Preston: Shawshanked!

Trying to figure out what is going on this season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, particularly in the state of North Carolina, is a little bit like watching "The Shawshank Redemption." You think you're following the movie and pieces are falling into place. Next thing you know, you're staring through a giant hole in Raquel Welch's navel.

Get my drift?

Going into the season, there were some pretty solid assumptions that could be made. Duke was going to lose at a feverish pace. Wake Forest was primed to finish in the upper echelon of the conference and UNC was going to carry over a strong 2001 finish into the 2002 season.

Well, consider the season "shawshanked."

With the exception of the Wolfpack, people who follow the conference are collectively looking at these recent results with the same expression Tommy Bowden had on his face after Aaron Hunt's field goal attempt to tie Georgia fell just a shade short (By the way, this is a good rule for all prospective field goal kickers: Don't congratulate your holder until the ball actually goes through the uprights. Fundatmentals, kids!).

To recap, Maryland had their lunches served to them by Notre Dame.

Wake Forest lost in overtime on the road to Northern Illinois, a team that isn't exactly clawing at the BCS standings.

Miami (Ohio) treated North Carolina only slightly gentler than the Sisters treated Andy Dusfrene. One thing that I've always wondered: Does Miami really need the state in parenthesis? Has a top rated recruit ever nearly signed with the Red Hawks, but just before putting pen to paper says, "Whoa. This is Miami of Ohio? Thank goodness for those parentheses").

To top it all off, Duke shocked the world in their win over East Carolina, which begs the following question: Is "Franksville" set up at Wallace Wade yet?

But when all of this takes place on the field, that's one thing. Makes the season fun. The part that I'm having a bit of trouble following are the current controversies brewing on the sidelines and in the football offices. Case in point: East Carolina.

Coach Steve Logan and athletics director Mike Hamrick are currently involved in a little dance that is proving very interesting. The gist: Logan says expectations have increased dramatically since Hamrick took the helm (Logan's actual argument: "We have skyboxes now." Would this fly at any other university?). He is also a little upset that Conference USA doesn't get automatic access to, and cash from, the BCS. But most frustrating to Logan is Hamrick's unilateral decision to play a home football game on Friday, Dec. 6, 2002, which just happens to fall smack dab in the middle of the high school playoffs.

In the state of North Carolina, this scenario is roughly equivalent to scheduling a mud-wrestling match in the middle of a church service. Where I grew up, it really isn't a bad thing, because my high school played their games on Saturday afternoon and, more importantly, they stunk to high heaven, so it didn't really matter one way or another.

Needless to say, the Friday game has irked high school officials, including Williamston football coach Harold Robinson, who is going to do whatever it takes to ECU football recruiters off his campus. Of course, he has absolutely no backing from anyone within the school or the district, so I wish him good luck with all that.

Logan was "shocked and dismayed" that he wasn't consulted on the move, although his contract allegedly states that he is to have input on scheduling matters. Meanwhile, Hamrick has said "his hands were tied" in making the decision to move the game because of ESPN and what amounts to a boatload of exposure. And cold, hard cash. Can't forget that.

People, the lesson in all of this is easy. Nobody cares. The Pirates lost to Duke. Their problems are just starting. And besides, there hasn't been any behind the scenes finger-pointing and double-talking yet, as has been the case in the running comedy that is Tripp Carroll.

Folks, this is the very definition of classic. Quick background check on Tripp reveals that he's a 6'5", 350-pound stud of an offensive lineman from Charlotte (NC) Myers Park. Since the young man can bench press an airplane hangar and is only slightly slower than a Winston Cup car, he is the highest ranked OL in North Carolina and one of the top ranked players in the nation. His college choices: North Carolina or Virginia Tech.

Scouring the Internet, I happened to find an interview Tripp conducted with, in which he actually uttered the phrase: "Ms. Bunting is pretty wild." Who knows what prompted him to say that, but I simply placed it in my "Disturbing information I didn't need to know" file.

More importantly, Tripp indicated to the web site that he would make his college choice once he finds a "place where I fit in." Turns out it ain't Carolina, thank goodness. Soon thereafter, an N.C. State message board unearthed the following nugget from Tripp, on his visit to UNC: "I visited North Carolina and I didn't really like the players at all. They have attitudes and I can't stand that stuff. … All these players were trying to convince me to stay out and drink. … They didn't seem to be very together either. The quarterback there, [Darian] Durant, was talking about how much he didn't like it and there was a wideout who only talked about transferring. Man, I didn't like it at all."

Turning recruits away, turning the ball over, turning the program upside down for months. Boy, is Durant the quarterback that just keeps on giving or what?

Yet another case of getting "shawshanked."

Michael Preston is the former Sports Editor of Technician and has followed the Wolfpack closely since his college days, but from above the Mason-Dixon line. He is currently the P.R. Director for Nazareth Speedway.

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