Heels of Frustration

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – There is turbulence surrounding the North Carolina football program. You don't need a seeing-eye dog or a magic decoder ring to come to that conclusion. However on Thursday, seemingly visible puffs of steam were released.

Fact is, the Tar Heels are 2-2, and off to their best start since John Bunting took over in 2001. That's right, better than the 0-3 start that ultimately resulted in a 8-5 campaign, a Peach Bowl championship, and nearly a half dozen players that still play on Sundays in the NFL.

Yet Carolina has only beaten one Division I team so far this season, and its losses have been about as demoralizing as can be to only count for two defeats.

Couple that with the fact that a trip to Florida State, a home match-up with intra-state rival N.C. State, a trip to nationally ranked Utah, a homecoming tilt with Miami and then a follow up challenge with Virginia Tech make up the Tar Heels' horizon; and that's why many fans have already thrown in the towel—not just on this season, but on the Tar Heels' coach, players and even their athletics director.

With every passing day, the fans' discontent seems to increase while the team's record stays the same.

Is that fair? Is it fair to UNC coach John Bunting? Is it fair to the players?

"No; it's not," senior quarterback Darian Durant said following Thursday's practice. "For me, growing up around Columbia, ‘SC' went 0-11 and they sold out every home game. It just seems like when we're struggling, people seem to give up on us. But when we're doing well, that's when they want to come see us. I don't think that's fair. I can remember a couple of years ago when the basketball team went 8-20, the Dean Dome stayed packed every game. So, I do think sometimes we get treated unfairly, but the true fans stand out. Those are the ones who are here every week."

"We have some true die-hard fans," senior center Jason Brown added. "Then again, we had a great win against Georgia Tech. And to come out here last weekend against a ranked team…the stands were half-filled."

When asked to comment on the recent legal problems of tackle Willie McNeil, Bunting let his frustration show.

In a released statement Bunting said, "Our players have been told to alert the football staff of any situation like this as soon as it happens, so I am disappointed that Willie did not inform us when this occurred. The first charge [misdemeanor possession of marijuana] was dismissed by the court system. The second was a citation for being in a public park after hours at 10:38 p.m. We will continue to handle any disciplinary action relative to Willie on these matters internally.

"There is no change in Willie's status for the Florida State game. He will play."

But in a tense moment after practice, he was then asked, "Did you overlook his earlier charge?"

"Overlook a dismissal?" an angered Bunting replied. "A dismissal? John Bunting never overlooks anything. Understand that? Never have; never will. OK, guys?"

And with that the interview session was over.

  • Ronnie McGill, still recovering from a sprained ankle, will not play Saturday.

  • D.J. Walker was banged up in practice Thursday. Bunting said, "He can go, but I think Vince Wilson will see more action on special teams."

  • Jacque Lewis practiced at full speed and will play on Saturday.

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