Not long after North Carolina’s 50-14 victory against Wake Forest on Saturday night, Ryan Switzer, the Tar Heels’ junior receiver, posted on Twitter a picture of himself sitting on a bench with a wide smile, holding a white board with a message written on it.
Written on the board was this: “Nothing UNClear about 50-14,” and the letters “UNC” were underlined. To the casual observer the sign might have looked like some playful trash talk after a decisive victory in a game between two old ACC rivals.
And that’s all it was, in some ways. Yet that’s not the only reason why it had been re-tweeted more than 1,000 times, and counting, as of Sunday afternoon at around 1. No, the sign, and Switzer’s big smile above it, served as a response to an eight-month old digital jab that Switzer and his teammates had been waiting – and waiting – to respond to in their own way.
The story starts last February, on college football’s National Signing Day. That’s when Adam Scheier, a Wake Forest assistant coach, appeared to tweet the following (Internet-styled communicative jargon included): “BREAKING: WF demonstrates u can come 2 North Carolina & earn a degree at a school that’s not UNClear about the definition of student-athlete.”
The implication there is easy enough to understand: Scheier, it appeared, was taking a shot at UNC amid its long-running academic and athletic scandal – the one that is still making its way through the NCAA investigative process with no end in sight. The tweet quickly went viral.
Almost just as quickly, Scheier attempted to distance himself from it. Hours after the tweet with the original “UNClear” reference, Scheier came back and wrote: “Some1 hacked my twitter! Lol. Let’s keep this light people; a little fun between rivals. I’m better, we’re better & Wake’s better than that.”
That tweet, the one in which Scheier said his account had been hacked, has since been deleted. So, too, is the one that started this whole thing, the one in which Scheier – or his purported Twitter hacker, as he claimed at the time – wrote, in so many words, that Wake Forest isn’t “UNClear” about the definition of a student-athlete.
No matter. As goes the saying goes: Nothing really ever disappears off the Internet. The original “UNClear” tweet didn’t just go away when Scheier deleted it. By then plenty of people had taken screenshots of it. It had been archived in the literal and figurative sense, and more than eight months later it was on the Tar Heels’ minds on Saturday night.
Early on, UNC quarterback Marquise Williams said, “We wanted to jump on them.”
It didn’t happen exactly the way the Tar Heels envisioned – their first two drives ended in interceptions – but eventually it happened. UNC scored on the first play of the second quarter and from there the rout was on, often the result of big plays and quick-strike scoring drives.
Williams afterward referenced the “badmouthing on our university” that the Tar Heels hadn’t forgotten. He didn’t mention Scheier by name but Williams didn’t have to.
“With the (guy) tweeting about us, we knew that when you come in the Tar Pit, you need to back that up,” Williams said. “And we set the bar when you play in the Tar Pit. We’re going to set it to a higher standard, and we’re going to come out and we’re going to execute.
“We’re going to hit you in the mouth and we’re going to send you on your way.”
Scheier didn’t provide any motivational material in the days leading into the game. What appeared on his Twitter account eight months ago served as plenty enough, anyway, though. Wake Forest declined to comment about the tweet on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile Switzer, who had a 70-yard punt return wiped away by a strange officiating decision, didn’t make himself available afterward to reporters. He said all he wanted to say, apparently, when he posted that picture with the message on the white board that wasn’t the least bit UNClear.