The first time I saw CJ Harris play was in the Frank Spencer Holiday Classic his senior year at Mt. Tabor High School. He was easily the best player on the court and it was encouraging to know that he was staying in town to play at Wake Forest. Unfortunately (for him) his tenure coincided with one of the most challenging times in the history of Wake Forest basketball. Fortunately (for us) he stuck it out and didn't transfer to another more stable program. He, along with Travis McKie, have been the players who have been most responsible for keeping the program from totally flaming out. They've shown tremendous character in fulfilling their roles for the Wake hoops program so it should not come as a surpise that Harris would write this thank you letter to the Wake Forest community. Here's an excerpt:
Thank you so much for the kind words and love that you have shown me and my family over the past four years. That is more precious to me than any victory on the court, as your words have truly help define who I am today.
While I am sad that my career at Wake Forest has come to an end, I see nothing but a bright future for the Deacs. I know that I have helped lay the foundation for this program to achieve the success we can all be proud of. My teammates and the coaching staff are working hard to get there, and they deserve your continued support and enthusiasm.
Thank you again for making these past four years truly special.
Always a Deac!
Winston-Salem Journal sports reporter Dan Collins, who covers the Wake Forest beat, wrote the sentence that is the headline for this post. He wrote it as part of a piece on what he thinks we need to see from Wake fans who are at odds over the direction the school's basketball program is heading. He also wrote:
What does rankle me, however, is to see the utter lack of respect some have for opinions other than their own. And it rankles me to see what lengths some go to discredit and even vilify those who decline to walk lockstep in any direction they feel the argument should — no, must — go.
It's very important here that I repeat, I'm talking about voices from both sides of the divide…
The worst moments, though, have come with the ridicule and vilest of rhetoric that has been tossed back and forth. Such hate and vitriol should be denounced by any fair-minded individual.
The unfortunate incident at the end of the Wake-Maryland game left a bitter taste I've yet to get out of my mouth. I've heard some say that what the person did was unacceptable, but they understand his frustration.
No, that's wrong. Unacceptable is unacceptable. To qualify it with the word but is to mitigate how wrong it was.
Collins is being very politic in his choice of words. There's a phrase that could be used to describe the fans' behavior and would be both succinct and accurate if not politic: Many Wake fans have been showing their butts and they need to just stop.
According to this website Wake Forest University is the 79th most expensive university in the country based on total cost (Tuition + Room and Board + Required Fees). Wake's total for the 2012-13 school year was $54,860. Other notables:
#1 – Sarah Lawrence College ($61,236)
#4 – Columbia University ($58,742)
#7 – Dartmouth University ($57,996)
#9 – University of Chicago ($57,711)
#36 – Boston College ($56,516)
#39 – Georgetown University ($56,362)
#48 – Penn ($56,106)
#53 – Duke University ($55,871)
#67 – Yale ($55,300)
#73 – Brown University ($55,016)
#78 – Notre Dame ($54,905)
#84 – Stanford ($54,508)
#85 – Harvard ($54,496)
#92 – University of Richmond ($53,970)
#98 – University of Miami ($53,102)
Opening paragraphs of an article in today's Wall Street Journal titled "Where Have All the Fans Gone?":
It was the kind of college-basketball game that used to guarantee a packed house.
When North Carolina took the court to play Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., one night last month, it marked the reunion of two storied conference rivals whose campuses are separated by a short drive across the spine of a basketball-crazy state.
Yet when the No. 5 Tar Heels arrived, they found a crowd nearly 2,000 short of capacity. Never mind that Wake is having an off year; it was the lowest turnout for that matchup since Joel Coliseum opened in 1989.
It would be easy to blame the low attendance on Wake's horrific teams these last couple of years, but I think anyone from these parts who was being honest would tell you that in years past a UNC trip to Winston-Salem to scrimmage a high school team would have sold out the Joel.
The article goes on to posit several possible reasons for the ACC's attendance decline: conference expansion which has diluted traditional rivalries, mediocre teams, low-profile coaches, a "charisma deficit" and the proliferation of cheap HD TVs that make the at-home viewing experience better than ever before. I'd say all of those factors have contributed to the conference's current malaise, but whatever the reasons I'd say ACC basketball seems to have jumped the shark, at least for now.
Wake Forest's men's basketball team has had a rough couple of years. Last year was coach Jeff Bzdelik's first year at the helm and he inherited a situation that was challenging to say the least. I don't care if Wake had hired the love child of Adolph Rupp and Bobby Knight, last year's squad was going to have a losing record and the only question was how bad. It ended up being VERY bad and as you can imagine Wake fans weren't too happy. I can recall many a conversation with fellow fans throughout the season who were highly skeptical of the program and of the coach. My refrain was, and will be for the foreseeable future, that Coach Bzdelik cannot be fairly judged until at least year three of his tenure; it will take that long before he can have his own recruits in place and his system instituted.
Coming into the current season I think any reasonable fan would say that in order for the team to be considered successful it would need only improve on the number of wins, be competitive in more ACC games and look like an actual team on the court. So far it's looking good for the Deacons. As you'd expect with a very young squad the team has been inconsistent, but compared to last year they're a dream to watch. On the days when they're bad they look like a high school team out there, but they look like a team. On the days when they're good they look exactly like what they are – a team that is trying to climb the ACC ladder and is a dangerous foe on any given day to all but perhaps UNC and Duke. And yes, they look like a team.
Obviously the jury's still out on Coach Bzdelik's program, but personally I'm liking what I see. I also think every player and coach in every sport should listen to this blurb from the coach's press conference after his team's win over Virginia Tech last Saturday (found at Dan Collins' excellent My Take on Wake blog). He's spot on about the power of believing in yourself and the mind being a powerful weapon:
Dr. Anthony Atala of Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine recently spoke at TED. Here's his speech (thanks to Jason Thiel for posting this at the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership blog):