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Wake Forest fans erect a billboard demanding the firing of their coach and athletic director

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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screen shot via WXII

They've taken out newspaper ads, donned T-shirts and launched websites to no avail, so now Wake Forest fans eager to see a change in leadership in their basketball program are upping the ante one step further.

They've raised $4,500 to erect a billboard calling for the firing of fourth-year coach Jeff Bzdelik and the athletic director who continues to stand behind him.

The billboard stands along U.S. Route 52 in Winston Salem, a monument to the anger and discontentment many Wake Forest fans feel after Ron Wellman gave Bzdelik a fourth season to turn around the program even though he's just 34-60 in his first three. The top line of the billboard features the hashtags #BuzzOut and #FireWellman and the message below that reads "Demand Accountability, Rewake the Nation."

Brian Stratton, a Wake Forest fan who has been vocal in his displeasure with Bzdelik, explained to WXII-TV that he believes the billboard is necessary because Wellman has alienated the fan base with his allegiance to the coach. Stratton elaborated further on Wednesday in a Facebook post to the Fire Jeff Bzdelik group, noting that fans have sent hundreds of emails, placed dozens of phone calls and tried every possible way to convey they want the embattled coach gone.

"To date, we haven't received a single reply from Wellman, the athletic department, or the administration," Stratton wrote. "This is very odd considering that 90 percent of the fan base wants Bzdelik gone. It's even more insulting given the fact that Wellman wants us to donate to the Deacon Club, renew season tickets, and help fund the cost of buying and renevating the Joel.

"All would have been forgiven had he done the right thing and fired Bzdelik at the end of the year, however, he boxed us into a corner and we had to take the next step. Ron Wellman has clearly brought this on himself and needs to be relieved of his duties."

Wellman certainly has nobody to blame but himself for the negative PR because it was clear this sort of thing was coming if Bzdelik returned.

Bzdelik was an unpopular hire in 2010 when Wellman plucked him from Colorado after he went 36-58 in three seasons in Boulder and never finished higher than eighth in the Big 12. The complaints have only grown louder during his Wake Forest tenure thanks to an 11-42 record in ACC play and a flurry of losses to small-conference foes in the non-league portion of the schedule.

Wellman's defense of Bzdelik's lack of success at Wake Forest is that the coach's primary responsibility his first two seasons was to cut loose some holdovers from the previous regime and rebuild the character of the program. Six ACC wins including a victory over league champion Miami this past season also give Wellman some incremental progress to help keep the detractors at bay.

"Jeff has done everything we asked him to do when he first came here," Wellman told WXII in late March. "He has made every decision for the longterm benefit and wellbeing of our program. He has recruited well. We've got a group of freshmen who have much promise for the future."

For the sake of Wellman, Bzdelik and the Wake Forest program, that promising future better arrive sooner than later. Otherwise expect the billboards, T-shirts and newspaper ads to pop up more frequently and the cries of protest to only get louder.

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