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Not A Very Original Thought

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Here is what I wonder.

I wonder what ABCers would do if Butch Davis had a press conference tomorrow and stated that is does not bother him one iota that basketball has more visibility at UNC than football does.  What if he said, "I understand football does not carry as much weight in Chapel Hill as basketball but therein lies the challenge for me as the head coach and that is to change the culture.  I understand the relationship but that does not mean I cannot build a winner here in football and give these fans another major sport to passionately follow that wins at almost the same level as the basketball team does."

I imagine we would have a rash of exploding heads which might get messy.  The point is this argument gets trotted out every time people talk about Butch Davis leaving.  It is the same old tired argument every single time: UNC cannot retain an elite coach in football because football is 2nd fiddle to basketball. And in some cases, such as Roy Philpott at CUTigers.com, Davis himself should consider this argument, pull up stakes and go to Clemson.

The problem here is North Carolina has been, and always will be a basketball school, and nobody short of the Dean Smith of college football coaches will ever be able to change that.

Not even Butch Davis.

And the curious aspect to all of this is whether or not he's figured that out yet.

Has he realized he is not big man on campus nor is Hakeem Nicks or Cam Sexton or anybody else on the football team?

Has he realized he'll always play second-fiddle to head basketball coach Roy Williams?

When your own program has been nationally ranked, you’re in the thick of the conference race hosting another program that is currently nationally ranked, you would expect more than 48,000 fans to show up to support the team.

Butch, if you are looking for big-time college football, or shall we say, the potential for big-time given Clemson's performance on the field this year, look down I-85 towards the upstate of South Carolina. There is a fan-base down here that would love to show you how passionate it is when it comes to this game.

After all, Clemson hosted nationally-ranked Boston College last year, with the Atlantic Division Championship on the line and 81,500 showed up to see what would happen - and 20,000 more would have been there had the fire marshal allowed it.

If you came to Clemson, you'd have a good bit of talent to work with right off the bat, not to mention outstanding facilities which makes recruiting easier and a fan base that is starving for a championship of any kind.

It's not like it's a true rebuilding project and oh by the way, there's likely a pay-raise headed your way from that $2.1 million you are making right now.

Keep in mind we aren't suggesting Clemson is the king of the world when it comes to college football, but compared to North Carolina ... unfortunately for Tar Heel fans, well that's exactly what it is.

On the hardwood, where North Carolina fans really care, it's a completely different story.

Head coach Roy Williams, future lottery picks Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson and even the dancing Danny Green and all of the McDonald's All-American team managers will challenge for a National Championship this year.

That’s great. But on the gridiron, where 81,000+ orange-clad fans gather every fall Saturday to root on their favorite team, it's not even close.

And there are many different ways that statement could be backed up, including writing that Clemson has 12,000 more season-ticket holders this year than the 48,000 fans that were in attendance for last weekend's Boston College-UNC matchup in Chapel Hill.

But the proof is in the programs. One program cares about college football while the other uses it to merely pass time until the lights go on in the Dean Dome.

Sure, Butch Davis will do what is right for Butch Davis. And if North Carolina is the best fit for him and he's happy with what he feels like he'll be able to accomplish there long-term, so be it.

Perhaps playing second-fiddle to Roy Williams may not be the ego-shrinking, pride-swallowing deal many make it out to be.

But if he is serious about college football and serious about having a fan base that rivals any anything he's seen this side of the Cleveland Browns, as opposed to one that is dare we say, Wake Forest-esque, then stay tuned because there may be more to this story.

Not that the 48,000 fans in attendance at Kenan Stadium last weekend truly care, mind you.

According to Philpott, because UNC is a basketball school, Davis should go to a place where is ego can be stroked by thousands of rabid football fans.  To quote my own title here, not a very original thought.  In fact it seems to be the only line of argument UNC football detractors know, that and the attendance issue.  Philpott brings up the down attendance at the Boston College game as a sign UNC does not care about football.  What Philpott does not tell you is the BC game was played amid off and on rain showers.  Combined with the noon start, it hurt the attendance.  One game does not a trend make nor does it support the premise that UNC fans do not care about football when we have plenty of evidence to the contrary.  You can look to the increase over the past two years in season ticket sales as a sign the program is on the rise.  You also have home games being sold out as well as very boisterous crowds on hand for the VT, UConn and Notre Dame games.  There is the fact officials from both the Chick-Fil-A and Gator Bowls talking about what a great catch UNC would be for their games.  That does not look like the picture of a program a coach would be chomping at the bit to leave simply because football is higher in the fan priority list somewhere else.

It is a common theme that head coaches have egos which they would like placated.  This is true of Davis and any other football coach out there.  One difference so far is Davis has not shown the predilection to whine and complain about the place of his program in Chapel Hill the way Mack Brown did.  Why?  Because I think Roy Williams is very supportive of the football program.  Remember on basketball media day, the players spent some time talking about the football team.  Coaches and players alike have been seen at football games.  There also seems to be a geuine understanding that the two sports can have a symbiotic relationship with each other where one can be strengthened by the success of the other, especially when it comes to recruiting.

So save me the classic rejoinder about a football coach not wanting to live in the shadow of the Dean Dome.  While it may be true that basketball will always be king, it does not mean the culture in Chapel Hill cannot be changed to accomodate a passionate love of football.  It also does not mean Davis, as long as he is paid well, cannot be the guy to take that challenge up.  And if the basketball program, especially in the person of Roy Williams, continues to lend his support to the football program, then there is a good chance Butch Davis does not feel slighted the Mack Brown claims he was.

And remember, Clemson has its own history of seeing a head coach leave for Texas, probably because he felt his program would never be a big fish in the pond.