The Hansel & Gretel Paradigm

January17/ 2000

To properly evaluate the significance of any event in a series of action, it is best to go beyond the initial knee jerk response.  Sports fans’ knees have hair triggers and “jerk” at the slightest ripple. Unless there has been a decided paradigm shift, … has there been a paradigm shift w/ UNC Football? Let’s ask Hansel, Gretel, Jimmy Valvano, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Frank Beamer.

   The best local example of a significant paradigm shift was NCSU Basketball in the wake of the Jimmy V unpleasantness of the late 80s. The Powers That Be at NCSU made a public statement that significant elements and expectations of the program were going to be changed and they were changed. Some say it has not been “righted” since then … 15+ years later.  

   Southern Methodist had an even more dramatic upheaval in Football following their “death penalty” in the early 80s. 

   Nothing approaching either of these situations has occurred with UNC Football.


The Hansel & Gretel Paradigm   

   It is possible to become completely lost but still be convinced you are headed in the right direction so you keep going “forward”, getting deeper into the woods … it is not like getting lost was your objective.  Hansel & Gretel’s original destination was never the The Gingerbread House. Who knew that birds eat breadcrumbs?


 Everyone knows the chronology by heart … Mack is pumping out 8+ Ws per year, has a “best in the whole wide world” facility, and BOOM, he receives an offer he cannot refuse.  Promoting a Coordinator to HC is done all the time … Miami hiring Larry Coker, Georgia hiring Mark Richt or Oklahoma hiring Bob Stoops.  Carl Torbush was hired to continue the very successful program that Mack Brown was leaving.  Obviously it did not turn out that way.

   Carl Torbush’s hiring was not for the same reasons that Les Robinson was hired to follow Jim Valvano … or Forrest Gregg to follow Bobby Collins at SMU.  There was no secret conspiratorial directive to “scale back” at all.   

   Everyone especially Dickie Baddour and Michael Hooker intended for the UNC FB program to maintain Mack’s level of high success. It is shooting fish in a barrel to criticize their actions in hindsight … their good intentions cannot be assailed.  OK, “streets of hell are paved … yadda yadda” but they wanted exactly what every UNC fan wanted and wants today.

   It became apparent that Torbush was not the right choice and he was replaced in quite short order.  The short shift he was given is another solid indicator that his obvious failure to maintain Mack’s level of success could not be tolerated. Yes, Torbush’s dismissal was a clumsy stumble bumble but that is a “people” error and not a paradigm shift.   

   To understand the incredible brillance of the point I’m making here … do not think I am trying to justify Prince Tassel Loafer’s decision making.  I am looking at this on a cosmic scale … and you should too.  

   Torbush out … and a quick forceful move to bring in a proven Big Time “winner” in Frank Beamer.  UNC Football could well be cruising at a 7-9 W minimum right now … maybe a few players wearing orange jumpsuits and those ankle alarm thingies … but “winning” nonetheless.  It was consistent with the “paradigm” of “winning like Mack was doing” to overtly court Frank Beamer. The process got blindsided somehow and the Beamer Bus ended up in a ditch somewhere between Roxboro and Martinsville … but Dickie tried his darndest to hire a “Big Time” coach.  His “darndest” was not enough.   

   Again, the paradigm was “UNC should have a Football program scoring 8+ Ws each year, being a top tier ACC team and going to a bowl every year”.  The process got hijacked by poor administrative execution … not by conspiratorial design.   

   Beamer out (actually never “in”)… nobody else on a short list because there never was a short list.  Poor planning yes, but not by any grand design.   

   Dickie goes gallivanting across America in his coach scavenger hunt and finds John Bunting wearing a Super Bowl ring in New Orleans.  Supported by a bevy of former players (all lauded as heroes by the great unwashed) most everyone got on board the Bunting Express.  I certainly thought it was a good idea too. John’s overt enthusiasm, “blue blood”, and Football resume seemed sufficient TO GET BACK ON TRACK WITH THE ORIGINAL PARADIGM which had never changed.  

