It's a reasonable assumption, as tough losses in the past used to ignite firestorms of hate on the message boards and talk radio. Dropping a should-win would whip the anti-Sendek crowd into such a frenzy that message board bandwidth would be maxed out. The phone lines at 850 The Buzz would be jammed up with boosters and students ready to lay a rant on Sendek over the airwaves.
And these things still occur, to a certain degree. But if you've been paying attention lately, you've noticed a shift in the trend of popular opinion. Anger has shifted to apathy.
State Fan is loosening their grip on the Sendek noose. Not because they want to, but simply because fatigue is starting to set in. There's a finite limit to the amount of animosity one fanbase can expend on one coach/player/program before the "anger glands" run dry.
To wit, a quote from the message boards following the road loss to Virginia Tech, on a thread titled "Who else will, or has already, stopped watching our games?":
"Didn't watch, either. Got home from the gym in time to watch LOST. Caught the last minute...started laughing. Apathy is so much better for stress."
That's it, in a nutshell. State fans across the state and country have simply started turning the channel.
And if you're Bobby Purcell, director of The Wolfpack Club/Student Aid Association, State Fan Not Caring is far worse than State Fan In Anger. State Fan In Anger still buys tickets. Still attends games. Still buys State merchandise.
State Fan Not Caring does none of these things. State Fan Not Caring stays at home, watches LOST and holds off on replacing his/her favorite State sweater with a new one.
What should scare Purcell more, though is the start of State Fan not paying dues. Witness this, from the same thread:
"My pledges to the Wolfpack club will stop as long as he's coach. I'll find some other ways to give to my university. I just can't take it anymore. It makes me so sad (and mad) to say that [followed by a little frowning face icon, for effect]."
If there's one thing the athletic department at N.C. State has, it's plenty of debt, and a lack in funding from State Fan will mean that the many projects State has on its horizon, such as the improvement to the soccer and softball facilities, will be placed in serious jeopardy. Since the Wolfpack Club does not have an endowment for a majority of its scholarships, a serious dip in revenue could even possibly result in the trimming of some non-revenue scholarships. Things would change if ever get to that point, but if State Fan stops caring enough, it could happen.
The spread of apathy is gaining steam. Witness it during the out-of-conference home schedule. The empty seats scream louder than those filled. Witness it at the taping of the Herb Sendek Live radio show. You'd never guess free food would be so hard to give away.
And witness it from State Fan himself or herself as they talk of the program. The anger following a tough loss is diminished. The "You know, I just don't care anymore" responses are getting more numerous and louder in volume.
If Sendek listens to the chatter coming from State Fan, he should be worried that the anger he's grown accustomed to hearing is diminishing, because it's apparent that fan anger is not going to bring about his demise. Six years of anger has done nothing to affect his job status.
But apathy, not anger, from State Fan will constrict the flow of revenue coming into the Wolfpack Club. Then, and only then, will change occur.