Friday, September 29, 2006

at unc...bunting must go...

Bunting's charisma is not enough
UNC defensive end Melik Brown (58) and running back Ronnie McGill (25) joke with head coach John Bunting as he plays with his cap during a team photo shoot in Kenan Stadium in August.
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Since Mack Brown left for Texas after the 1997 season, North Carolina has won 41 football games and lost 57.
In those eight seasons the Tar Heels have played in only two postseason games, the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and Charlotte's Muffler Tire Whatever Classic.
Basketball obviously takes precedence over football at North Carolina, as Mack will attest. But if there's a reason the Tar Heels can't win football games, I have yet to hear it.
The campus is stunning, the town beautiful and the facilities fine. If you think the school doesn't care about football, why would the athletics director pay assistant coaches salaries that not long ago would have sufficed for a head coach?
To say that fans don't care is ludicrous. Of course fans care. But the coach has to give them a reason to get excited, a promise that better times will come next week or next season. John Bunting has not.
So, in part two of my Fire Friday series -- last Friday I urged N.C. State to dump Chuck Amato -- I encourage North Carolina to let Bunting go when the season ends.
I know Bunting wasn't North Carolina's first choice to replace Carl Torbush, who coached the team from 1998 to 2000. But after meeting Bunting, I thought the Tar Heels made a great hire.
The man oozes charisma. He has the gift to make you see what he sees and want what he wants. And what he wants is for folks to feel as strongly about his school as he does. Spend 10 minutes with Bunting, a former North Carolina and NFL linebacker, and you want to put on a helmet and pads.
And if you're willing to tackle somebody, you might start. The defense has a playmaker at linebacker and a playmaker in the secondary but collectively is a sieve.
I just got over the flu. I figured the quickest way to get well was to drive past the doctor's office, proceed to Chapel Hill and carry the ball against the Tar Heel defense.
North Carolina is 1-3 after Saturday's 52-7 battering by Clemson. The lone victory came against Furman, and barely. Bunting is 16-26 in the ACC and 25-39 overall.
Other teams have nice seasons. The Tar Heels have nice recruiting classes. But where do those players go?
Willie Parker, an obscure runner in Chapel Hill, went to the Pittsburgh Steelers and a star turn in Super Bowl XL. What happens to the others?
And why doesn't UNC have a quarterback? Was the departure of senior Darian Durant, the school's all-time leading passer who left after the 2004 season, a surprise?
Bunting would make a wonderful fundraiser. He's the kind of man you want your college-aged kids around, as long as you don't insist that they be members of a competitive football team.
Speaking of competitive, N.C. State won a game against a genuine NCAA Division 1A opponent the day after my 'can Amato' column ran. This week, two Tar Heels fans independently asked me to write a fire Bunting column to fire up their team.
So, go Heels. Win that bye.

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