AJ's Monday Musings

I this week's edition of the Musings, I will opine about the football culture at Carolina, my first ever round of golf, and Duke football.

A Changing Culture?

When John Bunting was hired as North Carolina's football coach in December of 2000, he said he wanted to change the football culture in Chapel Hill.

To Bunting, changing the culture means everything from tailgating, pre-game activities, the pep band during games, people wearing blue in Kenan Stadium, fan excitement at games as well as during the week, adding traditions like "The Walk" and improving the team's performance on the field.

Whether Bunting means building toughness with respect to the football program is part of changing that aspect of the culture can be debated, but it sure makes sense.

He inherited a program that lacked a tenacious mindset. As nice a man as Carl Torbush is, he wasn't a great motivator as a head coach. He also sent some awful messages – signs of weakness - like going for a field goal when down 45-0 late in the game at Maryland in 1999.

Bunting is much more of a bulldog. "Heck yeah" he basically said when offered the opportunity to open up at defending national Champion Oklahoma last year, his first game at the helm of his alma mater. Although the Heels started 0-3 last fall they did rebound to win eight games, including a victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

As the team toughened the program as a whole progressed. The band began to play more like a football band should and not a basketball band. The fans made more noise later in the season and many even stood up after Carolina scores. There appeared to be more mid-week interest in the Tar Heels, and yes, more people began wearing the school colors Among the Pines.

This process will certainly take some time, with the success of the program dictating the ultimate timetable, but it is clear the culture is changing, even if just one step at a time.

The Mad Hacker

Okay. So I finally did it. I finally played a round of golf, with not one lesson or practice swing either.

I had never before in my life held a golf club until Saturday. The first swing I ever took was teeing off on the first hole. As one would imagine, it wasn't pretty.

But it was fun.

Basically as a stunt for my radio show here in Wilmington, I decided to do this and make the listeners a part of it. Predictions from those who either called the show Friday or e-mailed me ranged from 126 (he said I'd be forced to take triple bogeys at each hole) to 320.

I shot a 14 on the first hole (I obviously wanted the truest score possible, no triple bogeys for me), including two penalty strokes that were added. I shot a 12 on the second hole and felt more comfortable as the day wore on, which lasted five hours and 15 minutes to be exact.

I did have two holes in which I shot a six and another with a seven. Although I can't yet reveal my final score because that is reserved for the show Monday evening, I can say that I reached my goal of shooting under 200.

I only shanked four balls and lost just three. Apparently the over-under on how many balls I'd lose was 37. So I can stand tall at least in that respect.

It was a fun experience and I certainly learned some things about golf that will help me understand the sport better.

I will now get some lessons and return to the same course next month to see how much I improve. I'll keep you posted, as I am sure IC readers will be salivating with anticipation.

A Record In Sight

Duke football isn't known for breaking many records. The Blue Devils had some great teams a half century ago and even hosted the 1942 Rose Bowl at Wallace Wade Stadium – a 20-16 Oregon State victory over the No. 2 Devils. But for the most part, Duke football has been a national afterthought, as it has wallowed in mediocrity, to be kind.

This year, however, could be much different, at least as far as receiving national press goes.

The Devils enter the season riding a 23-game losing streak, just 11 behind Northwestern's NCAA Division I-A mark set from 1979-82. But with an extra game on the schedule this fall, the Blue Devils could set the record in their final game against – gulp – rival North Carolina.

There is one very winnable game on Duke's slate, at Navy on Sept. 28. If the Devils enter that contest winless, their mark will stand at 27, just one behind Virginia (1958-61) and Kansas State (1944-48) for the second longest streak in I-A history.

This week's question to the readers is this: do you think Duke will beat Navy, and if not, how long will the streak last?

I will choose one response to post in next week's Musings.

Last Week's Response

Last week's question was if ACC fans feel the conference is unfairly stereotyped regarding football.

Ed Wilcox from Connecticut wrote, "I think it is fair because the ACC hasn't won enough big games, at least teams not named FSU. But I also think it is unfair because the football is still very good, just look at NFL rosters for evidence. Overall, if the ACC could win some big games and get a second team into the BCS the league will be viewed more as a football conference. It's both the league's fault and the ignorance of the national media.

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.

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