The problems surrounding North Carolina have sucked most of the air out of preseason football throughout the region.
Even to the north, where Virginia has a new coach in Mike London and Virginia Tech might be mounting a top-five run, the Tar Heels’ academic and NCAA probes are prominent news items.
The same holds in South Carolina, although the situation there is more predictable since USC has been involved in the NCAA investigation into player/agent dealings.
Locally, the opening games for N.C. State (vs. Western Carolina), Duke (vs. Elon) and Wake Forest (vs. Presbyterian) are unexceptional at best. So some small degree of indifference probably was to be expected.
But ECU has an opening league game under new coach Ruffin McNeill and against Conference USA foe Tulsa, a televised Sunday afternoon meeting that ordinarily would generate a good deal of buzz.
Only a few weeks back, it seemed like a big deal that Russell Wilson would put down his baseball glove long enough to quarterback a State team that has bowl hopes.
And Duke and Wake Forest are breaking in new quarterbacks to replace longtime starters Thad Lewis and Riley Skinner.
The same applies at Appalachian State, where Armanti Edwards has moved on to the NFL Carolina Panthers.
Which brings up another team -- the Panthers.
Thanks to UNC’s mess, Panthers coach John Fox and his revamped quarterback position have been pushed to a side stage outside the Charlotte city limits.
When was the last time you heard a lot of talk about Julius Peppers’ impact on the Chicago Bears defense?
With an opening game against LSU of the Southeastern Conference, the Heels were going to have the spotlight under any circumstances. But even that game has become a secondary priority among Carolina fans.
Having covered college football in this area for four decades, it’s most unusual preseason period in memory. It’s as though regional football has been propelled into a parallel universe.