Dressed casually in jeans and sweatshirts, the members of the press lug in tripods, microphones and laptop computers.
Ten minutes of settling in passes, and about 30 reporters are seated in the blue felt chairs of the John D. Swofford Auditorium. One woman sits off to the side of one row with her head in her hands, presenting a stark contrast to the middle-aged males who buzz with activity as they await Bunting's arrival.
Papers are shuffled, notes are written furiously, and reporters chat excitedly about the recent wins over Florida State and N.C. State.
But only moments later the sound quickly shifts to respectful anticipation when barrel-chested Bunting charges into the room. Wearing his standard issue Carolina blue UNC polo shirt, he walks immediately to the table and sits down. The walnut-sized Super Bowl ring on his right ring finger is a visual reminder of his storied history.
The reporters converge on the table, where the coach sits, and deposit a dozen or so tape recorders in front of him. It is obvious from the stern determination on Bunting's face that it's time for business. The moderator announces the time for the next game, and like the herald of a king, he informs the press that Bunting is now ready to speak.
Bunting gives a brief account of the win over N.C. State. He says he is pleased about the win, but his intense expression never changes. He then gives his expectations for the ECU game.
"(UNC's team) ... will ... be ... challenged."
Questions begin, and Bunting fields them warily rubbing the top of his bald head. The reporters begin their questions all at once and generally defer to the most assertive voice.
Bunting breaks from his stoic pose, occasionally to emphasize a point by jamming a red pen into the palm of his hand. At one point when a reporter mentions that the UNC team has had "no serious injuries," the coach knocks his ring on the table for good luck.
Bunting leaves abruptly, and minutes later the reporters are ready for more.
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"When is the Doherty press conference?" someone asks as they file out.
Ticket distribution for the ECU football game has attracted a large number of die-hard football fans. It's been growing since the early morning. The line is so long that students have had to wait for as long as 3 1/2 hours for tickets.
Some students resent the fact they have to wait in line. They say they would much rather show up on game day and get their seats on a first-come, first-serve basis.
"People are busy with classes," says junior Chris Butler. "It's a disadvantage to them."
Other students feel that while standing in line might be a hassle, it at least guarantees them a seat for the game.
"I would rather wait in line for a ticket," Ryan Adams says. "You don't have to wait at Kenan Stadium to get in. It's more constructive here."
Eager reporters file into the stadium once more, this time with hopes of interviewing Bunting. Herald Sun Amato is among them, but without his cell phone this time.
Upon seeing the new goalpost, the reporters proceed to joke about the stick holding it up.
But Amato notices more than just the goalpost and debates with the reporters about whether the field lettering has been altered. "It's a different color from the other side," he protests.
When Bunting finally arrives, the writers huddle around him to ask questions about how practices have been going. Amato asks what Bunting thinks fan attendance will be like for North Carolina's face-off against ECU.
When they're done asking questions, Amato heads straight over to the Chapel Hill Herald offices.
He has to meet a deadline.
Dance Team Practice
The 15 members of the UNC Dance Team filter slowly out into the vastness of Fetzer Gym's gymnastics room.
Oblivious to the clamor of the nearby cheerleading practice, the dancers begin their warm-up exercises. But all of tonight's preparations, from leg and hip stretches to tying shoes, are done with a tense, methodical precision.
The dancers finish their stretches and pre-practice critique of last week's performance. They then block up on the floor of the massive room to work though their pregame routines.
Beaming at invisible fans, the team runs the gamut of fight songs as a unit, with the captains stopping them to work over problems: a missed kick, an imprecise arm motion, a fast turn.
Individual team members run through routines in slow motion, their arms and legs' smooth movements strangely resembling some martial art.
With Jacque Lewis
Freshman tailback Jacque Lewis is waiting, with more than a hint of impatience on his face. Leaning against the right side of the tunnel in Kenan Stadium, Lewis scowls until he spies offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill, who has climbed down from the top of the stadium, because the outside doors are locked.
"Coach Tranq, Coach Tranq, I want to interview you." Lewis says as Tranquill passes him. Tranquill stops and turns.
"You want me to interview you?" Tranquill asks, standing 10 feet from Lewis and clearly perplexed by Lewis' demand.
"No, come here," Lewis says. "I want to interview you."
Tranquill looks at Lewis, turns and walks into the tunnel.
The junior varsity and varsity cheerleaders gather in Fetzer Gym C to prepare for Saturday's football game.
The pep that cheerleaders display at home football games contrasts sharply with the tense atmosphere of practice.
With only one practice left before the game, the squad is eager to impress the home crowd.
After flying through the air, a female cheerleader is barely caught by her stunt partner.
"Are you comfortable with her?" says Don Collins, UNC cheerleading coach. "You better not drop her because you know you will die if you do. I've invested too much time in her."
Because they are lacking two men for the upcoming game, the varsity cheerleaders must change partners to clean up their stunts.
Twenty minutes later, the cheerleaders are drenched in sweat, and the coach calls for a water break.
Instead of gulping down water, the men and women drop to the floor to work on their abdominal muscles.
But soon it's back to work. The head coach walks across the blue, padded floor to prepare the junior varsity squad for its first game.
Assistant Coach Brown Walters takes charge of the varsity squad, and the atmosphere becomes a little lighter.
Some females are launched into the air, as others do back flips next to the group stunt. After flipping to the ground, the female cheerleaders adjust their shorts.
The team walks through the stunts, sweaty and out of breath.
Concluding practice, the cheerleaders gather around Walters at 8:46 p.m. to talk about their upcoming game. "Cleanliness is the key. Very clean, very sharp," Walters says.
Senior captain Mandee Sink says more cheerleaders will have an opportunity to cheer because the game is being played at UNC.
As most of the team members chat and pack their bags to leave, a persistent few continue to perfect their stunts.
Dance Team Practice
Things get a lot more serious with the arrival of the Dance Team coach Don Collins.
He quickly places the team into two game formations, shuffling dancers around at random. Fetzer's mammoth gymnastics room seems to grow larger.
Now the dancers must be on their toes. Here, the ability to adjust one's performance to on-the-spot changes in formation is tested.
Each member of the team knows that any deviation from the routine could result in spending Saturday in the stands rather than in front of them.
The coach surveys the blocks of dancers inscrutably. With a quick motion of his hand and a simple "out," three performers are sent to the side.
One of the dancers steps out of the block, smiling ruefully. "I can't dance Saturday," she explains. "I'm taking the LSAT."
The remaining 11 dancers swirl into frenzied motion, smiles replaced with everything from poker faces to expressions of feral concentration. Beads of sweat glue stray hairs to foreheads as the team whirls and kicks as one. The dance ends with each girl frozen at attention, and they smile up at imaginary bleachers and fans.
The coach looks over the lines of dancers, and simply says, "Again."
With practice over, 15 exhausted girls circle up and run through a series of cool-down exercises. Following the traditional closing prayer and some advice to new dancers regarding game-day lipstick and hairstyles, the team slowly files out of the massive room, leaving it in silence.
Go to Thursday...