Amato Still Needs a Title (?)

Less than 24 hours after I wrote this piece, Frank Dascenzo of the Herald Sun helps support my point (just a little bit) with a few stray statements in his article this morning, “Amato still needs a title.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not offering a huge complaint here. The article is full of great statistics and records, and factual information. (Interesting timing after VaWolf ran his awesome piece of NC State Football History 101.) I understand that if you look hard enough for something to complain about then you are likely to find something; I just thought that there were a couple of things that Dascenzo could have done a little better in his article.

First…the good stuff. I think that Dascenzo’s overall summary of what Amato needs to help create a little more breathing room is a pretty accurate representation of the situation:

What Amato needs in ’06 is to finish better than fourth in the ACC, a win at UNC on Nov. 18 and avoid another early season slump. It will not be easy. A Sept. 16 game at Southern Mississippi would be dangerous for any ACC team, and Boston College and FSU are games No. 4 and No. 5.

I’ll generally go with that^ (along with a win over ECU) except I’m not quite as stringent on the “finish BETTER than 4th in the ACC”. Considering how good Clemson is expected to be this season and the general make-up of the “NEW” ACC…I don’t think that a 4th place finish would be unacceptable for such a young team that has as many questions as the Wolfpack heading into the season.

My biggest complaint is with what Dascenzo didn’t share in some of his comparative numbers (and implied conclusions). For example, he wants to compare Amato’s ACC record to that of Mike O’Cain. That makes a little sense as it is always good to use historical results of the program as a benchmark.

Just under the photograph of Amato is the caption “The Amato Era,” which includes his 46-28 (.622) overall record. What it does not report is that Amato-coached N.C. State is 23-25 in the ACC, and that’s exactly what O’Cain’s record was in the ACC during his first six seasons. None of Amato’s teams have been able to finish higher than fourth in the conference, and don’t think that doesn’t terribly bother Wolfpack fans.

But, Dascenzo knows that any such direct comparison would be made significantly more valuable by a clarifying statement (asterick) that makes mention of the new ACC. Mike O’Cain’s ACC record did not include four games against Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College. Some of you pie-in-theskiers can fool yourself into thinking that MOC might have been able to win some of those games. You people weren’t sitting in the same stands (both in Raleigh and on the road) as I was during those years. Additionally, O’Cain’s record had the luxury of including two extra games against lowly Duke that Amato has not enjoyed.
This all adds up to a six game difference in comparative ACC records.

Maybe that is one of the reasons some boo Amato at the RBC Center when his face shows up on the big screen at a Hurricanes game.

This is just absurb. 20,000 Hurricanes fans are all supposed to be NC State fans because we share the same building? Friggin Roy Williams was also booed (louder) than Amato. I can’t wait to see the mention and the article about how Carolina fans are sour on Roy Williams because he was booed at a pro hockey game. How was this comment even allowed in this piece

It’s always a good question to ask any N.C. State football coach: When will his team win an ACC championship?

Why is that a good question to ask any NC STATE football coach? Why is that not a good question to ask ANY football coach? Someone remind me…was Frank Dascenzo asking Herb Sendek when will his team win an ACC championship? Just curious about the consistency here.

Again, please don’t read this with the presumption that I am going overboard in criticizing Dascenzo. His work is pretty damn stellar. Just a few perspectives on some of his comments. Thanks!

Chuck Amato General Media NCS Football

38 Responses to Amato Still Needs a Title (?)

  1. class of 74 08/09/2006 at 8:47 AM #

    Frank will tell you he likes following teams that are at least competitive if not outright winners. We fell off his screen during the first five Sendek years in B-ball and Duke has not been on his screen since the early Goldsmith years in F-ball. I think that partially explains the consistency issue. I think he does as good a job as you’ll see in this market for being fair and ballanced.

  2. choppack1 08/09/2006 at 8:54 AM #

    Jeff – Good points here. Amato doesn’t need a championship. What he does need is a .500 record or better in conference. If he does that, you can bet that the seat will be as cool as it is for any coach outside of Tallahassee or Blacksburg. (And don’t think for a second that if this was Bobby’s successor losing all these games the last 2 years that he wouldn’t be on the hot seat.)

    I have to wonder whether Frank is stirring the proverbial pot or if he’s just unfair. Like you said, he could have written the same article about Sendek. He could also write the same article about Bunting. Granted, State does have a large legion of fans who show up, tailgate and voice their discontent w/ their vocal chords and doesn’t have a national championship in b’ball and the No. 1 recruiting basketball class in the country to distract us in the Fall – but it’s not like Amato is alone in his struggles.

