The Wake Forest football program entered this week battered and bruised from the beating it took from the No. 3 Clemson Tigers last Saturday afternoon. This week, however, the wounds are coming from another foe: its own fans. As the Deacs offer little evidence to the viewing public that they can avoid a fifth straight losing season and once again become bowl-eligible, a fan base weary of the negative results in football and basketball has once again raised the volume of their complaints.
This Saturday afternoon, prior to kickoff of the Deacs' clash with N.C. State, a plane will circle the airspace around BB&T Field, towing a banner with the following message: "Demand Accountability. Fire Ron Wellman."
The aerial banner was conceived, organized and funded by the same group that placed advertisements in the Greensboro News and Record during ACC Tournament week and purchased ad space on a billboard off of U.S. Highway 52 with similar messages. An e-mailed request to interview a leader of the group received no response.
However, the group did release a lengthy press release detailing the sources of their continued ire. Among the alleged misdeeds cited are the hiring of former Krispy Kreme CFO Randy Casstevens as the athletic department's finance director, the reasons given for the termination of former head coach Dino Gaudio, and the lack of response from Wellman's office to fan concerns over the last few years.
The banner is supposed to fly between 2:30 - 3:30 P.M. before play begins between the Deacons and the visiting Wolfpack. Wake Forest officials are aware of the planned protest, but have yet to make a public statement on the matter.
Joe Ovies, co-host of the popular "Adam & Joe" show on WRAL 99.9FM, has seen this type of acrimony before during his years covering the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"Ultimately what's happening at Wake Forest isn't surprising," Ovies said. "Every fan base has a vocal minority. They'll chirp when a coach isn't successful or go after the athletic director when they feel the program is going in the wrong direction. That Wake Forest would see this level of dissent from a similar group just crystallizes the point."
Ovies cited the not-too-distant past when looking for examples of fan unrest in the ACC.
"NC State fans went after Lee Fowler following his support of Herb Sendek and the handling of a coaching search that resulted in Sidney Lowe," Ovies said. "North Carolina fans didn't want Dick Baddour hiring a football coach after Carl Torbush and John Bunting fizzled out. Ironically enough, Joe Alleva felt heat at Duke because their football program couldn't match the success at Wake Forest."
It would be easy for some fans to point to the retirement of Texas' DeLoss Dodds and recent in-season dismissals of Lane Kiffin at USC and Paul Pasqualoni at Connecticut as a model for change at programs in decline, but Ovies warns that Wake Forest fans should think carefully about the context of those actions.
"If fans truly believe what is happening at Texas and Southern Cal somehow justifies their demand for change at Wake Forest, they're too far gone to be reasoned with at this point," he said. "They fail to see the inherent differences in expectations at each program."
"The focus should be on what is expected out of Wake Forest athletics. There's no excuse for the state of basketball and fans are justified to be upset."