At the end of one of his interviews during a day-long media blitz explaining his support for Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman responded to a question asking him to estimate his embattled basketball coach's approval rating.
Wellman sidestepped the question, instead telling WXII, "I know he has my approval."
That Wellman's stamp of approval is enough to supersede the discontentment of legions of Wake Forest fans is a source of great frustration for Bzdelik's many detractors. By keeping Bzdelik for a fourth season, Wellman is risking the future of the Demon Deacons program on his unwavering belief in a man who has done little to prove he is deserving of such faith.
In his first three seasons at Wake Forest, Bzdelik has a 34-60 overall record and an 11-42 record in ACC play. This past season was by far Bzdelik's most successful at Wake Forest, yet the Demon Deacons still lost to Iona, Nebraska and Richmond and in non-league play and went 6-12 in the ACC.
Three straight losing seasons at a program accustomed to success has fostered a caustic environment among the fans.
Some have shown their displeasure by canceling their season tickets or not showing up to games. Others made so many angry calls to Bzdelik's weekly radio show that the format had to be changed to taped messages instead of live conversations. The most passionate segment of fans launched a website devoted to getting Bzdelik fired and took out ads in the Wake Forest campus newspaper and in the Greensboro News & Record calling for Bzdelik's dismissal.
Why would Wellman opt to stick with Bzdelik rather than starting the healing process by cutting his coach loose and giving the program a fresh start? Either he doesn't want to admit he made a mistake, or he continues to see something in Bzdelik nobody else does.
When Wellman fired Dino Gaudio after Wake Forest lost in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament and plucked Bzdelik from Colorado as the replacement, the decision was unpopular from the start. Bzdelik was 36-58 in three seasons at Colorado and he had never finished higher than eighth in the Big 12, not exactly the usual credentials for a new coach at an ACC school.
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 Gaudio holdovers and rebuild the character of the program. As a result, Wellman excuses the results of Bzdelik's first two seasons and points to home wins against Miami and NC State as signs of progress this season.
"Jeff has done everything we asked him to do when he first came here," Wellman told WXII. "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 Wake Forest's sake, better days need to come soon because it doesn't look like the end of the Bzdelik era is upon us.
Right now, much of the fan base is upset. If losing under Bzdelik continues much longer, that anger may turn to apathy.