In 1997 North Carolina coach Mack Brown led a team that finished the season with a 10-1 record and was rewarded with a trip back to the Gator Bowl versus Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech Hokies. However Mack Brown would not coach the Tar Heels again after defeating Duke 50-14 to finish the season. The lack of fans in the seats and thought of big time football and Texas recruits took Mack Brown by storm causing the coach to leave behind a program he built from the ground up.The attendance recorded for the Duke game in 1997 was 45,000 which at the time was 13,000 below capacity. Being in the stands that day I can say it felt more like 15,000 and was an embarrassment to the program. The Duke Blue Devils started quickly which prompted the home crowd to even boo the team early in the first quarter. After a rough beginning North Carolina ran past the Blue Devils en route to a blow out win. If the setting and the atmosphere that day did not make Mack Brown’s mind up to leave Chapel Hill then it certainly did not help sway him away from the burnt orange of Texas.
North Carolina fans complain about the team’s performance over the last 16 years and how North Carolina deserves big time football. The fans own behavior suggest the opposite that football is just a rest area on the way to the first Blue White basketball scrimmage. On November 22,1997 Tar Heel fans had a chance to show their support for football in Chapel Hill. Instead that same day North Carolina sold out its basketball game versus the Cal Bears just down the hill in the Dean E Smith Center.
Was Mack Brown going to leave North Carolina for Texas after the 1997 season even had North Carolina fans sold out the final home game versus rival Duke? I believe he still would have went to Texas and I could not blame him however I would have loved to at least had our University show Coach Brown some respect for the teams we were ale to watch in the mid nineties. We all have our Mack Brown up the middle jokes, but while I was in school I never witnessed a Tar heel defeat to Duke, NC State or Wake Forest.
Presently North Carolina fans have a coach in Larry Fedora who is solid recruiting, has passion, integrity and a fun offense when it is clicking to watch. Despite the woes on defense North Carolina has the right person to run this program. After the Butch Davis era that was riddled with scandal and left the University Tarred in ridicule from the nation we have to be patient and allow Fedora at least four years to overcome the mess that was left behind. Larry Fedora may be a victim of his own success because last season North Carolina had a good core group especially on offense. He also spoke too confidently about his system putting higher expectations going into this season. Those two things combined have fans perception of program far lower than it should be with how well UNC is recruiting.
As bad as the defense has played the attendance specifically for the first home game in Chapel Hill was atrocious and looked even worse on television. For a fan base that complains about the lack of big time football needs to look at its own stands to see what kind of message is being sent. As for Mack Brown he left Chapel Hill because of a lack of support from fans and ironically he could be run out of Texas for the same reason at the end of this year.