- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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In December I wrote about the plight of the Wake Forest fan, first when the athletics department's radio partner decided to stop allowing callers into coach Jeff Bzdelik's radio show (because, as athletic director Ron Wellman put it to the Winston-Salem Journal at the time, "callers tend to get on and, rather than asking a question, they preach") and then, a day later, after I received an almost frightening outpouring of thanks from Wake fans via email and Twitter.
It was clear even then the public relations situation was dire. Bzdelik's first month of his third season had left Wake fans pining once more for the days of Dino Gaudio, who went to three straight NCAA tournaments before Wellman tabbed his friend Bzdelik, whose record at his previous job, Colorado, was a whopping 36-58.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time, but it's now official: The Web campaign to Fire Jeff Bzdelik has begun.
It's an old Internet tradition, and at various points in its history has stretched into the completely ridiculous. (Google "Fire Bill Self" if you don't believe me.) But rarely does a "Fire X Coach" website have such a well-coordinated campaign in place. Not only is there a long-standing hash tag ("BuzzOut"), but a copious list of unflattering statistics, including his 2-44 road mark against the Big 12 and ACC, a 2-20 record in February and March at Wake, and the number of consecutive wins Bzdelik would need to match Gaudio's winning percentage (the answer is 67, which, yikes).
There are two pieces of good news for Bzdelik. The first is that his team is actually playing better since the start of the New Year. In January, the Demon Deacons beat Virginia and upset NC State at home, and nearly took down the limping Blue Devils 75-70 on Jan. 30. Recent blowout road losses to Maryland (86-60) and North Carolina (87-62) might be a hint that things are trending back in the wrong direction, but in general we can probably settle on the fact that Wake is a south-of-mediocre team that might upset a few folks at home but will almost always get shredded on the road.
The other good news for Bzdelik is that he isn't alone in the Wake fans' crosshairs. Just as much — if not more — of their ire is reserved for Wellman, who has routinely dismissed fans' outreach, asserted that Wake Forest (and the ACC in general) "doesn't draw well" in December, and basically done his level best to alienate a small but die-hard fan base which he seems to think just collectively doesn't get it. Had his hire been a normal one — wherein an unsuccessful coach is replaced with a more promising option — perhaps that attitude would be understandable. Antipathy for Bzdelik would be high, but hardly near the levels we see now. But given the massive risk Wellman took in firing Gaudio and replacing him with Bzdelik, there's no question his performance should be among consideration, too.
That's never a fun thing to write; there is nothing I hate more than people who treat the livelihoods of others as fodder for a hot sports "take." But in the case of Wake, it's hard to argue anything else.