Thursday, December 30, 2010

Former Pack standout lineman Colmer dies

Chris Colmer, who was a standout offensive lineman for N.C. State from 2000 to 2004, has died, his agent said today. He was 30.

Colmer's agent, Jonathan Feinsod, said Colmer's family is grieving, and he declined to provide further details. Colmer had been teaching and coaching at the high school level on Long Island.

"It's just a tragedy," Feinsod said.

Colmer, who was from Port Jefferson, N.Y., was a third-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, selected No. 91 overall, in 2005. After spending the 2006 season on the reserve non-football injury list, he was released on June 6, 2007.

At N.C. State, Colmer started 46 of the 47 games in which he played over four seasons. He was a co-winner of the team's Jim Ritcher Award, giving annually to the Wolfpack's best offensive lineman, as a junior in 2002.

He missed the 2003 season with Parsonage Turner Syndrome, a rare viral disorder that caused numbness and discomfort in his neck and shoulder. But he was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA for 2004, and responded with a solid season that resulted in the draft selection and his brief NFL career.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bowl notes: Pack's Irving touts adidas

ORLANDO – N.C. State senior linebacker Nate Irving ended his career with a little trash talk.

The Wolfpack defeated No. 22-ranked West Virginia 23-7 in the Champs Sports Bowl. Given an opportunity to speak on the podium after the game in front of N.C. State’s fans, Irving talked about the team’s jerseys.

That’s right, the jerseys.

“I don’t think that’s bad for a school that’s sponsored by adidas,” he said, smiling.

The comment was a response to a comment one of West Virginia’s players made Monday. After an N.C. State performance at a talent show at the bowl luncheon, a West Virginia player remarked that it was a good effort for somebody from a team that wears adidas jerseys.

West Virginia wears Nike attire, and N.C. State’s players apparently took exception to the jab at their garb.


The fake field goal that N.C. State botched in the first half was similar to one Boston College and coach Tom O’Brien used in a defeat of North Carolina in the 2004 Continental Tire Bowl.

In that game, holder Matt Ryan delivered the ball to Ryan Ohliger for a 21-yard touchdown run for the Eagles. On Tuesday, holder Corey Tedder tried to flip the ball over his shoulder toward Josh Czajkowski.

Although Czajkowski was open for a big gain, the ball never got to him. Czajkowski said N.C. State didn’t watch film of the Ohliger play, but said he was open for a big gain on the botched play Tuesday.

“It was open, and we’d worked on it,” Czajkowski said. “. . .I saw open grass and said, ‘Oh.’ ”


Tuesday’s win was Tom O’Brien’s 100th as a head coach.

He is 100-70 overall in his 14-year career, including 25-25 in four seasons at N.C. State.

O’Brien has taken 10 of his 14 teams to bowl games and has won seven of his last eight bowl games.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pack's Wallace to miss Champs Bowl

ORLANDO - N.C. State starting left offensive guard Andrew Wallace won't play against West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl this evening because of an injury, school sports information director Annabelle Myers said.

Wallace started all 12 games during the regular season, logging 773 snaps. He will be replaced by Duran Christophe, who has played 146 snaps as a reserve.

Ken Tysiac

Tudor's Take: Can N.C. State's Wilson stand tall in NFL?

The most interesting game within the game at tonight's Champs Sports Bowl relates to the future of N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson.

A redshirt junior and one of the most popular football players in Wolfpack history, the 6:30 p.m. (ESPN) game against West Virginia (9-3) could be Wilson's last at the school.

A professional baseball player in the Colorado Rockies farm system, the 5-foot-11 Wilson is widely expected to walk away from football when the game ends.

He went through Senior Day ceremonies on Nov. 13 against Wake Forest, and promply led the Pack to a 38-3 win.

Even so, Wilson didn't completely rule out a return for more football, nor has he done so during the month or so of bowl preparations.

Wilson steadfastly has stated his desire to one day play in the NFL. Technically, he could even be selected in the April NFL Draft.

According to Wolfpack offensive coordinator Dana Bible, Wilson has the arm and intellect to become an NFL quarterback.

The obvious downside is his lack of height by today's NFL standards.