   John Bunting was NOT hired because he “came cheap” or because a cabal of snoots and squirrels wanted to deemphasize Carolina Football.  Yes, he arrived with some experience liability baggage but so does any assistant in his first head job.  Gary Darnell or Frank Beamer would have inherited the same cupboard of talent that John found.

   John Bunting is UNC’s Football Coach today because Frank Beamer turned the job down … not because some Gimghoul Starchamber of Dean-sycophant Fat Cats pulled some backroom shenanigans to hire a “lightweight”.  Bunting was not hired INSTEAD of Beamer.   

   Plenty of hindsight potshots at The Little Dickster for not evaluating John’s unfamiliarity with the nuances of college football circa 2000 … Dickie would not recognize a college football “nuance” if it was standing in front of him buck naked holding a plate of cookies.  Dickie thought he was fulfilling the paradigm and so did most everyone else involved in the process … plus me.  I still hope I was right. Who knew that birds eat breadcrumbs?   

   This brings us to the Here & Now … two consecutive trainwreck seasons.  EVERYONE is disappointed with the past two seasons including the snoots, Bored Trustees, organ playing Chancellor, and The Little Prince.  Sure, there is probably a faculty squirrel or two or three chortling into their dirty shirt sleeve at the hemmin’ hawin’ and head spinn’ that is going on … but those marginalized academics have nothing to do except screech obligingly whenever a local infobabe needs an outrageous quote.


 Swagger’s Stumper

What club did “Dr. Beeper” belong to?


   Whine and moan that John Bunting should have been thrown under the Duke bus before the Victory Bell was loaded onto it last November … but don’t suggest that anyone connected with Carolina Athletics (especially John Bunting) was any less distressed than the wackiest Internet Loon.   The decision to stick with John Bunting was not “in order to continue the recent sub-mediocre results”. It was because The Powers That Be sincerely believe he is best equipped to right the ship and get UNC back to the “Mack success level”.  Argue that logic til the cows come home … but don’t question the grand design.  

   Restoring Carolina Football to its mid-90s relative glory remains the objective.   At no point/time since early in Carl Torbush’s term has any UNC official said “we are satisfied with the current state of UNC Football”. Dickie Baddour is a sitting duck for criticism for his handling of the primary personnel issues since becoming AD … but his shortcomings relate to how successful he has been in achieving the paradigm he was operating within. (Not very) Not the existence of the paradigm itself.   

   Chatter about “administrative sabotage” is ludicrous. Significant $$$ were spent on “Jumbo” and there have been no “austerity measures” adopted relative to Football. Whether you believe John Bunting should have been removed after his 2nd season or after the Duke loss last November or immediately upon his first loss this coming Fall is your prerogative as a fan.  But the original paradigm of “success defined as …” has never changed.   

   Staying with Pedro and or not making a defensive change for Bill Buckner are signature moments in an organization’s history. That both decisions cost the Red Sox’ titles does not mean that Boston management did not want to win as badly as their fans do.  

   Dwight Eisenhower gave the order to launch Operation Overload on June 6, 1944 in the face of marginal weather conditions. Had those Higgins boats been unable to reach Omaha Beach, we would all be singing Deutschland Uber Alles before baseball games and Dwight and Dickie would be on the same page in History’s “They Meant Well, But …” registry.   

   Why did I use the word “paradigm” so often?  It just sounds so corporate psycho-babblish. 

   Jim “Wrong Way” Marshall, Alan Page, Carl Eller, and Gary Larsen were the Purple People Eaters.

   Roger Clemens TOTALLY CLEARED in son’s baseball game dispute.  The umpire and league officials have publicly apologized to Roger … it was all a misunderstanding.  I’ve been around Clemens just a little … he has always seemed a very stand-up guy. Glad this mess not true.

   Follow-up on “Al Bundy” … many of you wrote asking if I made up “Al”.  I wish I had.  My encounter with “Al” was quite real.  When I warn about these over-the-top Internet types I am very sincere.  It is a world most of you are not familiar with.  It definitely includes all fan bases.  The ginned-up hatred and rage in these fan forums is not harmless fun.

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