Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bilas To Receive Police Protection In Chapel Hill

This Saturday, ESPN’s College GameDay crew will be in Chapel Hill for the North Carolina – Georgia Tech matchup. Hordes of Carolina blue-clad fans will be seen behind Rece Davis and company during their analyses. Some other men in blue will also be on hand in the Dean Smith Center. Analyst Jay Bilas will receive police protection during his visit to Chapel Hill.

As documented in a GameDay commercial, Bilas was the target of constant harassment during his last trip to UNC. A cafeteria worker flatly refused to serve him chocolate pudding. The employee, a huge Pink Floyd fan, later remarked, “If you played for Coach K, you can’t have any pudding!!! How can you have any pudding if you played for Coach K???” The former Duke hoopster was also abused while trying to eat his meal, being hit by backpacks and having his chair rammed repeatedly. Reportedly, each time a UNC student made contact with Bilas, Shane Battier instinctively flopped to the ground in Houston.

Those were just the attacks that were captured on camera. Bilas suffered numerous other indignities around Chapel Hill. While he tried to enjoy a beer at He’s Not Here, customers around Bilas dumped blue cups of Natural Light on his head. On campus, one man repeatedly screamed at him that he was going to hell. However, that was just the infamous Pit Preacher, who said the same thing to everyone.

Later Bilas was found tied up to UNC’s enduring symbol, the Old Well. A note was attached to him with the words “In Hubert We Trust.” He told authorities that he hadn’t been tortured like that since the last time he watched a Duke football game. Reached for comment, GameDay analyst and former Tar Heel guard Hubert Davis remarked with a grin, “I don’t know how that happened to Duke Boy.” Asked for his thoughts on the incidents, ESPN commentator Dick Vitale responded, “Duke Duke Duke Coach K Cameron Crazies, Baby!!!!!!” He gave the same response later when asked about the Iraq war.

Bilas joined former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps as a GameDay analyst to be targeted by overzealous fans. In February 2005, the crew was in Syracuse for a Big East showdown between the Orange and the Fighting Irish. Someone broke into Digger’s hotel room, stealing all his highlighters and replacing them with highlighters that did not match his ties. The culprit also covered the room with photos of Danny Ainge in a BYU uniform. The primary suspect wears glasses and has a receding hairline, and he has reportedly been seen roaming the sidelines at the Carrier Dome.

To make Saturday’s trip to Chapel Hill less eventful, ESPN decided that an extra police presence would be needed. The officers assigned to protect Bilas were carefully selected and are considered sympathetic to him in the hostile environment. Officer Redick is considered the top marksman on the force, although some claim that his shooting is wildly off-target in crucial situations. He will be accompanied by Officer Wojo, who responds to threatening situations by emphatically slapping the floor.

As for the game, the fourth-ranked Tar Heels enter the contest with the Yellow Jackets after a 77-55 rout over Clemson. The home loss was a major disappointment for the 16th-ranked Tigers. But at least Clemson, 0-52 lifetime at UNC, was spared a trip to Chapel Hill this season. Jay Bilas was not so lucky.