“...the opposite of love is not hate — it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn. If somebody hates me, they must “feel” something ... or they couldn’t possibly hate. Therefore, there’s some way in which I can get to them.”
I’m aware of the keen irony of starting my annual “HATE” article series with a quote from Leo Buscaglia, otherwise known as Dr. Love, but I can think of no better way to describe my feelings towards Wake Forest. I was disappointed when the Clemson football schedule was published and my old hate nemesis Wake was plunked down at the top. I was hoping for something a little easier, some perfunctory warm up hate to get the juices flowing before dealing with the with box of instant mashed potatoes that is Demon Deacon football, but I wasn’t surprised. It is 2020 after all, and that means everything is terrible.
I’ve tackled the Wake Forest hate problem in a few different ways over the years. I’ve pretended to hate them, but it came out forced. I’ve tried to be clever, which is better than forced, but not exactly the tone I’m looking for in these articles. This year, I’m going to try the truth. I’m going to level with you - this may be the last Wake Forest article I write. I’m tired of pretending like I, or anyone else, cares about Wake Forest football, including Wake Forest.
The truth is Wake doesn’t belong in the ACC anymore, at least not as a full member, and hasn’t belonged in the ACC in quite a while. The only thing keeping Wake in the ACC is the fact that Wake has always been in the ACC.
That’s it. History is their only argument.
They are the Vanderbilt of the ACC, except with Vanderbilt, the SEC has enough else going on that one apathetic football team and fan base doesn’t make a dent. The strange thing is, Wake Forest has been a decent team under Dave Clawson. They’ve appeared in 4 straight bowl games, and still no one cares. They have no ambitions beyond being decent. They’ve won more than 8 games twice in their 113 seasons of playing college football and that’s not good enough anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, Wake is a fine school. A school you can be proud to attend. Their academics are top notch. The campus, I’m told, is beautiful. They do well in non-revenue sports like soccer, where the playing field is level and they can actually compete. But a private school with an enrollment of around 8,500 students has no chance to compete in the modern college football landscape.
To put 8,500 students into perspective, Boston College is the 2nd smallest school in the ACC, and it has an enrollment of around 14,700 students. If I’m being honest, they don’t belong in the ACC either. If you start comparing Wake to the smallest schools in other conferences, things become even more comical. Vandy, who doesn’t belong in the SEC, at least has an enrollment of 12,500. Northwestern, the B1G’s version of Wake or Vandy, has 22,100 students. The Big12 gets closer, with TCU coming in at around 10,000 students, but TCU has proven that they care about football. The closest the Pac12 gets is Stanford, and they’re around 17,000.
Size, as small people often claim, isn’t the only thing the matters, but if you’re going to play Power 5 football with an enrollment of 8,500 you better care about football, and that’s where Wake falls woefully short. They not only lack size, they lack intensity, they lack desire, they lack a fan base willing to show up on Saturday and fill their high school sized stadium. Folks, Truist Field (had to look that one up) seats 31,500 people, but Wake’s average attendance last season 27,081, and that was with one of the more exciting offenses in the ACC.
That’s the definition of apathy.
The thing is, I’m not mad that Wake Forest doesn’t care about football. It’s a big world filled with an ever increasing number of distractions. If you don’t want to spend your fall Saturdays standing around in a parking lot for a few hours drinking beer and eating, followed by standing around in a stadium watching football for 3 hours screaming at top of your lungs, followed by another 2 hour commitment (minimum) to fight traffic to get back to someplace where you can pass out, I understand. Personally, it’s the time of year I look forward to the most, but to each his own, I’m not here to tell people what they should and shouldn’t like.
I wish Wake treated football like my wife treats pancakes.
I’m something of a pancake connoisseur. I make them in a variety of flavors, shapes, and colors. I buy genuine maple syrup and warm it up on the stove instead of using the flavored corn syrup stuff in the plastic bottles you get at the store. I make them for my daughter and myself almost every Saturday morning, and almost every Saturday morning my wife makes herself scrambled eggs. She doesn’t care that Lilly and I lustily attack a stack of hot, fluffy pancakes like Trevor Lawrence feasting on a Will Muschamp secondary. She understands that loving pancakes is normal but stays true to herself. Despite years of badgering and, “ok, these are different, you’re going to love these,” attempts to bring her into the cult of pancakes, she steadfastly refuses. In a weird way, that’s one of the things I appreciate the most about her. She knows what she likes, and refuses to be swayed by public opinion (otherwise she would have dumped me years ago).
If Wake came out at the end of the season and announced they understood that other people liked football, but that it wasn’t for them anymore, I would have nothing but respect. They don’t have to scrap the program, but maybe find a nice, soft landing spot in the Sun Belt. They should be able to compete against teams like Charlotte and Appalachian State. Maybe having the resources to win a Sun Belt Championship would spur a renewed interest with their fans.
I doubt Wake chooses this route, so I have another, bolder proposition to not only fix the Wake Forest football problem, but the entire Tobacco Road football millstone hung from the neck of football loving ACC programs.
I want a Tobacco Road United football team.
All the pieces are in place. If you merge Wake, UNC, Duke and NC State you could potentially put together a top 25 squad. I just freed up 3 slots for teams that care about football in the ACC and created a team that might be decent. It would take a little shuffling around, but you could make it happen. Granted, most of the players would be provided by UNC, but that’s OK, Wake, NC State and Duke could contribute in other areas.
Tobacco Road United Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Mack Brown and David Cutcliffe
Mack and Cut get the nod here with their National Championship pedigrees. Mack has National Championship ring from Texas and is a better figure head than a coach anyway. He can shake the hands, kiss the babies, and raise the money.
Cutcliffe can handle most of the in game decision making and focus his attention at the quarterback position while letting Mack handle the day to day stuff and recruiting. They can even stagger their naps so one of them is awake most of the time during practice.
Offensive Coordinator: Dave Clawson
Wake’s offense was exciting and innovative last season. Clawson has been incredible at pasting over his lack of individual talent by maximizing the talent he does have and hiding the weak spots. In my opinion, he’s the best overall coach on Tobacco Road, and I’m not sure it’s close.
Defensive Coordinator: Dave Doeren
Look, I don’t have much nice to say about Dave, but he has put together a few solid defensive squads in Raleigh. Letting him focus on one side of the ball and keeping him as far away from a microphone as possible benefits everyone.
Stadium: Carter Finley Stadium
U.N.C.’s Keenan Stadium holds a few thousand more people, but Carter Finley gets the nod because their fan base shows up and fills their seats when the Wolfpack is decent.
Mascot: Blue Demon Tarheel Pack Chimera
My artistic ability crested around the time when coloring inside the lines became important, but I’m sure someone out there could come up with a solid mash up of the Tobacco Road mascots. Tell me a mascot with a wolf’s body, blue skin, rams horns, and the Wake top hat and suit wouldn’t, hands down, be the best mascot in the history of the world.
What better time to do some ACC house cleaning than now. Everything is already in flux. It’s not like giving Wake Forest the boot is going to cause in more chaos than we’re already experiencing.
I know this wasn’t my most inspiring HATE article - but, again, consider the material. I can’t upset Wake Forest football fans because they don’t exist. There is nothing I can say that would elicit so much as a furrowed brow or a head shake from the most ardent Demon Deacons supporter.
We’re starting this season with a couple duds in Wake and El Cid. That puts my hate target squarely on UVA for the October 3rd game.
I don’t think they’re ready.