    I have some problem comparing Amato and MOC’s conference record. (Though I would add that MOC was facing a much more fierce FSU squad than we’ve faced for the last 5 years.) What he can do is compare Amato’s record vs. the Old ACC to MOCs – that would be fair and reasonable. Of course, Amato comes out ahead in that comparison, so that may not meet his goals.

  3. packbackr04 08/09/2006 at 9:25 AM #

    pretty good piece. I think the summary of what Chuck needs to accomplish is fairly accurate. Mainly beating carolina, which we should. But there inlies the problem of the last 15 years of NC State Athletics, we never seem to be able to beat the teams that we SHOULD beat. We have had our share of big games in the past couple of years but always seem to drop one or two games that we shouldve and couldve won that would have been the difference in a micron PC bowl birth and a really special season

  4. ncsu96 08/09/2006 at 9:45 AM #

    one interesting aspect I haven’t seen mentioned is comparison to Friedgen, and Groh. All 3 coaches entered at same time and had some early success and have since struggled. There have to be some parallels… I’m just to lazy to research it. The very obvios is all 3 started with great/good QBs, and have since struggled to find replacements.

    the one point, I will make is the Fridge (as much as I hate him) and Groh are no dummies, and theyare having similar struggles to Amato. The ACC has become a very tough league to even stay in the middle of the pack. IMO, this was not true 10 yrs ago.

  5. SuperStuff 08/09/2006 at 9:45 AM #

    Chuck is 3 and 3 against UNC. Let’s face it when have you ever seen an official take points off the board. It effectively gave the game to UNC two years ago. He would be 4 and 2 against them. UNC definately beat us at home this last year, but I’m satisfied with his overall record against them. As far as a title I would have said yes when he first arrived, but we’ve since added Miami, VT, and BC to our confernce so that will a harder thing to attain. If we finish 3rd in this new conference then I’m a more than happy.

  6. GoldenChain 08/09/2006 at 9:55 AM #

    “It’s always a good question to ask any N.C. State football coach: When will his team win an ACC championship?”
    When is it a good time to ask a unx coach that?!

  7. joe 08/09/2006 at 10:11 AM #

    Why is everyone so concerned about the media not going after Bunting? After all his record is so bad that I would think Pack fans would love for Bunting to stay there for a long time.

    (Of course there is that little problem of not beating Bunting even during the real bad years at UNC)

  8. BJD95 08/09/2006 at 11:08 AM #

    Actually, I don’t think the “six games” analogy is fair. In place of the new games vs. Miami, BC, and VT – Chuck missed Duke twice and UVA twice. Even assuming 2 sure wins vs. Duke and a best-case scenario of a split against UVA (who was better than us both years we missed them, but not by much) – that nets a THREE WIN difference (23-25 vs. 26-22). It’s BETTER, for sure, but not leaps and bounds better – and it really does represent a best-case scenario for Amato comparison purposes, since it assumes MOC to lose all 4 Miami/VT/BC games (and he did have a knack for pulling random wins over quality foes out of his rear end).

    But, at the end of the day – we did NOT hire Chuck Amato to be a step better than MOC, any more than we hired Herb Sendek to improve over the incredibly low bar set by Les Robinson. It’s not like MOC’s results were right on the borderline of what is acceptable performance as head coach at NC State.

    I’m OK with NC State having some down years, even of the 1-7 or 2-6 variety – I think that’s bound to happen in a tough, balanced conference like the ACC. But I certainly DO expect to see us periodically break and AT LEAST challenge for AT LEAST the division title. Over the long term, consistent mediocrity-to-average performance isn’t enough.

    The Gator Bowl season was great, but that can’t be the only high point of the resume (5-3 ACC record) forever. And it doesn’t buy Amato a lifetime pass.

  9. class of 74 08/09/2006 at 11:24 AM #

    Unfortunately too many are perfectly happy with a win over UNC and a trip to Charlotte, Nashville or Boise. Set your sights low and you’ll hit target more often than not.

  10. Pack92 08/09/2006 at 11:27 AM #

    Superstuff nails it. The problem with taking the points off the board was that we SHOULD have been 2 touchdowns ahead at that point. That one idiot official should never have been allowed to matter. To back that up Utah (I think the next week) rolled up just as many yards as we did ( the blue pansies gave up 1100 yards total in those 2 games) but won going away.

    Chuck has to have consistency. I was watching the CLemson game sitting at a restaraunt in Green Bay WI. The last time I saw a State football team self destruct that badly was under MOC. Our talent is there with Fla. State and Miami but either gets utilized badly or not at all. Could this be related to the merry-go-round of assistants Chuck has had? Probably. If he can get consistency in his coaching staff the results will show on the field. No matter who was the QB last year it was the first year for Trestman and that type of offense is not easy to learn. Not knowing what the heck you are supposed to dowill make you look undisciplined and inconsistent.

