Three weeks ago I wrote about just that when I stated that Amato has changed the attitude of the Wolfpack players and the fans. In an ironic twist, Amato has done such a good job of changing the climate and expectations of NC State football that a fourth-straight bowl trip is just not good enough. Think about it: Pack fans expected a late-season battle for the ACC title (which they got), but a 4-4 league record? Not feasible - not with Philip Rivers, T.A. McLendon & Co.
And while the past two Pack squads could have and
should have challenged for the ACC title, the fact
remains that nationally successful programs aren't
built overnight. Frank Beamer didn't turn Virginia Tech into a national power overnight, and Bobby Bowden
suffered through some tough years before Florida State
made it to the "next level." Even some programs that
seem to perpetually be on the cusp of greatness aren't
quite there yet (example: Kansas State).
Amato has NC State football on the path to many
successful - and possibly championship-filled -
seasons. The coach will continue to learn and grow in
his role, and he'll have to ask himself some tough
questions, such as ...
Should I bite the bullet and hire a defensive
Should I be more careful with how quickly I
throw T.A. back into the fire after an
And also ...
How will I deal next season with not having -
for the first time as a head coach in Raleigh - my
security blanket (Philip Rivers) around?
That last question may be the most important one of
all, and it's probably the toughest task Amato will
face as a young head coach. Will the separation of
Amato and Rivers have a Simon & Garfunkel result, with
one clearly moving on to continued success while the
other struggles? Or will it be more like when Lennon &
McCartney split and both went on to solo glory? Only
time will tell.
Here's to Rivers putting together an All-Pro career in
the NFL. (That could happen; he won't have that pesky
Heisman curse to deal with, after all.) And here's to
Amato continuing to build upon what he's started at NC
State: a program that isn't happy or satisfied with
Who knows? Maybe the "Ewing Theory" will come into
play. ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons (formerly known
as the "Boston Sports Guy") made famous the "Ewing
Theory," which he described two and a half years ago
as this: "A star athlete receives an inordinate amount
of media attention and fan interest, and yet his teams
never win anything substantial with him (other than
maybe some early-round playoff series).
"That same athlete leaves his team (either by injury,
trade, graduation, free agency or retirement) -- and
both the media and fans immediately write off the team
for the following season.
"When those elements collide, you have the Ewing
This idea states that there are examples throughout
sports history in which teams are better off - or at
least just as good as - the year after a milestone
player has left. The originator of the Ewing Theory
was, of course, Patrick Ewing, who was one of the most
dominant players in college and professional
basketball throughout the 1980s and '90s. Simmons
wrote that a friend of his "was convinced that Patrick
Ewing's teams (both at Georgetown and with New York)
inexplicably played better when Ewing was either
injured or missing extended stretches because of foul
trouble." A recent example of the "Ewing Theory" at
work could be Tennessee's 1998 college football
championship - with Tee Martin at quarterback, not
Peyton Manning. One could also cite, as Simmons did,
the 1998 Utah Utes basketball team as an all-time
"Ewing Theory" squad. A year after Keith Van Horn's
fantastic career ended without a Final Four run, Rick
Majerus' team makes it all the way to the NCAA
This isn't in any way to suggest that Philip Rivers'
career has been some sort of jinx, or that the
quarterback has been undeserving of the amount of
attention he has received. Nor is it to say that NC
State football will be a national contender next
season. But what it is saying is that sometimes the
stars align, Karma is with you, and everything falls
into place perfectly, almost as if out of your
control. Heck, it's happened to another team in the
ACC for three years now.
We'll call it the "Friedgen Theory."
Final 'Now' Regular Season ACC Standings
1. Florida State: Despite some ups and downs, the
Seminoles re-established their dominance this season.
2. Maryland: Ralph Friedgen has done such a terrific
job in three seasons at College Park that he got very
little credit (as far as Coach of the Year goes) for
yet another second-place finish.
3. NC State: There's no way around it - 2003 was a
disappointing year for the Pack.
4. Clemson: The Clemson administration had no choice
but to give a vote of confidence to Tommy Bowden after
putting together a Coach of the Year-type season.
5. Virginia: The regular season-ending rout of the
Hokies gives Al Groh & Co. something to build on - for
the bowl game and for next season.
6. Georgia Tech: Chan Gailey may just make it in
Atlanta after all.
7. Wake Forest: Who woulda thought that one month ago
we'd be saying that the Demon Deacons would have the
most disappointing season in the league? The Deacs'
youth caught up with them.
8. Duke: Ted Roof! Ted Roof! Ted Roof is on fire! (Has
that been beat into the ground enough?)
9. North Carolina: All this talk about "The Old Ball
Coach" eyeing Chapel Hill can't be good news for John
Bunting's long-term future.
'Later' ACC Standings
1. Florida State
4. NC State
5. Virginia Tech
8. Georgia Tech
9. Wake Forest
10. Boston College
12. North Carolina
Bowl Predictions: to come.
Prognostication Record This Year (as far as
picking the correct winner goes): 55-19
Theory of relativity
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