Football Schools

Adam Lucas, columnist for <u>The Cary News</u>, writes in this week's paper that there is another difference between UNC & NC State. UNC is a basketball school, and NC State is a football school.

It doesn't take an oversized helping of insight to proclaim that Carolina and State fans are different.

After all, it's as obvious as the clothes on their backs— Wolfpackers sporting the brightest of reds and Heels preferring a softer baby blue.

But no matter how obvious it might be, it's always jarring when the respective fan bases provide a clear-cut illustration of exactly where their priorities are located.

As you might have heard, Carolina hired a basketball coach this week. Some guy named Williams. Spent most of his time talking about Kansas but presumably will be happy to be in Chapel Hill in a few days.

As you might not have heard, NC State held their spring football game on Saturday. That's not unusual, since it wouldn't be spring football practice without a fan-friendly scrimmage designed to get fans excited (and jump-start season ticket sales).

What is unusual, at least in the ACC, is the turnout at Carter-Finley Stadium. By most accounts, there were over 15,000 State fans in attendance, and the most popular estimate was 18,000. Carter-Finley parking lots were awash with tailgaters, all for a game that it's doubtful anyone remembers who won even today, less than a week after its completion.

That's an astounding attendance figure for a scrimmage. On the same day, Carolina persuaded just 4,000 Tar Heel fans to make the trip to Kenan Stadium.

But the relevance of State's spring game attendance doesn't become apparent when compared with other ACC schools. Instead, it becomes apparent when you realize that the Pack drew more fans to a spring football scrimmage than they did to five of their eight home ACC basketball games.

That just doesn't happen in this conference, except at Clemson. And it indicates a fundamental change in Raleigh from basketball school to football school.

As recently as five years ago, spring football in Raleigh was just another way to pass the time until the first basketball exhibition game. Somehow, that changed.

Actually, it wasn't "somehow." It was a combination of factors, most prominently including Herb Sendek and Chuck Amato. Sendek, who has completed seven years as Wolfpack basketball coach, somehow disenchanted a good portion of the fan base in his first five years so thoroughly that even back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids couldn't restore their joy for hoops. At this point, every big State win is greeted not with excitement, but with a sense of dread that the peak will be met with an equally extreme valley in the near future.

The feeling is completely opposite on the football side, where Chuck Amato has so completely mesmerized Wolfpack fans that they threw a parade for a team that finished fourth in the conference. As Sendek has no doubt noted, his team this year also finished fourth.

No parade, however. And he probably shouldn't overstock on streamers.

NC State has officially become a football school, motoring into a world usually occupied by Big Ten or SEC schools while their crosstown rivals dissect their latest new basketball coach.

There have always been fundamental disagreements between Pack and Heel supporters. David Thompson or Michael Jordan. Jimmy V or Dean Smith.

And now you can officially add one other point of contention: football or basketball.

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