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What A Bunch Of Maroons

When Charlotte first got an NBA team, way back when, the reaction in one of
the rival cities was furious: Mayberry, they said.
Mayberry got a team? For those of us who grew up in North Carolina, of a certain
age anyway, our reaction was: so what's wrong with Mayberry?

For North Carolina natives, Mayberry in many ways represents how we'd like to
see ourselves: gentle, not hurried, getting caught up in the big city hype
from Mt. Pilot or the Capitol, but at the end of the day, we always come to our
senses and remember who we are.

In the last great episode of the ACC getting to big for its britches, in the
gambling scandals of the late 50's and early 60's, the reaction by this state as
expressed by the University of North Carolina system, was magnificent.
They radically de-emphasized basketball, cutting games back to a bare minimum,
restricting recruiting to the region, and killing the magnificent Dixie
Classic. It was painful, it was radical, and it was the right thing to do.

As it turned out, they also gave Dean Smith a job and told him to do his best
but to never embarrass the University. It was an amazing twist of fate
that one of the great coaches in history got the job when no one wanted it, and
when it looked as if the program might be allowed to wither away.

As we know by now it didn't wither away, nor did N.C. State. Both
programs recovered, as did the conference, and when State won the national
title in 1974, with integration still fairly new, it was such a wonderful
feeling that the whole state shared it. Even Duke and UNC fans were

It was big-time, you knew it was, but it wasn't so big-time that you didn't
recognize it. Burleson was from the mountains, Thompson was from Shelby,
Norm Sloan had played at State under Everett Case.

It never felt out of control. It was always our conference, our people, and
it always seemed to be a stable factor in a sometimes confusing world. Can
we just mention the Pilot Life song? Those of you who are old enough to
remember know exactly what we mean.

Lately, though we are without question ACC chauvinists, the whole drive to
expand has just gotten bizarre. We were up and down on the whole idea, and
while we understood the two arguments for expansion - first, that the
environment was changing radically and the ACC better change quickly or become
irrelevant, and second, that Clemson, Tech, and FSU might opt to leave if they
didn't get their way on expansion - we accepted them reluctantly. We never
understood the necessity for going up into New York or Boston, though, and for
what it's worth, Virginia Tech is a much better fit with the conference than
either Syracuse or B.C.

Now, instead of adding 3 schools and a football title game, the ACC has so
far only gotten a commitment from Virginia Tech. Miami has been invited, but
hasn't yet agreed to join.

This is a lesson we in North Carolina inculcated from the Andy Griffith Show
long ago: just because an out-of-towner is faster and supposedly more
sophisticated, or willing, that doesn't make them better. In fact, look
long enough, and the virtues of the plain girl you've known all along suddenly
become much more evident and appealing.

Having gone this far, we certainly hope Miami decides to come aboard, but if
they don't, maybe it'll be for the best. After our conference got so
hepped up about getting to be big-time, and playing big-time football, we
probably lost sight of who we are and why this group of schools came
together. If Miami decides to shoot the ACC down, after playing the
invitation against last minute Big East appeals, maybe it'll be a while before
anyone decides to try this stunt again.

Meanwhile, like Barney Fife intoxicated on ambition, then humbled into
realizing what a good thing he had in the first place, we hope ACC schools can
calm down and look at who and what they are again. There is some sentiment
to blame the failure of expansion on Duke and UNC, but John Swofford is no
idiot: he had the votes. UVa was intimidated into not voting for what they
clearly wanted, and then the pressure was on Duke and UNC to cover their lack of
nerve. For those who wanted the Big East 3, the blame for failure goes
unquestionably to UVa President John Casteen, Gov. Warner, and the attorney
general. They are the ones who ended up stuffing this unappealing sausage,
and they should be held accountable. Tech fans are understandably
grateful, but the overall integrity of the conference did not fare

From now on, of course, Duke and UNC can't be held accountable for anything because
the vote percentages will change. So when expansion comes up again, and it
will, it'll get rammed through. It's a disgusting performance, in
retrospect, and the most atrocious part is waiting while Miami sees if they can
get a better deal. Not that they shouldn't. But the ACC put
themselves in an amazing stupid situation, and now, instead of a potential
bonanza with huge football ratings, they face the prospect of only having Tech
to show for all of this. As we've said before, Tech is pretty much one of
us anyway. There's no particular difference, TV wise, between, say, Tech
and Clemson. But good neighbors though they have been, Virginia Tech was
never a driving force behind expansion. If it turns out that this is all
that comes of it, good God, what a pathetically inept performance it will have

In retrospect, Mayberry doesn't sound so bad, does it?