Prototypical NFL quarterbacks for the past 10-15 years have been tall pocket passers. Scouts look for college quarterbacks with at least 6-foot-3 heights, long arms, big hands and decent foot quickness.

But there are exceptions, most notably Drew Brees (6-0, 205) of the New Orleans Saints and Michael Vick (6-0, 215) of the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Size is what you want to make of it," Wilson said four days before he led the Pack to a 29-25 win at North Carolina. "It can stop [you] or you can overcome it. It all comes down to what you can produce on the field."

On current NFL rosters, there are more than a dozen players shorter than 6-2, and several are or have been fruitful players.

Included in that group is former ECU star David Garrard (6-1, 220) of the Jacksonville Jaguars in addition to Brees and Vick.

Another is Cleveland rookie Colt McCoy (6-1, 215), who was playing well until suffering an ankle injury in mid November.

The smallest quarterback currently listed is Seneca Wallace (5-11, 207) of Cleveland, who played at Iowa State and made the Seattle roster as a fourth-round draft pick in 2003.

"I don't think much about my height," Wallace said after signing with the Browns at the end of 2009. "Why worry about something you can't do anything about? Just go out there and play, and show 'em what you can do."

In leading State to an 8-4 record and near misses in each of the losses, Wilson has established that he can do a lot at the college level.

But after tonight, Wilson soon will have to determine if football is worth putting his baseball career in some risk.

-- Caulton Tudor

3 keys for N.C. State in Champs Bowl

ORLANDO - N.C. State (8-4) has a big opportunity against No. 22-ranked West Virginia (9-3) in a couple of hours in today’s 6:30 p.m. Champs Sports Bowl.

Here’s what the Wolfpack needs to do to post a win that would tie the 2010 team for the second-highest victory total for a season in school history:

1. Get to the quarterback. Maryland and coach Ralph Friedgen neutralized N.C. State’s blitz packages with maximum protection schemes.

West Virginia, which plays a lot of two-back sets, has the potential to do that as well. N.C. State’s blitzing linebackers need to find ways to get break through the blocking schemes to sack quarterback Geno Smith and keep him from making plays with his feet.

And the defensive backs need to make tackles in space against the screen game to prevent short passes from turning into long gains.

2. Make big plays with the pass. West Virginia’s starting cornerbacks, Brandon Hogan and Keith Tandy, are both extremely talented.

But they’re also just 5-foot-10. N.C. State wide receiver starters Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer are 6-4 and 6-3, respectively.

The Wolfpack needs to take advantage of that height disparity for at least one long gain on a deep ball against a stingy defense.

3. Have a difference-making play on special teams. N.C. State has made a lot of them this season.

The Wolfpack blocked three punts early in the season. T.J. Graham returned a punt for a touchdown against North Carolina, and the Wolfpack recovered an onside kick against Maryland.

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart seems concerned about Graham, and N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien would like nothing better than to see Graham get up to full speed in the open field.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 27, 2010

WVU changes bring awkward feeling at Champs Bowl

ORLANDO - The Champs Sports Bowl news conference of West Virginia coach Bill Stewart today had an awkward feeling to it, as if everybody was walking on eggshells.

Stewart has coached West Virginia to a 9-3 record this season heading into Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. bowl game against N.C. State. He is 28-11 after three full seasons with the Mountaineers, but his time with the team will end after the 2011 season.

Dana Holgorsen is leaving Oklahoma State to be Stewart’s offensive coordinator in 2011, and then will replace Stewart as head coach in 2012. Other staffing changes also are coming for 2011.

Stewart was asked if he had any thoughts about having some of his assistants at his side for the final time.

“That’s a personal matter,” Stewart said. “I appreciate you asking and I don’t want to dodge the question, but that’s in my heart.”

N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien was similarly mum when asked about Stewart’s situation. O’Brien and Stewart have a friendship that dates back more than 20 years.

Stewart and O’Brien got to know each other while coaching rival offensive lines at North Carolina and Virginia, respectively, in the 1980s. O’Brien was asked what he thought of the coaching changes at West Virginia.

“I think I’d better keep that to myself,” he said.

Ken Tysiac

Pack mixes business, pleasure at Champs Bowl

ORLANDO - When coach Tom O'Brien learned N.C. State was headed for the Champs Sports Bowl, he turned to a former staff member for advice on how to handle the week.

