If athletic directors take no other lesson from this year's UNC team, they should realize this - if your team has ever lost to a 1-AA school, you don't schedule them again until you know you have a good team. Otherwise, you just invite comparisons to the previous disasters.
The Furman game was one of the last football games I attended at Kenan Stadium. I caught the N.C. State game the next year, and one of the two homecoming games before heading across the country in 2001, but it's the game against the Paladins, in all its futility, that stuck with me.
Look at the play-by-play. A 60-yard touchdown pass. Another for 48. A running back, Louis Ivory, advancing the ball at will. The stands, which were never going to be full for a 1-6 team going up against a D1-AA school, were empty before halftime. You were almost rooting for Furman, figuring if the Heels had to fall, they might as well do so in a spectacularly embarassing manner. Which they proceeded to do.
The question now is, does this feel like 1999 redux? It's hard to say. Surpising as it sounds in retrospect, UNC was very optimistic about the season going in. They installed extra seats for the FSU game. Then FSU took a 28-0 first quarter lead. This was followed by four interceptions (That sounds familiar) in a game against Clemson, and losing Ronald Curry in an OT loss to Georgia Tech, and there was just nothing left. After that, it was all talk off second seasons and stopping skids - the team didn't see another win until former tailback turned fourth-string QB Domonique Williams won a contested game against N.C. State in Charlotte.
There was less opitimism towards UNC's chances this year than there was headed into 1999, but the two seasons are unfolding similarly, opening with a close loss in a winnable game. And both Tar Heels teams have suffered a big loss to a conference power. There's even another record-setting running back at Furman to be worried about.
Basically, whether this season turns into 1999 hinges on this game. The next three weeks hold two much tougher teams, and facing them as 0-3 will be practically impossible. Unfortunately, the game will most likely be sparsely attended, and ripe for a Paladin upset. I'm hoping this is the beginning of the a change in fortunes for the Heels, but there are three seasons in the last seven years staring them in the face. And looking back from the most shocking of those three is a victorious squad of players from Furman