Original publication date: Oct. 20, 2009 on The Atlantic Coast Constant
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February 12, 2009 is a date many North Carolina fans surely remember—even if they don’t know that they do.
On that date, the day after Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green cemented their undefeated record in Cameron Indoor Stadium, football stole at least a little excitement away from the hardwood Heels. And a little is a lot more attention than the football team had received during basketball season in a long time.
What happened February 12?
The football schedule was released, and UNC had a midseason Thursday night matchup with ACC powerhouse Florida State—the first such game in Chapel Hill’s long football history.
The game was going to be huge. It wasn’t just an inter-divisional conference matchup. It was a national interest. These were teams that each had potential to make big noise—not just in the ACC, but nationally.
The ACC was on the rise. Butch Davis was doing things. Bobby Bowden had a helluva club.
No. 19 Florida State. No. 20 North Carolina.
The Tar Heels were sleeper picks to take the Coastal Division from Virginia Tech, and Florida State was—as usual—at or near the top of several Atlantic Division projections.
WHAT HAPPENED? Does anyone even care about this game anymore?
All but three ACC teams have conference wins. Two of those who don't meet at Kenan Stadium on Thursday night. North Carolina is behind Duke in the Coastal standings. And calls for Bobby Bowden’s job have been surfacing for weeks.
Is this God’s way of saying, “No, Tar Heels! You are a basketball school! Any kind of meaningful, nationally televised football game would only steal attention from Roy’s boys, who—if you hadn’t heard—started practice last week ”?
Is it a sign that Florida State’s dominance of the conference it controlled for nearly a decade will never resurface?
But could it be that the presumption that the Tar Heels were ready for the spotlight was a bit premature? They did lose a few freakishly good skill-position players on offense from a team that managed only an 8-5 record in 2008.
And is it possible that this season should be Bowden’s swan song? He doesn’t seem to think so. But, even though he should be allowed to stay as long as he wants, perhaps he should take a long look at his future on the sidelines.
Rest assured, Florida State and North Carolina fans will be watching with bated breath a couple days from now.
After all, a win for UNC—which would put FSU at 2-5 (0-4 ACC)—would almost force Seminoles brass to step in after the season and “suggest” that Bowden “take another position with the university.”
And a Seminoles victory would be answered with the traditional echoes of, “At least it’s basketball season,” throughout Chapel Hill.
So how will it play out? Who will win this game that was supposed to be huge? The answers to those questions don’t matter. The questions that are important are these.
Who—outside of Tallahassee and Chapel Hill—cares? And what does this say about the ACC? Those answers to come, though FSU, UNC, and ACC fans might not like them.