The Wolfpack (8-4) will meet No. 22 West Virginia (9-3) in the bowl game at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Three years ago, Boston College edged Michigan State 24-21 in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Frank Spaziani, who's now Boston College's head coach, coordinated the Eagles' defense for Jeff Jagodzinski in that game and previously was O'Brien's defensive coordinator at Boston College. Spaziani advised O'Brien to have his players take their amusement park trips early in the week because the walking the players do at the parks can take a toll on their legs.

So N.C. State visited Universal Studios on Dec. 23 after arriving in Orlando, and took a trip to Disney World on Dec. 24 after practicing in the morning.

"They got to experience a lot of the theme parks and had fun that way," O'Brien said this morning at the final news conference before the bowl game. "I think they’ve done a good job focusing when we’ve been in meetings and when we’ve been on the practice field on the task at hand. This team has been pretty businesslike all year. I think they’ve appreciated the opportunity to have some fun, but at the same time understand that this is a very important football game."

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Surgery sidelines UNC's Carter, Pelc for bowl

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina will be short another two players for its Dec. 30 Music City Bowl matchup against Tennessee because of season-ending surgeries.

Tar Heels linebacker Bruce Carter and Tar Heels senior offensive guard Alan Pelc are both out because of injuries, according to a news release issued Tuesday by UNC's sports information department.

Carter, who injured his left knee playing against N.C. State on Nov. 20, underwent ACL reconstruction surgery on his left knee Tuesday morning at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, the release said.

Pelc underwent surgery Monday afternoon to repair his left shoulder, also at UNC Hospitals. The Houston native is expected to begin rehabilitation immediately, but like Carter, will not be able to play in UNC's bowl game.

"Bruce and Alan have meant so much to this program," UNC coach Butch Davis said in a statement released by the university. "They have been great kids, great leaders and, most importantly, they will graduate Sunday with a degree from the University of North Carolina. Obviously, we are disappointed for them that they will not be able to play in the bowl game. However, our main concern is their health and preparing for the future."

Carter started 43 games at North Carolina, including 10 this season. He was twice named second-team All-ACC (2009 & 2010) and was a 2010 finalist for the Butkus Award, which is presented to the nation's top linebacker. Carter blocked seven kicks in his career and scored twice on interception returns.

Pelc started 34 games in his career, including 11 this season. He graded out over 75 percent in 2010 while playing offensive guard and center.

-- Ken Tysiac

N.C. State bowl sales top 8,500

Eight days after the announcement that N.C. State would play in the Champs Sports Bowl, the school’s ticket office had sold more than 8,500 tickets for the game, senior associate athletic director Chris Kingston said Monday.

The game is Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla., where the Wolfpack (8-4) will meet No. 22-ranked West Virginia (9-3). Kingston said N.C. State currently is averaging 500 ticket sales a day.

“I think we’re doing really well,” Kingston said. “The sales have been strong.”

N.C. State’s ticket allotment for the game is 13,500.

Kingston said 37 percent of the tickets sold directly through the bowl or Ticketmaster have been sold to North Carolina addresses. He said that has given North Carolina the largest percentage of sales through those venues of any state.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 13, 2010

ECU's Dominique Davis 'ready to go' for Military Bowl

GREENVILLE - East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill doesn't appear too worried about quarterback Dominique Davis' sore left shoulder.

"He's ready to go," McNeill said during a news conference on Monday.

Davis, a junior transfer this season, injured his non-throwing arm and participated in two games to close out the regular season, playing despite the obvious pain he experienced as he was sacked twice in a loss to SMU.

"He's one tough hombre," McNeill said at the time.

East Carolina (6-6,5-3 C-USA) accepted an invitation to play Maryland (8-4, 5-3 ACC) in the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium on Dec. 29, giving their starting quarterback more than a month to heal since his last game on Nov. 26.

A healthy Davis offers the Pirates their best chance to defeat the Terrapins, considering all that he accomplished on the way to earning the conference's most valuable player honor.

Davis is the nation's top point producer with 36 passing touchdowns and nine rushing. He accounts for an average of 22.7 points per game.