    Wake is a good example. They never have the talent and lose games BECAUSE of that. Every game I watched them play last year was a well played, well disciplined, good fundamentals football game on their part. The losses were due to a lack of talent.

  11. garden gnome 08/09/2006 at 11:38 AM #

    i have to say i would not be ok with a 1-7 or 2-6 ACC season – the conference is not THAT tough or balanced.

    BJD95 Says:
    August 9th, 2006 at 11:08 am

    I’m OK with NC State having some down years, even of the 1-7 or 2-6 variety – I think that’s bound to happen in a tough, balanced conference like the ACC.

  12. tcthdi-tgsf-twhwtnc 08/09/2006 at 11:54 AM #

    The problem with the UNC game after the points were taken off the board the ball was handed to F.A. (fumble anytime) Mclendon for a run up the middle. Could we do something not predictable?

    Remember the offensive sets that where run early in games during the River’s years. Constant shifts with guys moving all over the place confusing the hell out of the defense. These seem to vanish after the first quarter back then for some reason. However, when it counts they give it to the guy that averaged a fumble a game and run it up the middle. At least Jay Davis didn’t have the freakin green light to call a QB sneak for himself like Rivers. At least it shows Amato’s staff has the ability to learn.

    Let’s hope we don’t see one 15 yard penalty after the play this year. If so, I hope the dude that f’s up will be sitting for the rest of the game. We can’t afford to have some 20 year old kid sabotage our season…. again.

  13. pack550 08/09/2006 at 12:07 PM #

    I totallly agree with the points in BJD95’s reply.

    His criticism of the “six game analogy” is valid, but it makes one minor mistake.

    Amato is actually 1-1 against Va Tech (2004 win in Blacksburg). So, for Amato to achieve the best case record of 26-22, he would have had to defeat both Duke AND UVA twice. The more realistic scenario of a split with UVA would give Amato a record of 25-23. As BJD95 said, that would be a very mild improvement over MOC.

    The reason why Amato has never finished better than 5-3 in the ACC is not because of Miami, Va Tech and BC being added to the conference. The reason is the poor play against the good but not great teams of the ACC: GaTech (2-4), Clemson (2-4), Maryland (2-4), UVa (2-2), and UNC (3-3). If we’re ever going to contend for a division title, we’ve got to start beating these teams more regularly.

  14. RAWFS 08/09/2006 at 1:44 PM #

    Pack550 hits the nail on the head, in my opinion. We do not win enough of the games we are supposed to. Any team that aspires to play with the Big Boys of the Conference ™ had better be able to handle the Little Fellas first.

  15. doatesjr 08/09/2006 at 2:17 PM #

    I’ll be the first to admit that Amato has received some unfair criticism from the media, but I find it interesting that Amato seems to be viewed by many Pack fans as light years ahead of Bunting. When you compare ACC records and head-to-head matchups, it certainly doesn’t pan out. Amato is 19-21 in the ACC since Bunting was hired, while Bunting is 16-24, and of course they’re 3-3 against each other. Factoring in the OOC records certainly favors Amato (19-3 vs 8-12), but keep in mind the combined records of the OOC teams were 106-101 for Amato and 146-88 for Bunting. And 5 of Amato’s OOC wins were against Div. II opponents, with 1 of Bunting’s wins coming against a Div. II school. The bowl situation favors Amato (3-1) versus Bunting (1-1), but again, I wouldn’t call this a sensational difference.

    I’m not saying that Bunting is a great coach (I’m not delusional), but Bunting’s success (or lack thereof) is comparable to Amato’s. And of course that’s nothing to hang your hat on if you’re a State fan.

  16. Mr O 08/09/2006 at 3:58 PM #

    BJD95: We challenged for a conference title the year after the Gator Bowl season as well. We lost two close games at FSU and then Maryland at home at the end of the season. We really should have won both of those games and had we done so we would have won the ACC.

  17. redfred2 08/09/2006 at 4:10 PM #


    Good points. It has been my assertion that the calibre of OCC competition the Wolfpack signs up for is a big factor in the comparisons between the two programs, and why Bunting may be getting his boys better prepared to face us. I am not saying that he is doing a better job overall than Amato, but at least his team already has the taste and feel of real competition, more than once or twice in any season, before they ever face us.

  18. choppack1 08/09/2006 at 4:18 PM #

    Mr O – You’re right – we were right in thick of it in both 2003 and 2004. However, in both cases we didn’t “finish” and the media won’t even acknowlege we were close – and should they at all? I mean, I laugh to myself when UNC fans talk about being a FG away from being ACC co-champions. The truth is – they were close and so were we – but close means bubkus when you’re walking w/ champions like Miami, FSU and VaTech.

