Monday, December 7, 2009

Despite what Davis says, Heels can't be excited

Sometimes you just have to wonder if what you read coming from someone's lips is the truth. Now, I'm not about to suggest North Carolina head football coach Butch Davis is anything less than an honest, upstanding fellow but a quote from Davis caught my eye in The Associated Press story Sunday on his team accepting a bid to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte.

Davis was quoted in the AP story: “Our players are excited to continue their season and play so close to home. We had tremendous fan support at the game in 2008 and we will need that again this year against an outstanding Pittsburgh team.”

The Tar Heels will play in the Meineke Bowl for the second straight year as they make their third consecutive trip to the game in Charlotte, called the Continental Tire Bowl in 2004 when UNC made its first appearance. The Heels have lost both previous meetings and it was my understanding, after speaking with the father of a player from The Wilson Times readership area, the UNC players did not want to return to Charlotte. After all, it's hardly a reward to play in a bowl less than 100 miles away in the same state in cold weather.

North Carolina might have gone to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., to play Kentucky but when the Gator Bowl decided to give Florida State and its retiring head coach Bobby Bowden the spot it would typically hand to the ACC runner-up, in this year's case, Clemson. That pushed Clemson to the Music City Bowl and UNC was facing either the Emerald Bowl or the Meineke Bowl. The Emerald Bowl in San Francisco chose Boston College to play Southern California.

Now I know the thinking in Chapel Hill is that there will be lots of fans in Charlotte and travel expenses are much lower than going to San Francisco. But I wonder if the UNC players think playing in Charlotte against Pittsburgh (another team that lost to N.C. State) is better than spending a few days in one of the world's most scenic cities and facing one of college football's most storied programs.

But hey, the Heels can only blame themselves as losses to Virginia and State put them in this situation, along with Bowden's retirement. I just wonder if Davis' statement was a typical public relations put-a-good-spin-on-it utterance or if the Carolina players really are happy going back to Charlotte. Or maybe they've just fooled him.

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