OK NC State, Make up your Mind
By: Mark Sturgis
This is my fourth article in a series on “What Five things in ACC Football Could Happen for Clemson to More Easily Compete at the National Level”….
1: Florida State return to relevance
2: Virginia Tech decides to take a step forward
3: The National Media should understand the ACC has Five Private Schools
When you think of the term “Tobacco Road”, many would say you think of ACC Basketball. When I think of “Tobacco Road Basketball”, only Duke and North Carolina come to mind. I can also hear some of my NC State friends telling me to hold on a moment, that the Wolfpack own two NCAA Basketball titles. Yes, that is true, but the most recent was 38 years ago and is more well known for Jim Valvano’s speech and subsequent “30 for 30” by ESPN. The 1982 championship will live in infamy.
However, do basketball titles in 1974 and 1982 make you a basketball school in 2020? I don’t think so, as NC State has not returned to a “Final Four” since, and the coaching job has been a volatile situation ever since the departure of Jim Valvano. Many Wolfpack fans will tell you they are currently sitting in a nice situation with Kerry Keats only getting started as we currently witness the end of the legendary careers of Coach K and Roy Williams. Is this enough to make you a basketball school in 2020, I don’t think so?
Very few schools have been able to compete at the highest levels of both College Football and Basketball. Florida won back to back titles in basketball under Billy Donovan, Michigan has done well in both at times, but it is honestly a small number that have competed in both sports.
It’s time for the decision makers in Raleigh to decide they want to become the top football program in the Tarheel state. Currently, I think I will make the case that title resides in Boone with App State. Congrats to the Mountaineers, but there is no way that should be the case. The most consistent has been Wake Forest and their four consecutive bowl games.
NC State now has the facilities to be the dominant program in the state. The Wolfpack have spent some money in fixing up football, but not what they could. Carter Finley Stadium has become one of the best venues in the league. What was once to me a double deck stadium in the middle of a grass field in the 1970’s has become a nice place to spend a day. While it will technically never be considered an on-campus stadium in my opinion, Carter Finley can get loud and has nearly 30,000 seats more than App States now renovated facilities.
To me, it does not take a big leap for any school to jump in to the second spot in ACC football. History suggests that would be Florida State, but why not NC State? For a program that has never been to a major bowl game (Peach and Gator Bowls are not considered major), I would think the Wolfpack fanbase would be excited to get on board if say, the Sugar Bowl ever came calling. I understand that may be a bit difficult with Dave Doerren leading the charge as he is not what I would call “Mr. Personality”.
Arguably, the two-best era’s in NC State football were brought in by outsiders over the course of a twenty-year period. The Wolfpack hired Bo Rein for the 1976 season, where he led NC State to a 27-18-1 record including wins in the Peach and Tangerine Bowls. Bo Rein left Raleigh for LSU in 1979 but passed in an airplane crash just six weeks after accepting the Tiger head job. Bo Rein was a very special man, and I challenge you to watch the SEC Story of “The Bo You Didn’t Know”.
Most football fans in the Upstate know the name Dick Sheridan. He left Furman after an appearance in the I-AA title game in 1985 against Georgia Southern. Coach Sheridan’s seven seasons in Raleigh are in my opinion the best run in Wolfpack football history. Coach Sheridan led NC State to six bowls in seven seasons, including three Peach and one Gator Bowl appearance.
As some of you may know, Allen Smothers is one of my best friends in this crazy business, and “the Bad Boy of Morning Sports Talk Radio” from the Grand Strand is an unabashed NC State fan. As he told me, “Sure we would like to be great in football, but you must compete against your rivals, and NC State’s rivals are North Carolina and Duke. Those are basketball schools. The last time NC State won an ACC Football Championship in 1979, the Pack did not even go to a bowl game, but Maryland, UNC and Clemson did”.
I don’t want this article coming off as an insult to NC State fans, it is actually a compliment that I think the Wolfpack have many pieces in place to compete now in ACC Football. You may not have the Head Coach, but the right hire has proven NC State can compete in football.
So the ultimate question to Wolfpack fans coming from the Clemson delegation…. “Do you want to be a football or basketball school”? The decision is yours.
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