The Pirates average 319 yards and 38.2 points per game - seventh and 12th in the nation, respectively. The Pirates seek their first bowl game victory since a 41-38 victory over Boise State in 2007 in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

-- Edward G. Robinson III

Appeals of UNC players to be heard this week

North Carolina’s appeal on behalf of two football players declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA will be heard by the NCAA this week, team spokesman Kevin Best said today.

Defensive end Michael McAdoo’s appeal is scheduled for Tuesday, and fullback Devon Ramsay’s appeal is set for Thursday.

UNC announced on Nov. 15 that both players had been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA in its investigation of academic misconduct and impermissible benefits provided by agents and others.

Dick Baddour, UNC’s athletic director, has said the facts in both cases do not support permanent ineligibility.

Ramsay’s mother, Sharon Lee, has said her son was banned solely on the basis of changes that a tutor then employed by the university provided on one three-page written assignment in 2008. In a story published Nov. 27 by The Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer, Lee said her son’s situation wasn’t considered serious enough to be forwarded to UNC’s honor court system for possible sanctions, so she was shocked when Ramsay received a harsh penalty from the NCAA.

Lee said the NCAA’s penalty was excessive and cruel. She declined to comment when contacted by telephone Monday.

Ramsay played in the first four games of the season before UNC discovered his correspondence with the tutor. He was withheld from the Tar Heels’ remaining games, and UNC has said the NCAA has ruled it won’t penalize the team for using an ineligible player in the first four games.

McAdoo missed all 12 games this season.

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Prospects for Wilson's return to Pack sound shaky

N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien didn’t sound confident Sunday about the prospects of quarterback Russell Wilson returning for his senior season.

Wilson, a junior, returned to the Wolfpack after playing pro baseball last summer in the Colorado Rockies organization. But O’Brien said next season will be a different situation.

“When he left the last time he spent the whole spring here and was, the whole time, around us,” O’Brien said. “And he wasn’t being paid [last spring]. He’s being paid now. And they have money. And what do I have to offer? So who knows what’s going to happen.”

Wilson has said many times that his goal is to be a professional in both baseball and football. If he has decided whether he will play quarterback for N.C. State in 2011, he hasn’t tipped his hand.

O’Brien said after Sunday’s practice for the Champs Sports Bowl (Dec. 28 vs. West Virginia in Orlando, Fla.) that he hasn’t spoken with Wilson about his upcoming decision and won’t discuss the issue for a while.

“We’ll figure it all out when the time is right,” O’Brien said.

Wilson was a first-team All-ACC quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 2008 and has led the ACC in touchdown passes in 2009 and 2010.

Aside from Wilson, O’Brien said he isn’t aware of any underclassman on the team who’s contemplating leaving early for the pros.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, December 10, 2010

White, Pianalto unlikely to play in bowl for Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL -- As much as North Carolina's T.J. Yates would like to play his final college game with Johnny White and Zack Pianalto, Yates doesn't expect any sudden returns from either injured senior.

UNC's Music City Bowl date with Tennessee is Dec. 30, which is in the range of a return for White, from a broken collarbone, or Pianalto, from a broken leg.

"That would be nice, but I don't want them to take that risk," Yates said.

White, a senior, led the team in rushing (720 yards) before his injury at Florida State on Nov. 6. Pianalto, a senior, led the team in receiving (30 catches, 311 yards) before his injury at Virginia on Oct. 16.

UNC coach Butch Davis said White was closer to a return than Pianalto but that would depend on if White could be cleared for contact.

"There's a window of opportunity for him to heal would be between six to eight weeks and this timeline kind of falls into that," Davis said.

Davis didn't sound optimistic that either senior would be able to return for the Tar Heels' finale against Tennessee (6-6).

J.P. Giglio

Tar Heels' All-ACC DT undecided about future

CHAPEL HILL -- Quinton Coples made All-ACC as a junior, his first at defensive tackle, and led UNC with 8.5 sacks.

He said Friday he hasn't made a decision about next season, whether to return to UNC or enter the NFL draft early. He said he is focused on the Music City Bowl and Tennessee.

"It's a decision that I have to think about after the bowl game," Coples said.

At 6-6 and 275 pounds, Coples has the size to play in the NFL and the added value of versatility. He has played both end and tackle in college, switching in August to tackle to replace the suspended Marvin Austin.

