NC State football coach Dave Doeren is not known for having a sense of humor, at least not publicly. Behind closed doors and with friends, there’s a slim possibility he may have a gregarious personality. But, from listening to him since he was selected to lead the Wolfpack football program, I do not see any sort of sense of humor in the man. He’s made some outlandish comments, but none seem to be funny.
His latest bizarre statement which he said was a joke was about scheduling. He targeted Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford, former UNC-Chapel Hill quarterback and director of athletics. “You’d never know that somebody that graduated from the school down the street is the commissioner. I mean, you would never know that with our schedule,” Doeren said on his radio show. The next day he said the comment was made in jest. “I mean, it’s a radio show; we’re allowed to laugh and have fun,” he told a News & Observer scribe.
His comment about Swofford and scheduling was specifically referring to the Wolfpack’s back to back games against Florida State and Clemson, the former an exciting close one for which, to their credit, Doeren and his staff were able to elevate the players and game plan to nearly defeat the top-ranked Seminoles, but the latter an embarrassment to NC State fans worldwide. During the Wolfpack's first five possessions at Clemson, State had only 19 plays of which four were punts and one that appeared to be a Statue of Liberty call for a Clemson player to grab the ball from the Wolfpack quarterback’s hand and score a touchdown. Not rallying the players to perform two straight weeks at a top level is not a scheduling issue. It’s bad coaching.
Doeren, now in his second season, didn’t get off to a glowing start with State fans when he berated the faithful for vacating the stadium after the first half of its 2013 season opening 41-14 win against Louisiana Tech. It was hot, the Pack was up comfortably and in no danger of losing, and there was much more fun to be had tailgating. To his credit, he kept the State throngs inside Carter-Finley Stadium the following week in a 23-21 squeaker against…get this…Richmond, a team the Pack should defeat along the same lines as La Tech. The entire season was either no joke or a complete comedy as State won one more game and ended the year 3-9. Of course, it was a talentless team, we're told.
After last year—talent or no talent; injuries or no injuries—most fans should prefer Doeren to stay serious and win games instead of trying to make jokes. He has at his disposal, especially with the indoor practice building that’s under construction, maybe the best overall facilities in the ACC and better than most colleges everywhere. He and his staff are paid out-of-line salaries just as are most football (and basketball) coaches. Soon, the players will be paid, legitimately, in some form or fashion. There’s no justification for bad play-calling, dropped passes, or attempts at humor to take away from on-the-field failings. College football is a serious business; Doeren should remain serious until he posts 10 or 11 wins a year. Then he can be funny, if he can be funny.
He also needs to keep it civil. After this season’s Florida State game, he complained about the Seminoles faking injuries to slow the Wolfpack’s hurry-up offensive. Please, Dave, don’t tell us in all your time coaching you’ve not tried that at least once or twice. Say what you want, but complaining about perceived fake injuries and tough scheduling will not take away from short-comings on the field. I was at the Florida State game and also was upset at those slow-downs. You can be too but publically complaining is not necessary. Along with the scheduling “joke,” your comments about the fake injuries made you a whiner, and we know most whiners are at other schools. The all-time chief whiner is Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, and heaven forbid you try to compete with him in that category.
Now, let’s get back to the schedule and joking about Swofford. State fans love to complain about Swofford because once a Tar Heel, always a Tar Heel, but rest assured he does not go out of his way to screw the Wolfpack. By “joking” the way Doeren did, the joke is on Doeren. He says it was a joke (if you have to explain something is a joke, then it probably wasn’t a joke), but it was a rallying cry for Wolfpackers to use as an excuse for losing those two games, especially for the lopsided whatever-that-was at Death Valley. With top facilities and excellent academics at NC State, there should be no excuses for performance off or on the football field. We win, yeah! We lose, forget about it and move on to the next game. It’s just football, not life or death.
Is playing back to back (seven days apart) against Florida State and Clemson fair to NC State? Probably not and neither is playing in the same ACC Atlantic division with those two and Louisville. But that’s the way it goes if you are a member of the one of the Gang of Five conferences. The Atlantic division may be the toughest this year, and next year the Coastal could have the stronger teams. The solution is not to complain and lobby for a schedule to fit your desire. The solution is to recruit better, coach better and win your games. Complaining about fake injuries and back to back tough games is not the explanation for or way out of losing.
By the way Dave, in case you’ve not considered the entire 2014 schedule, the Wolfpack’s top rival game at North Carolina is November 29 with an open date the week before which is right after a game at Wake Forest. The Tar Heels play at their top rival, Duke, Thursday of the week State has the open date, and that game against the Blue Devils is just five days after a home game with Pittsburgh. So, the Wolfpack will have five more days of rest than Carolina before going to Chapel Hill. If that’s not enough, Dave, you’ll probably have the opportunity to ask Swofford if he can move the game to a later date because he’ll likely be in Kenan Stadium that day, cheering for his alma mater.