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Posted by: Coreyo34

In today’s Charlotte Observer, an editorial appears slamming the University of North C*rolina for the extraordinary amount of money that new head football coach Butch Davis will receive for his efforts.

He will earn an average of $1.86 million a year over seven years — not including bonuses and deferred compensation. Here’s how that shakes out: His salary will be $286,000 per year, plus $25,000 for expenses, plus at least $1 million a year in “supplemental” income that the contract states UNC will pay, along with generous bonuses.

There’s more. He’s expected to sign a $250,000-a-year media contract and a $150,000-a-year apparel contract. In addition, his contract’s retention and buyout clauses are so generous they required permission from the UNC Board of Governors to violate the rules.

That’s outrageous. That money has nothing to do with the primary missions of a public university: teaching, public service and research.

Don’t blame Mr. Davis. He’s an experienced coach, and he negotiated a great deal. Instead, blame the leadership at Chapel Hill — specifically the chancellor and board of trustees. Blame the UNC system Board of Governors, too, for going along. For the second time in three years that board has ignored its own sensible rules prohibiting excessive buyouts of coaching contracts. The first was in 2003, to hire Tar Heel basketball coach Roy Williams.

Why does this issue matter so much? Big-money college sports exploits young athletes. It wastes precious resources and nurtures impropriety (just look at Alabama). It also undermines public and political support for academic needs — which North Carolina can ill afford.

This final paragraph is the buttress upon which the paper’s argument relies.

Let’s analyze it one sentence at a time:

Big-money college sports exploits young athletes.

Whether or not this statement is accurate, “big-money college sports” are irrelevant to the Observer’s stance. That which is relevant is UNC’s athletic department, and whether or not its big-money college sports programs have exploited young athletes, and whether or not the pay of its head football coach will somehow exploit young athletes.

To my knowledge, there is little historical basis upon which to criticize UNC’s athletic department for exploitation of young athletes.

It wastes precious resources and nurtures impropriety (just look at Alabama)

Again, generalities are irrelevant. The Observer must consider UNC specifically because, much as some may lament to admit, UNC is an atypical public university, and in a very good way. Or rather, Alabama is not in the same atmosphere as UNC in any way, shape or form aside for the fact that both are land-grant universities in Southern states. Alabama has a long history of bending and breaking the rules with regards to football. UNC does not. So I pose the question once again: Can the Observer prove that a head coach’s pay will directly result in impropriety?

Absolutely not.

To the contrary, Butch Davis is widely credited for cleaning up a program that had been encumbered with impropriety–the University of Miami–and therefore, the large amount of money Bowles and Baddour have opted to grant him ought to be considered a wise investment in ensuring the future purity of the program.

It also undermines public and political support for academic needs — which North Carolina can ill afford.

The Observer makes this statement without any evidence to support it. That’s intellectually lazy.

Certainly, the dinosaurs in academe–and they’re not all dinosaurs, of course–will lament this move and compare Davis’ pay directly to that of a tenured professor. But that would be unwise and unfair and, largely, illogical.

Politically, this move is, in fact, wise. The masses are happier with a better football program, and the politicians will certainly take advantage of that come election season. It’s hard for a politician to score points by donning the school’s colors when the team isn’t cracking .500.

Overall, this editorial from the Observer is shoddy at best, as its conclusions are unsubstantiated and ill-considered.

Of course, this is the same paper that once employed one Greg Doyle, so I suppose this is what we ought to expect.

Additionally, the Observer itself has much to gain from a strong UNC football team because as the program’s stock rises, presumably the prospect of selling newspapers (and advertisements in print and online) will increase as well…

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Yes, we’re linking a story from IC. But it’s about Duke, so we’ll post portions of it here so you don’t have to give them hits. How’s that? 😉

“This could be the first (Duke) senior class to capture the Victory Bell twice since the early ’80s,” said an optimistic Ted Roof, referring to the four-wheeled trinket possessed by the winning school.

