So I was minding my own business when Twitter let me know that my new friend Bud Elliott over at Tomahawk Nation had posted his ACC Kickoff Notes. He included a subsection entitled, "Expectations at Wake," in which he paraphrased (accurately) something Yours Truly said during a long discussion in the Media Hospitality room on Sunday night. It reads:
"John Mundy, of SB Nation's Blogger So Dear, told me that many of the young fans who started cheering for Wake during the last decade don't remember the days of losing to Appalachian State or appreciate how much of an accomplishment it is for a tiny school like Wake Forest to field a competitive ACC team on a yearly basis."
So, before I get tarred and feathered let's delve into this a little bit.
First, it's important to note the context of the discussion. What Bud and I had been discussing was the expectations of Wake Forest fans following the run of the "Fresh Deacs" era from 2005-2008, during which the Deacons handed Florida State three consecutive losses. My assertion was that expectations rose to an almost unreasonable level in rapid fashion. My contention is that the Fresh Deac era showed that Wake Forest CAN put a winner on the field, and more importantly, how that winning team was built.
To wit, the stars of that class weren't stars on National Signing Day. Aaron Curry wasn't "Aaron Curry" yet. Neither was Alphonso Smith. Heck, you'll remember that Smith was actually benched for a good portion of that 2006 season. My point is that those mega-successful Deacon teams were a combination of "diamond in the rough" recruits, the swagger of the new Florida guys and a consistent team cohesiveness that is all too rare in this day and age. You could also say that certain traditional "power" teams weren't up to par. That's not Wake's fault, and they took advantage of it.
The challenges that come with Wake Forest football are still the same. Yes, convincing a recruit should be easier these days because of the record of success during the Grobe era. However, the obstacles of finding the right kids that will succeed at "Work Forest", positional depth and school size still remain. It's how one manages those obstacles at schools like Wake, Duke and Vanderbilt that should be the key measures of success.
For all those vehemently pointing at Vanderbilt, I admire what James Franklin has done for that program. He has, from the looks of things, built a solid foundation to the Commodore program. But look closer. Vandy won its last seven games last year: hapless Auburn, UMASS, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Derek Dooley's Tennessee club, Wake Forest and finally N.C. State. Vanderbilt finished with a 5-3 conference record, yet none of those wins came against a club with a winning conference record. Heck, only Ole Miss finished 2012 with a winning overall record.
They have a good coach, did some really great things performance-wise on the field, and took advantage of the myriad opportunities they were given.
Sound familiar? Now, back to what I said regarding younger fans.
Let me start by saying this: Wake Forest University football (and basketball, for that matter) fans should have held a moment of silence for LOWF a long time ago. Wake Forest's athletic department has achieved conference and national success in both revenue sports, and there absolutely should be a "new normal" on Deacon Boulevard. That being said, being a competitive football school of any size in 2013 is a difficult proposition. It's made infinitely more difficult by the challenges I mentioned above.
My remarks about younger fans not remembering losses to Appalachian State are a testament to the demise of LOWF, and not a "Get off my lawn" moment. The Fresh Deacs, much like Tim Duncan and Chris Paul, erased decades of losing history by changing the face of their programs. There shouldn't be any fan left who is okay with only winning a few games every year.
My only caveat is that 1) it IS still hard for schools like Wake to compete in power conferences, and 2) Wake fans shouldn't, in my opinion, grouse about 7-5 and 6-6 seasons unless preseason expectations are higher.
Wake Forest is picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic by the ACC media this year. That tells me that someone, somewhere believes Wake can snag one of the many bowl slots allocated to the ACC. I personally believe that anything less than 7-5 would be a disaster for this year's squad, and that if the stars align they can win eight or nine games.
So now I'll throw it to you, dear readers. What do you think? Am I off base? Should Wake Forest fans have expectations akin to the Clemsons and Florida States of the world. You tell me? It's only an opinion.
Y'all play nice.