Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe was prepared to give his players the speech about how their in-state game at North Carolina tomorrow would be emotionally charged because of the familiarity between the two homegrown rosters.
What he didn't expect was the added intangible of the Tar Heels playing for a lame-duck coach.
John Bunting was fired in the midst of a 1-6 season that includes no wins against an Atlantic Coast Conference or Division I-A opponent. The move, effective after this season, was announced Sunday night, just a few days after an embarrassing 23-0 loss to Virginia on national television.
"I think our job got tougher," Grobe said of his 3:30 p.m. kickoff in Chapel Hill. "With John being fired, certainly their players are going to come out in an already emotional and energy-packed football game. It will get ratcheted up a notch with the players wanting to come out and play well for John."
Grobe said he was "shocked" the decision to fire Bunting was made with five games left in the regular season.
"As a football coach, you'd like to deal with this after the season and certainly not have to go through this when you're still competing," he said, "but that's the way it turned out."
Bunting, who enters tomorrow's game with a record of 25-42 in six seasons at North Carolina, said his team has "responded in practice" this week despite the news.
"They had fun out there on the practice field [Tuesday] just like I thought they would," he said. "What we'd love to see happen is have them have some fun on game day because they haven't had much of that this year."
Amato backs Bowden
Bunting isn't the only ACC coach catching heat these days.
Even the winningest active coach in college football isn't beyond the boosters who are calling for his retirement, but according to his former longtime assistant, Bobby Bowden isn't going anywhere.
"Coach Bowden is going to retire when he wants to," said N.C. State coach Chuck Amato, who was Bowden's assistant head coach from 1986 to 1999. "That's just my feeling. I think the administration will be 100 percent behind him because of what he's done over the long haul. They're a young team with a bunch of injuries and it shows nobody can survive with that."
Florida State enters tomorrow's game at Maryland 4-3 overall and last in the ACC's Atlantic Division at 2-3.
Earlier this season, when the Wolfpack lost games to Akron and Southern Mississippi, Amato was answering questions about his own job security.
"It's a universal problem," Amato said. "Everybody wants to fire all their head coaches. I don't mean that the way it came out, but it's something that goes with the territory."
Speaking from heart
In the wake of North Texas coach Darrell Dickey recovering from a heart attack he suffered earlier this month, Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey found himself talking about his heart-related problems.
In March 2005, Gailey suffered a heart attack while playing racquetball at the campus recreation center. Gailey said on his weekly teleconference call that he has learned to balance the stresses of the job with being a father and a husband.
"Stress is never an issue for me," he said. "It never was, never has been. I was eating horribly and my diet was terrible and I was overweight. I was trying to exercise the same way I had been and it was more than my heart could take. I was not being very smart about diet and exercise."
The Yellow Jackets (5-2, 3-1) will face Miami (5-2, 2-1) in a critical Coastal Division game at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow on ABC.