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Friday, September 4, 2009
The Golden Age of Football, a column about it

IT IS THE TIME OF THE YEAR when the crisp evening air, the smell of freshly mown grass and the sight of the sharp white lines on the gridiron remind us that it's just a couple of months 'til basketball season.  But let's do talk briefly about football.

Chirpy Chirping and Chippiness

It's a new era in Big Four football when the Duke coach gets testy because he thinks his program might be being dissed.  Understand me, before David Cutcliffe they were getting dissed regularly, being clearly the worst team in all of Division I football over the last 20 years.  However, even during the brief glowing moment under Steve Spurrier, Steve Superior didn't get chippy -- mainly because he was too busy dissing everybody else.

But, to my mind, an even better sign of the new era is that an NC State/UNC football detente may not be in the offing.  My hope derives from this exchange last spring.

“We're the best football program in the state, without question,” said NC State football coach O'Brien following State's 41-10 win last year over UNC, referencing State's season sweep of North Carolina, East Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke.

When UNC football coach Butch Davis was asked to respond the following Monday, he said, “Last Saturday, they were the best football team.  But before anybody anoints themselves, I’d say there probably needs to be some time invested into the programs, and then we’ll see what happens.”

Then Cutcliffe added, “If I were Tom O’Brien, I’d be saying that.  This might be the only year he can ever chirp like that. When you’ve got chirping rights, you better chirp."

Wake Forest's Jim Grobe didn't enter the fray.  Why not?  I will venture a guess.  Because he actually has the best case for the best Division I  BCS program in the state -- and when you got it, no need to flaunt it.

Which bring us to the . . .

The Golden Age of Football

The other day I shared this little sports tidbit that I found in USA Today with my family.  It had a list in its pre-season college football issue giving the "Golden Age of Football" for each of the schools of the Bowl Championship Subdivision of Division I (that is, the "We Don't Really Have a Championship" Subdivision) football.

Here was what they concluded about the Big Four -- a sports designation derived from basketball, not football, it is worth noting  (I sent this to my family because between my parents and siblings, we have, by my count, 30 years of undergraduate and graduate degrees spread across all the Big Four universities.)  For UNC, the Golden Age was '46-'49 with Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice -- 60 years ago.  For Duke, it was '52-'55 under Coach Bill Murray -- 55 years ago.  For NC State, it was '72-'74 under Lou Holtz -- 35 years ago.

Which leaves us with poor podunk Wake Forest, the second-smallest school in the BCS.  Its Golden Age?  The era under Jim Grobe with Riley Skinner from 2006 up to right now -- which includes an ACC championship and an Orange Bowl appearance.  My advice to my Wake family fans: "Enjoy it while you can, Deacs."

My sister, the Bowman-Gray educated pediatrician, then asked. "When do Furman fans get their Golden Age?"  (She asked, being like me, a Purple Paladin.)  I answered: "Beets (her family nickname), sorry but Furman wasn't listed since the list did not include schools in the ‘We Actually Play for a Championship’ Subdivision."

For the record, Furman's Golden Age would be 1985 through 1988 when it appeared in the Division I-AA championship game twice, winning it once.

But who should be chirpy, or chippy, as to claims about the "best football program in the state"?  That would be Jerry Moore, head coach of Appalachian State, whose Golden Age is also now, having won three consecutive Division I FCS (then I-AA) national championships beginning in 2005, and whose team tops the preseason poll again this year.

Gary D. Gaddy is a Furman University graduate.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday September 4, 2009.

Copyright 2009  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 6:15 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 7:18 PM EDT
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