Coples finished the 2010 season with more tackles (53) than Austin (42) or end Robert Quinn (52) had last season.

UNC coach Butch Davis said he doesn't expect to lose any juniors to the NFL draft. He said Friday he would submit Coples, or any junior's name for evaluation, but doesn't recommend players to leave early unless they are going to be a first-round pick.

"Unless you can go in the first round, you probably can't make enough money to be able to not have to work significantly for the rest of your life," Davis said.

-- J.P. Giglio

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Former UNC player named coach at Indiana

Update: Hoosiers give new coach 7-year contract

Oklahoma offensive coordinator and former North Carolina player Kevin Wilson will be the new head coach Indiana, according to ESPN and various news outlets in Oklahoma and Indiana.

The 49-year-old Maiden, N.C., native had some support for the UNC job when Butch Davis was hired in 2006.

Wilson, a lineman and linebacker, played for the Tar Heels during the early 1980s under Dick Crum. He began as a walk-on after a standout prep career at Fred T. Foard High.

Previously, Wilson worked on the staffs at Miami of Ohio, Northwestern, N.C. A&T and Winston-Salem State.

The Hoosiers fired former coach Bill Lynch after his team finished 5-7 overall and 1-7 in the Big Ten. Lynch was 19-30 overall, 6-26 in Big Ten games in four seasons.

Wilson joined the Oklahoma staff in 2002 as the offensive line coach. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2006.

-- Caulton Tudor

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bowl notes: Goal in sight for N.C. State

Coach Tom O’Brien is pushing hard to advance the idea that N.C. State has an opportunity to hit a significant season win milestone when it plays in the Champs Sports Bowl.
The Wolfpack is 8-4 heading into the Dec. 28 bowl game with No. 22 West Virginia (9-3) in Orlando, Fla.

At Sunday night’s bowl news conference, O’Brien mentioned that N.C. State has an opportunity to equal the second-highest win total in school history.

Led by Philip Rivers, the 2002 team set the school record with 11 wins. N.C. State has never had a 10-win season, but has had eight nine-win seasons, most recently in 1994.

O’Brien wants his team to add to that total.

“We’re looking to have a good time, but looking to win a football game,” O’Brien said. “The ultimate prize for this team is to win the ninth game, set themselves apart in the history of N.C. State football. So it’s a great opportunity.”

His players seem to be buying into the importance of that feat.

“We’re going to make sure we end the season 9-4, and make sure it’s a good game for everybody to see,” said senior wide receiver Jarvis Williams.

N.C. State is taking the week off from practice for final exams.

The Wolfpack opened its postseason practice Saturday and Sunday, and will return to the practice field on Saturday, Dec. 11.

O’Brien isn’t sure of the exact itinerary yet, but said the team will spend Christmas in Orlando as part of a normal practice week.

He plans to get the redshirting players as much work in practice as the starters as he takes advantage of the extra practice to build for the future of the program.

N.C. State will open a practice to the fans at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 19 at Carter-Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack men’s basketball team plays host to Arizona later that afternoon, at 4:45 p.m. at the RBC Center.

Two years after the fact, O’Brien and quarterback Russell Wilson smiled Sunday night as they recalled Wilson’s situation from the team’s last bowl appearance, in the Bowl.

Wilson suffered a knee injury late in the first half, and N.C. State went into halftime leading 17-6 behind 186 passing yards and 46 rushing yards by Wilson. Wilson wanted to play in the second half, but the team doctor said he couldn’t play, so O’Brien benched him.

“You were mad,” O’Brien said to Wilson, who was sitting next to him.

“I was mad,” Wilson admitted. “I wanted to play that game. That’s why I ran back out there. I remember I ran back out at halftime because I wanted to play the second half.”

After dominating the first half, N.C. State collapsed without Wilson and lost 29-23. Even though it cost him a chance at a winning season, as N.C. State finished 6-7, O’Brien doesn’t regret holding Wilson out of the game.

“I wasn’t going to let him play, because obviously he has a bright future in a lot of things,” O’Brien said, “and to play in the second half of a bowl game just so we could win a football game [wasn’t worth it]."

