CHARLOTTE — Former Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien had a knack for trolling rival North Carolina during his tenure at State, which included five straight wins against the Tar Heels at one point, so there’s no telling how he might have responded to the controversial comments made Wednesday by UNC’s Larry Fedora.
O’Brien’s successor Dave Doeren, on the other hand, chose not to take a swing at that softball lobbed right across the heart of the plate Thursday during his time with the media at the ACC’s Football Kickoff event.
Fedora raised eyebrows by saying that football is “under attack” by those trying to make the game less physical through rules changes while disputing data that shows a connection between football concussions and the degenerative brain disorder CTE.
Reporters gathered around Doeren’s table in the breakout room at the Westin Hotel wasted little time casting the bait. The first question that was asked was about his reaction to Fedora’s comments.
It was a subject that visibly made Doeren uncomfortable.
“Uh, let’s see,” he said, pausing for a long moment to collect his thoughts, then letting out an audible chuckle. “I’ll just go to my thoughts on it instead of his thoughts. Is that OK?”
Doeren then proceeded to give a much more measured response than his counterpart in Chapel Hill.
“In the game of football, there’s been a tremendous amount of time, resources, money and effort by (those who) study concussions and the best practices for us,” Doeren said. “Player safety is paramount and not just for football, but for all sports.
“We try to get as much information as we can to allow our players the best opportunity to play football. My job is develop young men and we do a great job of that at NC State on and off the field, and I can’t develop a player if he’s injured.”
Doeren also avoided taking a shot at UNC when asked about the secondary NCAA violations the Tar Heels self-reported after it was learned that multiple players had sold school-issued shoes and other athletic gear.
The Wolfpack coach said that he and his staff take steps to avoid such problems with a program they call “Real World Wednesday.”
“We deal with all kind of things that can go wrong,” Doeren said. “You try to cover every single thing you can. We’ve had etiquette dinners, we’ve had NFLPA come in, we’ve had our compliance office come in, domestic abuse come in multiple times. You try to do everything you can as a coach, but ultimately players have to know what’s right and wrong.”
While that may or may not have been a veiled reference to what happened in Chapel Hill, there was no doubt about the meaning of an entry on page six of State’s football media guide. The item about Ted Roof being added as an assistant to Doeren’s staff sports a familiar headline that’s more than just a play on the new coach’s name.
It says “The Ceiling is the Roof.”
Wake Forest availability:
Two players from each conference school are brought to the ACC’s annual Football Kickoff media event to talk about their teams, the upcoming season and any other subjects that might come up over the course of a long day of interviews.
But they also have a chance to meet and get to know players from rival teams in an informal off-the-field setting.
While some embrace the opportunity and strike up friendships that continue beyond their time in Charlotte, Wake Forest defensive lineman Willie Yarbary said he prefers to wait to have his conversations with the opposition.
“I just say hey or introduce myself,” Yarbary said Thursday. “I’m going to see them on the field, I guess. Really, you talk on the field as you play so I’ll probably do it then.”