From the Inbox: Why the NC State-UNC basketball rivalry has lost its fire


Our “From the Inbox” series includes emails and submissions from our readers that present unique ideas and interesting takes on ACC-related topics. Today, we share an email from Carl in Creedmoor, North Carolina, who discusses how the NC State-UNC basketball rivalry has lost its fire, as well as how Wolfpack basketball hasn’t been the same over the last 25 years.



Full disclosure: I am a graduate of NC State, Class of ‘73.

This rivalry changed fundamentally in 1989 when the NCSU administration wussed out after the Valvano scandal (which, compared to the current UNC scandal, actually looks more like simple mischief). In caving in to the News & Observer editorial staff, the school started a process that effectively “took 25 years off” from competing in basketball. I was 38 years old at the time and had seen Everett Case and his ACC championships, the ’74 and ’83 NCAA championships and Valvano’s ’89 regular-season championship.

Les Robinson was a last resort since no accomplished college coach at the time was going to work under the ridiculous limitations imposed by the NCSU Faculty Senate. Everyone knew his five years were going to be a write-off. Five years wasted.

Herb Sendek wasn’t really an improvement. He demonstrated early in his career at NCSU by choosing the Princeton offense that he could not compete in recruiting against Duke or UNC. He couldn’t even beat UNC the one time when he was actually favored. But again, this was just as much a reflection of the school’s fear of basketball success as anything else. Ten years wasted.

Lee Fowler’s hiring was again another demonstration of how naïve the school administration was in thinking that “clean” programs were good enough. His stated philosophy that we didn’t actually have to compete with the Other Two (or words to that effect) was another demonstration of the “we’re not even going to try” approach.

Sidney Lowe. Nice guy. Landed some big recruits, but that’s it. Another five years wasted.

And now Mark Gottfried. He’s definitely the hardest to read. Certainly the most positive impression made by an NCSU coach since Valvano, but here he is in his fifth year and still relying on last minute transfers by fifth-year seniors to bail him out.

So while the UNC basketball machine has continued to run pretty much at full steam for these 25 years, the NCSU program seems to be just floundering around in fear of success. And that’s how I see that this not-much-of-a-rivalry-now has changed.

The lesson here: Never let the Faculty Senate decide how the Athletics Dept is going to be operated. I’ve illustrated this to all my UNC friends as what to watch for when the hammer falls over there.

—Carl in Creedmoor


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