There will be dark blue spray paint on hand if indeed the Blue Devils can grab a win over arch-rival Carolina in John Bunting’s final game as coach. But they are catching the Tar Heels at a bad time – although UNC will have to string together back-to-back victories for the first time this year in order to prevail.

“We definitely don’t want to lose the bell to those guys,” Jesse Holley said. “Just like with N.C. State, Duke is just as big a rivalry for us.”

As is often the case in major intra-sectional standoffs, the stats, the past and the prophecies mean little once the contest is underway. And its regional importance always transcends the two teams’ current won-loss tallies.

“This is not a game that passes,” Roof said. “You think about it from the time it’s over with until you meet again the next year. It means a lot to both schools. It certainly means a lot to Duke. There’s a lot riding on it for us.”

Despite underdog status in almost every game, Duke has played Carolina tough. Bunting is 4-1 versus Duke, but two of the four victories were decided by less than a field goal and the Blue Devils won 30-22 in 2003.

“When you play Duke, nothing else matters,” Holley said. “They are not going to play like an 0-11 team – I guarantee that. You put all the records aside. It’s going to be a hard-fought football game.”

No doubt it will be hard-fought. But will Duke have enough fight to pull the minor upset?

One can only hope. UNC has Butch Davis to look forward to–Duke needs some encouragement for 2007.

A season of woe can’t completely come in a single victory…but it can go a long way in assuaging the frustration of a season that has been as disappointing as any in recent memory.

This week, instead of tackling 2-3 topics, I want to focus on one unit and give kudos to the coach responsible for their progress.

Most would say that the Duke coaching staff has not had a good season. The team is winless and, despite stretches of good play, has struggled to compete at the ACC level. So we need to look long and hard for positive developments. One unit that has steadily improved over the first 8 games of the season is the offensive line. Coming into the season, Duke was faced with replacing 4 starters for the 3rd straight year. Adding insult to injury 3 4th year juniors who would have composed the OL core this season either transferred (Tyler Kreig, Lav Bauta) or decided to graduate (Bob Benion). The Devils were left with a unit with only 2 players who had seen any significant game action. The only returning starter, center Matt Rumsey accounted for 11 of the 12 starts among the returning linemen. LT Cam Goldberg played about 40% of the 2005 snaps and started against UNC in the finale. The rest of the players were a mix of 1st to 4th year players, none with any mentionable experience.

The improvement of this unit can be easily shown by looking at the season in thirds. In the first 4 games (Richmond, Wake, VT, UVA), Duke was shut out 3 times and only scored 13 points in the 4th contest. During that abysmal stretch, the Devils averaged a pitiful 204 yards per game, including only 37.5 of that coming via the running game. The QBs had also been sacked 22 times. The next four games (Alabama, FSU, Miami, Vanderbilt) have seen a dramatic improvement in almost all offensive categories. During that stretch, they have averaged 330.3 yards per game in total offense and the QBs were only sacked 7 times. The biggest eye-popper, though, is the difference in the running game. Duke has been averaging 150.5 yards per game on the ground, including over 200 yards rushing against Alabama and Vanderbilt.

Why these improvements? You can come up reasons like better running by the backs, better play calling or just plain luck. The reason, however, is the vastly improved play of the offensive line. And at least some of the credit should be given to OL coach John Strollo. I must admit, I wasn’t a big Strollo fan at this time last year. He wasn’t the fiery, in-your-face type of coach that a casual observer would associate with an effective coach. That thought had not changed through the first 4 games of 2006 as the OL appeared to be a train-wreck. I guess Strollo flipped the “on” switch before the Alabama game. Whatever he did, the OL is now playing well enough for Duke to move the ball against good defenses. They are opening holes for the running game and they are protecting the passer much better than in the first part of the season. So, I guess I will conclude by saying:

Great job Coach Strollo!

Crossposted here.

What went right?
The Duke ground game showed some life. The Devils carried the ball 39 times for 253 yards. Leading the way was Junior Justin Boyle, who recorded the teams’ first 100-yard game of the season. Ronnie Drummer and Re’Quan Boyette contributed 52 and 47 yards respectively. Kickoff return man Jabari Marshall averaged 28 yards per return which gave the Duke offense good starting field position.

