Tudor: Heels shouldn't have bothered

Staff WriterDecember 28, 2011 

The late Dizzy Dean, a Hall of Fame baseball player and television's first wacky sports analyst, was fond of saying he "should have stood in bed" after bad pitching performances.

North Carolina's entire football team should have "stood in bed" back in Chapel Hill rather than having visited Shreveport, La., for Monday's 41-24 Independence Bowl loss to Missouri.

For the Tar Heels, the only possible benefit from the trip is that it gave incoming coach Larry Fedora a sober reading on how much his new team's effort needs to improve.

But that could be expensive information for Fedora if the NCAA slaps a bowl ban on the 2012 season.

After finishing 7-5 in the regular season (3-5 ACC), there was no strong reason for UNC to accept the bid in the first place.

A smarter move would have been to follow Miami's lead: self impose a one-season ban and hope the NCAA would look favorably upon such action.

Players love bowl trips. Football is hard, painful work, with little reward for 95 percent of college players. Other than bowl trips, there's little fun and no downtime from August until January.

UNC's players have been through a two-season ordeal, and it's understandable that the school's administration wanted to relieve some of the gloom by rewarding them with a little holiday fun.

It's also true that the school didn't want to come across as heavy-handed to committed recruits who can't begin signing scholarship binders until February. A bowl ban might have sent that message.

Coaches like a bowl bid because it earns them salary bonuses and bonus off-season practice time.

But in North Carolina's case, the extra practice time under an exiting coaching staff was probably worthless. And if a 2012 ban is imposed, there will be no bonus practice time for Fedora's staff until after the 2013 regular season at the earliest.

It was a lose/lose equation, but North Carolina lost bigger than necessary as the result of a performance that would have been inexcusable by spring game standards.

Even after UNC took a 7-0 lead on a spectacular pass from Bryn Renner to Dwight Jones, the defense looked totally disinterested and displayed no concerted effort.

Genuine intensity usually doesn't operate like a light switch. Most players can't flip from "off" to "on" when the urge hits.

Fedora, arriving from Southern Miss, understands that fact thoroughly after having been a head coach for four seasons in a BCS outsider program. Conference USA players are often short on talent, but not on motivation.

What Fedora saw Monday was an underachieving assortment of talented players. An attitude adjustment may have to be his first priority, whether the new coach prefers it that way or not.

Tudor: 919-829-8946

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