EXTRA POINTS: NEW DIGS
Article Published by: goheels.com
Twenty two years ago, Tar Heel Coach Mack Brown and UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker led a processional of football players and coaches from the original Kenan Field House in the east end zone of Kenan Stadium to the new locker room on the ground floor of a new west end zone facility. That building was still under construction, but Brown promised the seniors of what would be an 11-1 team in 1997 that he’d have the locker room ready for their final season.
Brown and Hooker carried a box made of glass and wood that housed a ram head skeleton with its horns painted Carolina blue—the prop a visual rendition of the team’s rally cry of “Bad to the Bone.” The players were delighted with individual wooden dressing stools and wood paneled lockers.
Some in the group carried Motorola or Nokia flip phones in their pockets. Any photographs that day were processed by mailing off a roll of film and getting the prints back a week later.
“There’s no comparison with the old locker room,” senior linebacker Brian Simmons said. “Everything’s so much bigger—bigger lockers, bigger showers, bigger everything.”
More than two decades later, much has changed.
Tar Heel players given a tour of their new locker room, weight room and synthetic-grass playing field Monday evening were mesmerized with all the technology in their midst. Social media posts on the team’s account showed players shooting video on their hand-held devices as they walked into the new locker room.
Among the highlights:
- Three-foot wide stainless steel lockers with three fans in each to dry helmets, shoulder pads and knee braces, a variety of storage cubbyholes and USB ports in each locker to power an iPhone.
- Twenty-three custom-designed lifting racks from Sorinex, the gold-standard in the training industry, that will allow strength and conditioning coach Brian Hess and his staff significantly more flexibility, functionality and creativity in honing bodies for ACC competition. “We will push you so much further now,” Hess told the Tar Heels before they toured the new training room.
- A Gatorade refueling nutrition station (one of 52 in the country, including NFL teams), with high-tech blenders and a multitude of ingredients players can use to craft recovery and bodybuilding drinks to their likes and needs.
- And an Astroturf playing surface exactly the kind recently installed for NFL teams in Philadelphia, New England, Arizona, Houston and San Francisco. Among the newly developed features helping the surface evolve from earlier versions that were hard and looked like anything but real grass is a shock pad that gives the surface an impact rating equal to that of grass.
What hasn’t changed, though, is a coach’s desire to give his players the most modern and productive environment possible.
“This is so sweet, this is so awesome,” offensive lineman Nick Polino said upon inspecting his locker for the first time. “The thing most people want and will appreciate—particularly the linemen—are these knee-brace driers. There is nothing worse than camp and putting on a pair of wet knee-braces. That’s huge.
“And the UBS ports. That’s big, too. Before, we had outlets and cords all over the place, guys trying to power their devices. Now everyone can power their own device.”
The tweaks to the dressing, lifting and playing venues mark the culmination of Brown’s drive since arriving at Carolina last November to make the entire football operations facility more comfortable and productive. He didn’t like the quality of the grass playing surface from mid-October on during his first tenure at Carolina from 1988-97, so moving to a synthetic surface that is more player friendly and aesthetically pleasing than earlier versions was a priority. He has also upgraded the players’ lounge on the second floor of the Kenan Football Center and the dining hall culinary offerings.
“He told us that he was going to take care of us,” safety Myles Dorn said. “The day after he asked for what we could change. A month later, we saw it. He’s a man of his word.”
Brown, adds offensive tackle Charlie Heck, is a coach “who gets things done.”
Monday’s team meeting, tour of the new facilities and catered dinner afterward marked the first time Brown, his staff and team had gathered since the beginning of summer school. The coaches returned to work this week after vacation and the players will get one week off from summer school beginning Thursday. They will return to Chapel Hill next Thursday and check into the Hyatt Place, their headquarters during training camp. The first practice is set for 9:20 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 2, leading to the season-opener against South Carolina in Charlotte the last day of the month.
“The players need to know they’re important, they need to know that there’s change coming and especially since the past two years haven’t been what they’ve wanted,” Brown says. “Number one, it tells them that we’re going to do what we told them we’re going to do and number two, it shows the importance from the administration.”
Within four months of the Tar Heels moving into their new digs in 1997, Brown had accepted the Texas head coaching job. Now he returns and stands on the cusp of things getting serious—after the honeymoon and recruiting and staff hiring and all the rest of the minutiae incumbent with establishing a new regime. At the ACC Kickoff last week in Charlotte, Brown spoke of touring college programs for five years as an ESPN analyst and noting how few coaches “were having fun.”
He made a similar point to his players Monday night.
“You can’t have fun unless you do things right and you can’t have fun unless you win,” he said. “If you do things right, you win. We’re talented enough.”
He complimented them for making good decisions all summer and no one getting into trouble. He told them to tighten the screws on maintaining the lounge. He told them the coaching staff, head man included, would be staying with the players in the hotel for the duration of camp—”Camp is all about bonding,” he said. He told them of outstanding ticket sales, that most home games in Kenan Stadium were already sell-outs or close to it.
“It’s unbelievable that you guys have stirred up that kind of excitement,” Brown said. “What that means is if you want them to keep coming, you’d better play your tails off. We’ll get them there. You’ve got to keep them there.”
The war cry in 1997 was “Bad to the Bone.” Now it’s “Be the One”—as in, be the one who wants the ball on fourth-and-one and converts the play, who makes the tackle on third-and-short, who leads by example of making the right decisions.
“We’ve given you everything we can legally give you,” Brown said. “Now, you’ve got to give us everything you’ve got and then you trust us to put you in the right places to be successful. That’s the way this thing works.”
Simple then, simple now.
About Scott Livengood
Scott Livengood is the owner and CEO of Dewey’s Bakery, Inc., a commercial wholesale bakery with a respected national brand of ultra premium cookies and crackers.
Previously, Scott worked at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for 27 years, starting as a trainee in 1977. He was appointed President of the company in 1992, then CEO and Chairman of the Board.
Scott has served on numerous boards including the Carter Center, the Calloway School of Business and the Babcock School of Management, Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County, and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.
He started a new business, StoryWork International, in 2016 with Richard Stone. The signature achievement to date is LivingStories, a story-based program for improved patient experiences and outcomes in partnership with Novant Health.