What went wrong?
The Devils came out of the tunnel flat and it was apparent shortly after the opening kickoff. Coming into the game, Duke was 29th in the country in rushing defense. Vanderbilt put a big dent in that ranking, gashing the Devils for 235 yards on the ground. To add insult to injury, The Commodores were also able to burn the Blue Devil pass coverage for 277 yards through the air. Missed tackles, blown coverage and just poor execution doomed the defense. The Devils had many chances to make big plays on QB Chris Nickson in the backfield. Unfortunately, poor tackling fundamentals and great athletic ability by Nickson turned the broken plays into big gainers.

Despite Duke’s rushing success, they were not able to compliment it with a sound passing game. QB Thaddeus struggled mightily with his defensive reads and his throwing accuracy. As a result, the Devils were only able to muster a paltry 106 yards through the air. The Duke wide receivers were getting open, but Lewis was not finding them. On the rare occasion when Lewis did find them, his passes were not on target.

TDD Player of the game:
Justin Boyle scored 9 touchdowns in 2005, the best figure at Duke since 1996. He had been relatively quiet so far this season, having only scored one touchdown so far. On Saturday, Boyle was able to hit paydirt 4 times, tying an all-time Duke record. With his 113 yards on 14 carries and four scores, Boyle is this weeks’ TDD player of the game.

Final Analysis:
The coaching staff, especially head coach Ted Roof, needs to take a long look in the mirror before starting game preparation this week. The Devils did not look prepared on Saturday. On offense, Duke showed no semblance of a cohesive game plan. The play-calling had no flow. The Devils appeared to be running the ball quite well in the first half, but the staff seemed to panic after Duke fell behind by 2 scores early. Rather than trying to stick to the running game, Duke pressed and went a little pass-happy. The result was a misfiring offense that didn’t get on track until Vanderbilt got up 31 points and sent in their second string. To the players’ credit, they did not give up and cut the lead to 10 with 7 minutes remaining. Still, poor execution and bad coaching decision put Duke in the 31 point hole.

Credit is due to Vanderbilt, especially the play of their offensive line. The Commodores were adept at picking up the blitz and gave Nickson time to find his receivers. Standout Sophomore Earl Bennett wore the secondary out, catching 9 balls for 184 yards including a 77 yarder early in the game, which really took the wind out of Duke’s sails. On that play, the Devils were in man coverage with no safety over top. Bennett ran a simple slant route and CB John Talley missed a tackle. After Talley’s miss, there was only green grass between Bennett and the end-zone.

Looking ahead:
Duke must regroup quickly because the Navy Midshipmen will be in town this Saturday. The Devils will have to adjust their defensive strategy this weekend to combat the flexbone option attack they will see. For Ted Roof, this is an absolute must win game, both for team morale and his job security. Duke now owns the nation’s longest losing streak and has not defeated a 1-A opponent since 2004. If Roof wishes to continue as Duke’s head coach, he must find a way to get the team ready to play. At times, the Devils will rise to the occasion and play teams like Miami and Alabama tough. When lesser teams that Duke can defeat such as Vanderbilt and Navy come to town, the Devils almost always fall flat on their face. If this continues to happen, Roof could find his job in jeopardy. AD Joe Alleva has shown a lot of patience as Roof tries to resurrect the program from over a decade of despair. Patience, however, has it limits.

~

Coverage from The Tennessean, Nashville’s newspaper:

> Vandy runs fast break, beats Duke

> Game notes

> QB’s Day: 400 yards, 5 TDs

> Defense starts strong, then quells rally

Coverage from the Herald-Sun

> Duke’s late rally falls short

The confluence of football and basketball seasons began this weekend as eager parents congregated in Cameron Indoor to watch the Blue-White basketball game while the gridiron Blue Devils were pounded by Vanderbilt in Wallace Wade.