  19. Mr O 08/09/2006 at 4:26 PM #

    Choppack: I was addressing the point that BJD95 expects to challenge for a division title. We have challenged but have been unable to do so the last two years because of QB play.

  20. redfred2 08/09/2006 at 4:27 PM #

    “Why is everyone so concerned about the media not going after Bunting?”

    Because the programs/coaching tenures are separated by only one year’s time, and pretty much a parallel of one another. The media seems to think that Amato is supposed win championships, while Bunting they say nothing. Most importantly any future recruits keep getting the notion pounded into their skulls that NC State/Chuck Amato aren’t quite making the grade. They aren’t constantly hearing that about UNC/Bunting. Et voila, great recruiting class practicing in powder blue uniforms this season vs the RED ones they may have considered if not otherwise constantly reminded.

  21. Big Worm 08/09/2006 at 4:28 PM #



    First of all, your bowl records are wrong. Amato is 4-1 in bowls (5 bowls in 6 years) while Bunting is 1-1 (2 bowls in 5 years). Huge difference there. Going to bowls 40% of the time and winning 50% of those games is not in the same ballpark with going to bowls 83% of the time and winning 80% of those games.

    Second, while there is not a huge disparity in ACC W-L records since Bunting was hired, you make no mention of margin of victory/loss in your comparison. Understanding that there is not column in the record books for “Almost won” or “Almost lost,” there is no mistaking the fact that Carolina, under Bunting, has gotten absolutely shit-kicked by a bunch of teams (2-3 50+ point drubbings if I remember correctly) and lost many other games that were completely out of reach even if the score didn’t read like a cricket score.

    Under Amato, State has lost by more than 21 points twice in six years and virtually every loss is within reach in the 4th quarter. While margin of victory does not impact W-L records, a team that consistently gives themselves a chance to win in the 4th quarter is far better off than a team that’s consistently out of the game in the 4th.

    Also, the number of players State has put in the league is an indication of the superior talent State has been able to land and the player development Amato & Co. has been able to achieve. Bunting’s lack of similar success in putting players in the league and the extreme attrition we’ve seen at UNC since Bunting arrived is an indication of the opposite.

    Finally, and most importantly, Amato was able to achieve a high-water mark season comparable to the best football season in this school’s history (11th in the polls; 9th was highest all-time ranking at the end of the season). And as good as that season was it was ever-so-close to being so much more – the three games we lost were by a total of 15 points.

    Given State’s demonstrable ability under Amato to acquire and develop talent, put themselves in a position to win virtually every game they play, consistently go to and win bowl games and achieve outstanding periodic peaks I’d assert that the respective positions and directions of the two programs couldn’t be further apart.

    Put Matt Baker on State the last two seasons and we’re discussing how UNC’s new coach will perform this season and how we’re going to keep Amato when Penn State and F$U come calling.

  22. BJD95 08/09/2006 at 4:40 PM #

    When I talk about “challenging”, I don’t really mean scheduling flukes that keep us in it b/c we were 4-2 and facing the 2 best teams in our division last (then losing both games). I do see O’s point, but it’s very hard for me to consider it a TRUE challenge for the division title when we finished 4-4 in the league. It was just the layout of the schedule that keep us alive into November. At the time, I noted what a great opportunity it was to get a second chance on a disappointing season, that despite 2 conference losses, we could still control our own destiny. Of course, Amato did nothing with said opportunity.

    And, to be more explicit, I should say “periodically challenge for” AND “occasionally win” said division title. I can’t consider us a long-term successful program if we NEVER sniff the title game.

  23. PBdafan 08/09/2006 at 4:59 PM #

    People can compare coaching records any way they want, but the bottom line is there are coaches that win, coaches that do just enough to survive, and horrible coaches. What Mack Brown did at Carolina was remarkable. What Steve Spurrier did at Duke was remarkable. Now those are great coaches. Based on his record thus far, our barrel-chested boy in red would qualify in the “just enough to survive” category. Particularly in the “Post Phillip” era. That’s too bad. I would rather have a really good coach.

  24. tcthdi-tgsf-twhwtnc 08/09/2006 at 5:00 PM #

    Finally, and most importantly, Amato was able to achieve a high-water mark season comparable to the best football season in this school’s history (11th in the polls; 9th was highest all-time ranking at the end of the season). And as good as that season was it was ever-so-close to being so much more – the three games we lost were by a total of 15 points.

    BW- Wouldn’t you give most of the credit for this season to Rivers (an O’Cain recruit) not Amato?


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