- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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This morning, I wrote about the decision the Wake Forest radio show made to stop the live call-in portions of Jeff Bzdelik's weekly coaches show after a "particularly contentious" show last Thursday night. Now, for the first time in 17 years, the radio show will only accept feedback which has been "recorded or submitted through electronic messaging." This is to dissuade a few very frustrated fans' tendencies to, as AD Ron Wellman put it, "preach." That is weak, and I said so, and I figured that would be the end of it.
It was not. To my surprise, Wake Forest fans immediately started sending emails and tweets, and it was the strangest thing -- not only were there a lot of them, but almost every single one thanked me for ripping their program.
Here's a sampling from my inbox:
"Thank you for writing this blog. Please continue writing many, many more about the absolute mess that is Wake Forest Basketball. There is plenty of material available. It seems that it comes daily now. We had a great win (Our AD’s words) over High Point and a home loss to a Seton Hall team that is probably worse than Wake. We should have changed his office door locks when he lost to Stetson at home. I love my University and I just want something to change. No fan of Wake Forest or of basketball deserves this. The more blogs you post, hopefully the quicker our present situation ends."
"Thanks so much for the blog on the Wake call in show censorship. Whole lot of Wake fans are angry, despondent, and a whole lot of other adjectives about what has happened to the program. Articles such as yours are like manna in the wilderness for us."
"I just wanted to write to say thank you for putting together your recent blog post regarding the situation at Wake (my alma mater) and with its basketball program. If you've ever stumbled across our message boards, you'll see the unrest that Bzdelik's tenure has caused. It is refreshing to see some attention being paid to it on a more national scale, even if our program has fallen so far that we're lucky to have a game broadcast on ESPN3 (after many seasons of being featured in multiple instances on the flagship ESPN/ABC stations)."
"I just read your blog update—thanks for doing this from a long-suffering Wake fan. As a small school, we don’t have the roar of discontent that can come from our larger ACC brethren, but the ridiculous bunker mentality being exhibited by Wake’s athletic administration deserves to have some light shed on it. Feel free to write about Bzdelik’s failures as often as possible (here’s a hint—check his record against the Top 100 RPI in his time at Wake)."
"EB, I'm a Wake alumnus and a fellow Hibernian. Thank you for your blog on ESPN shining a light on the travesty that is Jeff Bzdelik's tenure at Wake Forest. We're small and only get attention when we're playing well or getting our brains stomped out by the likes of Duke, UNC, and Iona. You know- the powerhouses (rolleyes). I wish more of your colleagues would run with the story of the collapse of Wake basketball. So thank you for doing so."
"Thank you so much for bringing this to the attention of the masses. Wake has been struggling lately and needs some more heat on the AD to challenge the status quo. Coming from a current senior, I committed to Wake when WFU basketball was ranked #1 in the country and it definitely played a part in my coming to Wake. It's been incredibly tough to watch the meteoric decline of Wake sports as a student. I'll still have been and will be at every basketball game, but it's getting to the point where I don't know who to cheer for…"
There were more, lots more. It wasn't any different on Twitter (I compiled a few replies here) or in the comments of the original post — people actually thanking me for writing about their program in a sarcastic fashion.
Needless to say, this is not the usual response. Usually, on those rare occasions when you rip a college basketball program with a dedicated fan base like Wake's, they jump in to defend their coach or the situation, or they decide to take out their aggression and troll you on your Twitter feed. Wake fans aren't doing that. They're now so despondent they are actually rooting for their program to be criticized as widely and loudly as possible. They're being polite. These poor people are one step away from blaming themselves.
I normally wouldn't be writing a post like this so soon after the original. But I really didn't know things had gotten this bad. I assumed Demon Deacons fans weren't in the best place, sure, and like any self-respecting college hoops blogger, I check in on Blogger So Dear and other fan sites/message boards from time to time. But for all the struggles Wake's had in the past two years, I also figured there was some measure of patience at work.
Nope. Wake fans are done. After that home loss to Seton Hall, they are either resigned to cheer for what positives may arise or, as Justin Blackwelder told me on Twitter, "willing to tank the whole season if it will get Bzdelik out the door a minute sooner."
What a mess.