The Blue-White game was as newsworthy as its ever been because of the sheer uncertainty surrounding this year’s squad. And the leading news was the performance of freshman center Brian Zoubek, who poured in 27 points on 11-for-15 shooting.

TDD posters in attendance have provided mixed reviews on the performance of Josh McRoberts, DeMarcus Nelson and others. But all attest that which we’ve all anticipated–this Duke team is athletic, and is going to attempt to capitalize on that as best it can by pushing the ball up the floor on offense, and by playing the high-pressure defense that Duke has arguably been a little less proficient at in recent years due to a lack of lateral quickness.

Regardless, this squad is very much a work in progress. The inconsistency will be more severe than fans have grown accustomed to, and patience will be required as Duke finds its way. Either way, Coach K’s excited for the process:

It’s going to be fun trying to see how we put this whole damn thing together. I’m excited about it. We haven’t had to do this for a while, and it’s good.

Despite assigning a spy to contain quarterback Chris Nickson, the Blue Devil football team had a helluva time slowing the shifty dual threat, as he compiled 400 yards of total offense –250 in the air, 150 on the ground–en route to a 45-28 victory.

Nickson’s a future star in the SEC, but is very much an imperfect player. But Duke didn’t come out with the certitude it did a week ago when it nearly upset an arguably superior team. And it has been that inconsistency that has bedeviled Duke’s players, coaches and supporters alike. Time is running out for the Blue Devils to pick up their first win of the season.

And the media scrutiny will only get worse. Duke now has the most-prolonged losing streak in the nation because the Temple Owls cruised past Bowling Green on Saturday.

Head coach Ted Roof shares everyone’s disappointment:

It’s disappointing certainly. This is not how we expect to play. This is not how we prepare to play. We gave up way too many yards after missed tackles…. That game came down to our not tackling very well.

The women’s cross country team, which had been one of the nation’s best the past two seasons, has been trying to find its identity after having graduated a bevy of talented seniors. Duke took a big step Saturday by placing second in the uber-competitive ACC Championships, in which eight-ranked teams competed.

The Blue Devils probably do not have the legs to finish as well as they had in 2004 and 2005, but Duke is very much back in a position to make some noise at the NCAAs.

The men’s squad came in right behind Virginia in the men’s championships, near the middle of the pack.

The No. 4 field hockey team downed Virginia in its regular season finale. Duke, which has advanced to the national championship game for three consecutive seasons, will face its steepest competitors at the upcoming ACC Championships, where Wake Forest, Maryland and North Carolina await. Each is capable of winning the national title–and each has at least one championship in the past decade, except Duke.

Today’s stories on Duke’s upcoming contest with Vanderbilt:

> InsideVandy: “Conference SAT wouldn’t work.

> InsideVandy: “Keys to the game.

> Duke Chronicle: “Duke continues to look for 1st win.

> News & Observer: “Drawing the line: Learning as they go, Duke’s offensive linemen work to improve and to win

How nice.

If Duke can get through those four games without getting into the win column, and North Carolina remains winless against Division I-A opponents, the stage will be set for one of the most exciting Duke-UNC football games in history.

In what can only be called the “Toilet Bowl,” the Tobacco Road rivals will clash on the gridiron with last place in the ACC-possibly the nation, too-on the line.

This one will be tough for the Blue Devils to lose and make my dream of an 0-12 season come true. The Tar Heels have been almost as bad as Duke this year, losing by 17 points or more in each of their last five games and posting a 1-6 overall record, with the lone win coming in a nail-biter against Division I-AA Furman.

As we all know, however, the Blue Devils were shutout 13-0 by Division I-AA Richmond to open the season, and the Duke offense has come up empty on three occasions compared to just one shutout for lowly UNC. And if the game comes down to the wire as all Duke-North Carolina games have a habit of doing, the Blue Devils have proved this year they have a knack for not coming through in the clutch.

