Culture is one of the buzzwords in college football right now. Teams either have a good, strong culture, or they are left constantly looking at how to change it.
From a fan’s perspective, the culture around the North Carolina Tar Heel football program was something that was in desperate need of change after the 2018 season. Following a two-year stretch that resulted in a combined 5-18 record, along with 2019 recruiting shaping up to be straight-up disastrous, change was definitely needed at the helm of the Carolina football program.
A culture change isn't as simple as a coaching change. There are plenty of examples of a program changing coaches, but still maintaining a rotten culture, which a lot of people fail to realize in the excitement surrounding coaching changes. That is why it was so crucial for Bubba Cunningham to make the right hire after Larry Fedora’s firing. The excitement factor around Tar Heel football had all but died out, even with some of its most die-hard fans.
That is why what Mack Brown has done in a mere ten months is one of the most impressive turnarounds in the last couple of seasons in college football. Yes, the 2-0 start, something the Tar Heels haven’t done since 2014, is impressive. But the complete shift in recruiting, program perception and fan excitement is something this program hasn't had in quite some time.
On the field, quarterback Sam Howell is somebody who can be a true game-changer when the coaches unleash his full abilities. The Heels’ defense has come quite some ways since just last year and has a chance to get better with more experience. With those combined factors, the pieces are in place for the Tar Heels to make a run at eight wins following two rough seasons, which would have been close to inconceivable a year prior.
But with that being said, progress is not always linear. There are going to be setbacks throughout a college football season, especially with a team that relies on underclassmen as much as the Tar Heels do. The important thing is that if things go sideways, that the team has a strong culture to fall back on and rebound. That’s why North Carolina’s hot start is such a big deal.
In years past, the Tar Heels have lost that season opening game too many times. We all know which games those are. But for Mack Brown to come into this program, talk the talk all offseason on the recruiting trail or in the press conferences, and then walk the walk against South Carolina and follow it up against Miami, it proves a new era is upon us in Carolina football.
Regardless of how the last ten (hopefully twelve) games of the season go, Brown and his staff have already taken steps to turn this Tar Heel program into a perennial ACC Coastal contender. The recruiting has improved, the fan excitement has returned and despite being run off from Texas six years ago, the man can still coach football.
His work in the short time he has been back at North Carolina has been spectacular and there’s reason to believe he is only getting started.