced difficulty recruiting vastly superior talent to the rest of the league. What happened then was that Butch was hopelessly overmatched by competent NFL field marshals, which was most of them. Even algroh had a better NFL winning percentage than Butch, for crying out loud. The Browns were neither Back nor Backer, only very bad.

ACC fans will soon discover what those of us from the Big East enjoyed for years, Butch’s sideline antics. Who can forget, during critical times during games, a panic-stricken Butch flinging his headset and racing pell-mell down the sideline with a look of stark terror in his eyes? He certainly brought that plan of attack with him from Miami to Cleveland . It is as much a part of the Butch Experience as arguing with his assistants.

Those who follow ACC football can again look forward to Butch explaining away master tactical moves such as overruling then-DC Greg Schiano during the closing seconds of a game against Penn State in which the Canes held a slim lead. The guy who is accomplishing what was thought to be impossible for centuries, making a winner out of RUTSgers, had called for the logical prevent defense, only to have Butch demand the secondary play close to the line of scrimmage. Butch’s mouth flopping open when the Lions passed for a one-play, 80-yard drive for the winning score was seen often at Miami and Cleveland.

Then there was the 1996 Tech game in the OB. Instead of going for the sensible call, a field goal, Butch let himself be talked into going for a fourth and goal by his quarterback, of all people. Butch’s mouth flopping open as Keion Carpenter sailed 100 yards with the ensuing interception to salt away the game was seen often at Miami and Cleveland.

Carolina fans should pay close attention to Butch’s choice of an OC [Butch’s Miami OC Uncle Fester should be available very soon]. History teaches us that Butch will spend much of games arguing with him over the headset. With any luck, Carolina fans will be able to observe them arguing through two delay-of-game penalties, with the ten penalty yards placing the ball just beyond their kicker’s winning field goal range, as they once did against Tech. It was solid game-day coaching such as this that made Butch so popular in Blacksburg , Tallahassee , Syracuse , Happy Valley and the entire AFC North, among other places.

While Carolina fans celebrate the latest coaching wunderkind to awaken the sleeping giant, be advised that Butch’s hiring is welcomed in other places, too. Chuckie must feel like a guy who just received an 11:59 pm call from the governor. He just might be able to build a national power at State after all. That is, if his begging of Lee Fowler of, “Please, PLEASE let me coach against Butch” is heeded. Otherwise, Bill Cowher will be doubling up with laughter and pounding his fist on his desk in glee at the possibility that the school He Positively, Absolutely Has To Beat will be coached by Butch.

A smile must be flickering over the face of Frank Beamer at the thought that if future Tech-Carolina games happen to be closer than the last two, he can game-plan with the knowledge that Butch will screw up at a critical moment. Even the Great NFL Legend upon hearing the news would have broken out the champagne kept on ice for so long in anticipation of all of those championships at Hooville and even allowed the underage boygroh a small sip at the dinner table.

Bobby Bowden has no doubt put off retirement, at least for the length of Butch’s contract. Even at Miami , where Butch’s attempts to use Carolina to frank the Canes into a big contract came a cropper when Butch discovered the Canes didn’t want him Back and Backer, they must be exhaling a sigh of relief that there is a chance they can make it Back after all with minimum interference from Carolina .

All kidding aside, there is the possibility that Butch will succeed at Carolina . Maybe he can emulate Ol’ Roy and assemble the greatest assemblage of talent in the country at Blue Heaven. Maybe during these past two years when not the first school other than Carolina would even give him passing consideration for a job he has actually learned how to coach. Perhaps that genius AD DickieB or whoever hired Butch knows something no one else in the country does. Maybe Butch will succeed. One thing that is assured is that ACC football is going to get a lot more fun now that Butch is Back and Backer.

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