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pack players eager for Champs Bowl trip

Senior linebacker Nate Irving waited until the end of the news conference announcing N.C. State’s bowl destination, then said what was on his mind.

“We’re going to Disney World,” he said, smiling.

The Champs Sports Bowl announced Sunday night that N.C. State (8-4) will meet No. 22-ranked West Virginia (9-3) in the game in Orlando, Fla. – the home of Disney World. The game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 28 at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium and will be televised by ESPN.

It's the most high-profile bowl trip for the Wolfpack since its Jan. 1, 2003 win over Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. N.C. State administrators pushed hard for it, sending senior associate athletic director Chris Kingston to Orlando to hand-deliver the school’s marketing plan.

“Our fans are just known to travel well,” said athletic director Debbie Yow.

N.C. State’s ticket allotment for the bowl is 13,500. Tickets are $65 each and are available at and the N.C. State ticket office at 919-865-1510.

The Champs Sports Bowl has the third pick from the ACC. Virginia Tech (11-2), which defeated Florida State 44-33 in the ACC title game Saturday night in Charlotte, will meet Stanford in the Orange Bowl.

Florida State (9-4) will play South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which announced last week that it would select the loser of the ACC title game. The Champs Sports Bowl picked next and settled on N.C. State.

In other games involving ACC teams, North Carolina plays border state foe Tennessee in the Music City Bowl; Miami renews its rivalry with Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl; Maryland meets East Carolina in the Military Bowl; Boston College plays Nevada in the Fight Hunger Bowl, and Georgia Tech meets Air Force in the Independence Bowl.

Steve Hogan, the CEO of Florida Citrus Sports, which runs the Champs Sports Bowl, said he was impressed with N.C. State’s record and wins over Florida State and Conference USA champ Central Florida.

“We just want to reward a team that deserves to be here,” Hogan said, “and they definitely deserve to be here.”

Hogan also considered Maryland, whose overall and ACC record (5-3) was identical to N.C. State’s. The Terrapins also defeated the Wolfpack 38-31 in the final game of the regular season on Nov. 27.

But the Terrapins already had played West Virginia, and Hogan didn’t want to schedule a rematch, so that was another factor that helped secure a bowl trip quarterback Russell Wilson was eager to make.

Before the team boarded the plane to leave Maryland after the loss that kept the Wolfpack out of the ACC title game, Wilson asked Yow what had to be done to get N.C. State to the Champs Sports Bowl.

“After Plan A falls apart, you’ve got to go to Plan B,” Wilson said. “I think the Champs Sports Bowl is a great situation for us. It’s a great game, and we know West Virginia is a great team.”

Ken Tysiac

Clemson, South Florida to meet in Meineke Bowl

Updated: Bowl makes formal announcement

Clemson (6-6) will make its first appearance in Charlotte’s Meineke Car Care Bowl, playing South Florida (7-5).

The game is scheduled for noon on Dec. 31 at Bank of America Stadium and will be televised by ESPN.

Securing Clemson gives the Meineke Bowl another strong local draw with potential to add to the game’s history of turning Charlotte’s location in close proximity to many ACC schools into a large crowd.

"Both teams have played extremely hard this year with every game being very competitive," bowl executive director Will Webb said in a statement. "We feel that the Tigers and Bulls will be a very entertaining and compelling matchup on the field for everyone watching."

Over the past eight years, the bowl has averaged 60,000 fans, according to its web site, with three sellouts. Although Clemson failed to live up to expectations this season, finishing fourth in the ACC Atlantic Division after being picked for second place in the preseason media poll, the school's location means the bowl will count on the Tigers heavily to deliver fan support.

Clemson is about a two-hour drive from Charlotte and has a strong alumni base in the city.

"It’s a great situation for our fans," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement released by the bowl. "One of the main reasons we were selected for this bowl is because of our great fan support and the passion of our fans."

South Florida also appeared in the bowl game in Charlotte in 2005, losing 14-0 to N.C. State. The bowl will mark the return to North Carolina of Skip Holtz, the popular and successful former East Carolina coach who left after last season to coach South Florida.

The Bulls got their seventh win with an overtime decision over Miami on Nov. 27. South Florida athletic director Doug Woolard said in a statement that the program is riding "a wave of momentum" under Holtz.