There was the 28-yard game-winning kick blocked at Wake Forest and last week’s gut-wrencher that saw a Miami defender pick off a would-be game-winning touchdown pass from Thaddeus Lewis on the game’s final play. The Tar Heels have yet to play in a close game aside from the one against Furman, but it’s hard to imagine they could have less ability to win tight ones.

I might be getting ahead of myself with the possible “Toilet Bowl,” but hopefully some of you will join me in rooting for the matchup, and then sucking it up and rooting for the Tar Heels so Duke can finish off its record-setting 12-loss season.

Columns such as these are just mean-spirited and counterproductive.

But so it goes.

> Herald Sun features senior John Talley

> Scout’s Vanderbilt site breaks down the Blue Devils

> Duke Chronicle on the development of the offensive line

> Duke Chronicle on the rise of Vanderbilt football

> Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson’s press conference transcript

Q: How do you motivate your team to go against a team that hasn’t won a game this year?

Bobby Johnson: “Well, they are on the schedule. We want to win over whoever we are playing this week, whether they have won eight games right now or no games. It is our motivation to win, not theirs to lose. I don’t think it is that hard. I think our guys will be ready. We had a good practice yesterday. The last thing they want to do is feel like they felt after the South Carolina game. They like to win and that is our goal this week.”

Q: People look at Duke and Vanderbilt and see some similarities in terms of their being small, academic schools playing in a major conference. What similarities do you see?

Bobby Johnson: “I don’t know to tell you the truth. I don’t know a whole lot about Duke. I was in the ACC as a player for four years and one as a coach and that’s it. To tell you the truth, I don’t know a whole lot about them. I just know that they play in the ACC and that they are private. Certainly, they are trying to build a program just like everyone else in the country. Everybody has their obstacles. We certainly have ours.”

Q: A lot of people before you got here used to call this series the SAT Bowl. Have you heard talk like that?

Bobby Johnson: “No. I don’t think our guys think in those terms and I haven’t heard anyone else talk about it. I think it is pretty good when you can play I-A football and you can go to schools like Duke and Vanderbilt. I think that is the ideal situation. My hat is off to those guys – they battle over there in a tough league and we battle over here in a tough league. I have respect for them, believe me. Even though we may not know about each other a whole bunch, we certainly respect what the other bunch is trying to do.”

Q: Do you cross paths with Duke on the recruiting trail?

Bobby Johnson: “We did early in my career but the last couple of years it has been less and less. I don’t know why. It is probably just coincidence that it is one way or the other. But Duke recruits nationally, so we are going to cross them.”

Q: What jumps out to you about Duke?

Bobby Johnson: “I think they have a very aggressive defense. They start out in a three-man front and they have people coming all kinds of different ways everywhere and sometimes they get you in a bad situation and make you look bad on offense. Offensively, they are very versatile. They run some option, they throw the ball. I think their receiver had 175 yards against Miami last week. They had a chance to beat Miami. They had the ball on the five-yard line I think with two or three seconds to go and didn’t get it in. But they played well.”

|> Duke’s run defense is ranked 23rd in the country

|> Duke held Miami to 30 yards rushing on 26 carries

|> Talley has 16 career INTs, good enough for 7th all-time in the ACC

|> Duke gained nearly 400 yards on Miami after the Hurricane defense was ranked #3 nationally

Well done, Mr. Nichols.

Duke’s Eli Nichols has been named one of 148 semifinalists for the 2006 Draddy Trophy, and honor awarded annually by the National Football Foundation to the student-athlete for combined academic success, football performance and community leadership.
A senior defensive lineman from Crawfordville, Fla., Nichols received Second Team Academic All-America honors in 2005. A three-year starter, Nichols holds career totals of 105 tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss, six quarterback sacks and one interception in 31 games.

“The Draddy epitomizes everything right about college football,” said NFF President Steven J. Hatchell. “By recognizing this group, we highlight the countless hours and demands that each college football player must balance as they pursue their dreams of a higher education and their passion for football. The NFF has both the privilege and responsibility to pay tribute to this exceptional group of role models, who truly embody the term student- athlete.”