When standing in the open end zone looking out at Kenan Stadium, I often think about how few other facilities in the nation come close to Carolina's beautiful gridiron home Among the Pines. When I turn around, reality strikes that Kenan as a whole is a nice but unspectacular facility.
Kenan won't rank as one of the top venues in the nation until something is done about the open end zone, also referred to as the "Spanish End Zone" or "Alamo" as many fans call it.
UNC needs to renovate that end of the stadium, which likely means adding seats, a necessity if Coach John Bunting takes the football program to his expected level. Currently 60,000 seats, Kenan simply won't be big enough for Carolina's next push toward the top 10. Increased seating will accommodate heightened interest, and it will also make the 80-year-old stadium significantly more attractive, which will help the program in a few different crucial areas.
Bunting's goal is to regularly snag recruits from the nation's top programs, and renovating that end zone will make it easier to lure players who had recently visited the Tennessees, Penn States, Florida States and Floridas of the world. UNC won't house 80,000 or 90,000 seats in the near future but can offer around 70,000 in one of the most gorgeous settings in the land.
Another reason is to improve the program's image. Despite that most ACC schools average more fans per student body as a whole than the other power conferences, the league has a reputation for not drawing huge crowds. Of course the schools are smaller in enrolment for the most part, which keeps stadium sizes down, and the reputation suffers. Thus, eliminating that eyesore will look better not only in person but on television. Again, this will get players interested in the Heels before UNC recruits them and will perhaps awaken the Chris Fowlers of the world that the ACC (and UNC) plays quality football. Since there isn't a tournament in football, image matters and may eventually mean a few extra spots in the national polls, which might result in a national title game appearance or better bowl.
My proposal isn't to fully enclose the end zone. Instead, I'd like to see the pine trees and two hills remain, as that helps give Kenan its distinct look. Add one or even a pair of decks of seats, say 5,000 per. The new scoreboard can be built high enough that it will hover over the second deck, and the entire renovation will complete UNC's facility transition into the 21st Century and give the program one of the most attractive homes in the nation.
Recently reported comments by Duke forward Mike Dunleavy's father have re-opened discussions about whether or not the senior-to-be should remain in the NBA draft or return to school. Here is my take.
I think he should stay in the draft. As a basketball player he could certainly continue his development at Duke and would be a top candidate to win numerous national awards, but his game is more ready for the pros than most of the this year's early entries and he is clearly mature enough to handle the lifestyle change. In fact, with his father, Mike Sr., a former longtime player and coach in the league, the 6-foot-10 Oregon native understands what life in the pros is like and shouldn't miss a beat at the next level.
He also doesn't need to risk injury. Some e-mailers and callers to my show this past week stated Dunleavy doesn't need the money because his family is already loaded. But he isn't, and as a man, he likely wants his own fortune. After all, there is a reason other than a free college education why basketball has played such an important role in his life.
Selfishly, I'd like to see him return to Duke. I thoroughly enjoy watching him play and think the ACC and college game would be better off with him. But I would advise him to play for pay.
The NBA Finals - Yawn!
Does anyone really care about the NBA Finals?
Seriously. I know a lot of basketball fans, and none of them could care less about Shaq, Kobe, J-Kidd and the series, even before it was 3-0 L.A.
NBA basketball stinks. I have tried to watch it during the playoffs and find it excruciatingly painful to endure. Even last Sunday's Game 7 between the Lakers and Kings had numerous possessions where guys were standing around on both offense and defense. The offensive sets are geared too much for two-man play and don't involve all five players on the floor enough. Spacing only matters for the player with the ball. There isn't enough screening and most team's defensive sets look the same.
So I ask, does anyone really care about the NBA Finals? Feel free to send me an e-mail with your thoughts.
Last Week's Question
Last Week I asked for fans to give me their opinions about recruiting being out of control. Each week I'll choose one e-mail to post on the following Musings.
Derek Slater (UNC '89) from Marlborough, Mass., wrote: Good column. I'm not disturbed by the earlier commitments per se. What I think is out of control is the recruiting process itself. Coaches send Fed Ex packages to key recruits EVERY DAY. Academic departments are cutting faculty, and at the same time we're paying Fed Ex thousands of dollars so a high school sophomore can "feel the love" every day? Florida taxpayers pay for Billy Donovan to fly to a high school and stand in the parking lot - just to get noticed by a prime recruit? Insanity.
Perhaps if the NCAA could put a in place a rational recruiting process, with rational limitations, high schoolers could wait until the end of their junior year to make a school choice without such insane pressure - and without bankrupting small schools who are trying to court them.
Andrew Jones is entering his seventh year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He is also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a drive-time radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.