"I think people around the country recognize that and it was reflected in our selection by the Meineke Car Care Bowl," Woolard said. "Coach Holtz has done a magnificent job with this football team and program in just a short time. He has provided outstanding leadership from day one and built a very competitive product on the field."
Ken Tysiac

Ken Tysiac

Pack expected to get Champs Bowl invite

Orlando, Fla., appears to be the holiday destination for N.C. State, as the Champs Sports Bowl is expected this evening to formally invite the Wolfpack to the Dec. 28 game.

N.C. State has sent the media information on how to participate in the bowl's team announcement teleconference at 8:45 tonight. That information is not meant to be construed as confirmation that the Wolfpack has accepted an invitation to play in the game, but the school nonetheless is expected to receive - and accept - that invitation.

The game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 28 at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium and will be televised by ESPN.

West Virginia (9-3) will be the Wolfpack's opponent in the most high-profile bowl trip for N.C. State (8-4) since its Jan. 1, 2003 win over Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl.

The Champs Sports Bowl has the third pick from the ACC. Virginia Tech (11-2) captured the ACC's Orange Bowl bid by virtue of its 44-33 defeat of Florida State in the ACC championship game Saturday night in Charlotte.

Florida State (9-4) will play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which announced last week that it would select the loser of the ACC title game. With those two teams unavailable, the Champs Bowl apparently has settled on N.C. State, which finished tied for second place in the ACC Atlantic Division with Maryland.

This will be N.C. State's second bowl trip in four seasons under coach Tom O'Brien. The Wolfpack lost to Rutgers in the 2008 Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.

N.C. State is 12-11-1 overall in bowl games in its history.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, December 3, 2010

NFLPA suspends agent Wichard for contact with UNC's Austin

The NFL Players Association has suspended sports agent Gary Wichard's contract adviser certification for nine months, NFLPA director of communications Carl Francis confirmed today.

Wichard's name surfaced in connection with the NCAA's investigation of impermissible benefits received by University of North Carolina football players. He was suspended for having impermissible communication with UNC defensive tackle Marvin Austin at a time Austin was not eligible for the NFL draft, according to an NFLPA news release.

The NFLPA release stated that Wichard has agreed to the suspension and has waived his right to appeal.

Wichard also has been connected to the UNC case through John Blake, who resigned as UNC's associate head coach on Sept. 5. Wichard, who is based in California, provided funds to Blake that Blake's lawyers describes as gifts or loans.

Ken Tysiac

Read more:

Former UNC WR Little signs with Octagon

Former North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little, who was declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA for taking impermissible benefits, has chosen Octagon Sports as his agency for contract representation.

Octagon director of communications Scott Horner confirmed Little's signing in an e-mail message today.

According to an NCAA news release, Little accepted $4,952 in impermissible benefits. The joint investigation by the NCAA and the school found that he accepted diamond earrings and travel accommodations to the Bahamas, Washington, D.C., and on two trips to Miami, among other benefits.

UNC also concluded that he was not truthful during interviews with the NCAA and UNC. Little was found to be involation of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules.

He is rated the No. 92 prospect in the 2011 NFL draft and projected as a fourth-round selection by

Little was North Carolina's leading receiver in 2009, catching 62 passes for 724 yards and and five touchdowns.

Ken Tysiac

N.C. State's Irving, BC's Herzlich share ACC's Piccolo Award

Senior linebackers Nate Irving of N.C. State and Mark Herzlich of Boston College, who bounced back from life-threatening situations to lead their respective teams’ defenses, will receive the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award, the conference announced today.

The award has been given annually since 1972 in memory of the late Wake Forest and Chicago Bears running back whose fight with a cancer inspired the entire football community.

Irving was severely injured in a car crash on June 28, 2009 and missed the entire 2009 season after suffering a compound fracture of his leg, a broken rib, a punctured lung and a separated shoulder. He returned this season to spark the N.C. State defense at middle linebacker and ranks fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 19 tackles for loss.

“One of the most rewarding things I've experienced as a coach has been seeing Nate Irving come back so strong and enjoy so much success,” N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien said in a statement. “He has been a tremendous leader for our team this year with his play on the field and his attitude off the field and is one of the reasons the 2010 team will always be a special one for me.”

