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Ned Barnett: Defender of the Unwritten Rule

You can always leave it to someone at the N&O to cast some sort of aspersion on the NC State hiring of Tom O'Brien. Ned Barnett takes the role of spoiler by crying foul on the Wolfpack having hired a coach directly from another ACC school.

But even with him[Amato] gone, State is still tripping over the rules. This time it has broken an unwritten one

In moving to replace Amato, State has raided a fellow Atlantic Coast Conference school. It has hired Tom O'Brien away from Boston College.

Apparently ACC expansion also did away with a sense of collegiality. Any coach is fair game within the league. Once that gets started, where does it end? In three years, will Miami be knocking on Butch Davis' door? Can you sidetrack a league rival by throwing money at its coach?

The loss of collegiality shouldn't be a surprise. Look what expansion did to hospitality. BC has been repeatedly knocked around since it first considered joining the ACC.

First off, where the heck is all this "Boston College is a victim" stuff coming from. BC should send John Swofford a ham every Christmas for bringing them into the ACC regardless of how it went down. In all honesty it was one of the worst geographic fits I have ever seen but BC wanted out the Big East so the ACC obliged. It was been nothing but upside for BC so it is hard for me to feel too sorry for them. Secondly, I love how Barnett engages his reader with blatant alarmism including the always reliable cliche, "...where does it end?" Barnett also plays on the fears of UNC fans everywhere with saying Miami could come steal Butch Davis. (Which will not happen because if Davis had wanted Miami he would have waited three weeks and taken it now, not later.) He also suggests that schools will start ruining their rivals by trying to lure their coaches away with money. So never mind making any rational arguments on the issue, Barnett paints a picture that NC State has opened a Pandora's box which will result in ACC athletic directors behaving in an unethical, win at all cost manner.

Even more than that Barnett seems to miss a very key point. O'Brien contacted NC State first not vice versa. Also, it is common knowledge to anyone who has watched ACC football, which I would assume includes Barnett, that O'Brien was anxious to get out of Boston because he was tired of coaching a team no one cared about. So to suggest this is a case of poaching, attempting to take down a rival, or some kind of gateway to rampant coach raiding within the ACC reeks of being more Chicken Little than an actual columnist. It is not like Lee Fowler and Wendell Murphy set out to take another ACC coach, O'Brien threw his name into the hat so what, pray tell, would Barnett have NC State do, turn aside someone they think is the best man for the job on the basis of some notion that it creates some kind of problem within the conference? Then again according to Barnett, O'Brien has also turned to the dark side for wanting to leave BC and get more money while holding BC up as the last bastion of athletic department integrity in the ACC:

It seems obvious what prompted O'Brien to leave. He made less that $1 million in a league where less successful coaches got more. But the reason he got less was because BC is still trying to keep the athletic arms race within reason. It tried to hold the line, but it couldn't hold the coach.

Today for BC and O'Brien, it's welcome again to the ACC, whatever that means anymore.

So, tell me Ned, if the Wilmington Star or Charlotte Observer came along and offered to make you the lead columinst at their paper where you would get more visibility and they would also pay you more money can you honestly say you would turn them down? Could you really tell us you would turn down the better job with the bigger paycheck because want to be loyal to the N&O based on some notion that you do not leave to work for a rival paper? Why should it be any different for O'Brien? Why should he sacrifice a $500,000 per year raise and far greater visibility as a head football coach out of some allegiance to certain conventions which no one cares about? The answer is he shouldn't. O'Brien has every right to pursue the best job for himself and his family even if he offends the sensibilities of a handful of people and a columinst in Raleigh. The business of college football is cold blooded. It is such when they fire the coach so whining about it being the same when the hiring happens is exceptionally weak in my opinion.

So, if someone can get over to Ned's house, coax him out from under the bed and show him the sky is not falling, I think we would all feel better.

Note: I would maintain that there are some restrictions to this in terms of media reaction if there was movement between Wake Forest or Clemson to a North Carolina ACC member or vice versa. If schools are within a certain geographical proximity with fans that are close to one another and the same media outlets covering them it would create a huge PR issue. The question then is whether or not the coach/school wants to deal with all of that. However, the sensibilities Barnett mentioned should be a very small consideration in the decision.

Also, the SEC has this kind of thing happening on a regular basis.