Herzlich was diagnosed in May of 2009 with Ewing’s Sarcoma, an aggressive cancer that attacks soft tissue and bone. He underwent extensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments and had a titanium rod inserted in his left leg to stabilize the bone.

He suffered a fracture in his right foot as a result of his rehabilitation, and broke a bone in his left hand. He played wearing a cast for the rest of the fall, but still has recorded 54 tackles and four interceptions.

Irving is N.C. State’s fourth Piccolo Award honoree, joining Toney Baker (2009), Scott Adell (1991) and Ralph Stringer (1977). Herzlich is the first Boston College player to receive the Piccolo Award.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chick-fil-A Bowl no longer a possibility for N.C. State

Cross Atlanta off the list of N.C. State’s possible postseason destinations.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl, held Dec. 31 in Atlanta, announced Thursday that its ACC selection will be the loser of Saturday’s conference championship game between Virginia Tech (10-2) and Florida State (9-3). The conference title game will kick off at 7:45 p.m. at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

That leaves the Champs Sports Bowl, held Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla., with the next pick from the ACC and a possible selection of N.C. State. Steve Hogan, the CEO of Florida Citrus Sports, which runs the bowl, said earlier in the week that he is considering Maryland (8-4), Miami (7-5), North Carolina (7-5) and N.C. State (8-4) as the bowl’s ACC representative.

The Champs will match an ACC team with Notre Dame (7-5), West Virginia (8-3) or South Florida (7-4). The Champs is waiting for the Rutgers at West Virginia and Connecticut at South Florida games to be played Saturday before making a decision.

“I think they’re in a holding pattern until then,” ACC associate commissioner Michael Kelly said Thursday evening. “They’re kind of waiting for that.”

After the Champs Sports Bowl, the Sun (Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas), Meineke Car Care (Dec. 31 in Charlotte) and Music City (Dec. 30 in Nashville, Tenn.) bowls, in order, have the next selections from the ACC.

Hogan said earlier in the week that N.C. State is attractive because it’s a much-improved team with strong fan support that has a signature win over Florida State. But N.C. State lost to Maryland, which holds an identical record, in the final game of the regular season.

North Carolina has fewer wins than N.C. State or Maryland and lost to the Wolfpack, but also has a win over Florida State. Hogan said the Tar Heels would be attractive because they haven’t been to the Champs Sports Bowl and are probably better than their record indicates.

Because North Carolina has played the last two years in the Meineke Bowl, the Music City Bowl and a possible meeting with border state Tennessee has been widely discussed as a possible destination for the Tar Heels.

Ken Tysiac

Did clash of sponsors sink Wake-Notre Dame game in Charlotte?

Next season's Wake Forest-Notre Dame football game, which will be played in Winston-Salem, nearly came to Charlotte.

As Ron Green Jr. reported in Tuesday's Observer, Deacons athletics director Ron Wellman said it would be unfair to Deacons fans for the game to be moved out of Winston-Salem.

But a source close to the negotiations to bring the game to Charlotte said there was another reason. "Sponsorship issues," the source said.

Could be that Winston-Salem-based BB&T -- one of Wake Forest's biggest corporate sponsors which has its name on the Deacons' stadium -- wasn't thrilled to have such a high-profile game played at Bank of America Stadium. -- David Scott

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hokies' Taylor named ACC player of the year

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who led Virginia Tech to an 8-0 conference record and a Coastal Division title, has been named ACC player of the year in media voting.
Taylor received 27 votes. N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson was the runner-up in the balloting with 19 votes. Da'Quan Bowers, the Clemson defensive end who led the ACC in sacks, received eight votes, and Boston College running back Montel Harris received three votes.

Taylor also was selected as the ACC offensive player of the year. Bowers was the defensive player of the year.

Here are the vote totals for offensive and defensive player of the year:

Offensive: Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech (31); Russell Wilson, QB, N.C. State (23); Montel Harris, RB, Boston College (4); T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina (1); Danny O'Brien, QB, Maryland (1); Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami (1).

Defensive: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson (36); Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (14); Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech (3); Nate Irving, LB, NC State (2).

Ken Tysiac