What do legendary basketball player Michael Jordan, current Colorado Rockies starting catcher Chris Iannetta, the National Football League’s Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor, one of golf’s greats, Davis Love III and soccer phenom Mia Hamm have in common? They are all alumni of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a school known for academic and athletic excellence. These are a group of real life people that have been featured on real life TV!
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of three schools that hold claim to being the oldest public university in the United States, the other two being The University of Georgia and The College of William and Mary. UNC started enrolling students in 1795, and was the first to enroll and graduate students. In 2015, UNC was named one of the top five public universities in the country by U.S. News and World Report.
Known for their powder blue uniforms and impressive athletics, The University of North Carolina is home to the Tar Heels, an unusual mascot. The Tar Heels are a Division 1 school, offering a variety of both men’s and women’s sports. Soccer, cross country, volleyball, rowing, fencing, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, swimming, diving, wrestling, tennis and track and field are some of the sports offered for student athletes. UNC also offers the “big three’: basketball, baseball and football teams. Due to their commitment to their sports program the North Carolina school has also dedicated ample funds to medical research for sports medicine. Players injured during games are attended to by local physicians and on call medical staff. All these sports programs understand the value of a healthy athlete, therefore using a North Carolina back pain specialist after games to correct and realign the spine has become a normal part of high school sports in North Carolina. Sports medicine has become a focal point for the Tar Heels in recent years.
Dean Smith, the basketball coach when Michael Jordan was a player, coined the phrase, “The Carolina Way”, a challenge to the players to “play hard, play smart, play together”. While Smith was interested in winning, he was also invested in the players’ education, a truly winning combination. To this day, when people think about the University of Carolina sports teams, basketball is what springs to mind first.
Since their inception, the UNC Tar Heels basketball team, has won seven men’s college basketball championships, most recently in 2017. They also have the second highest all-time winning percentage and are in an elite club with Duke, Kansas and Kentucky as Division 1 basketball programs with 2000 wins. In addition to numerous records, like the most consecutive 20 win seasons, they also made the number one spot on ESPN’s 2012 50 most successful athletic programs of the last 50 years; quite an achievement considering all the colleges with stellar programs and talented players. The basketball program is also known for its intense rivalry with the Duke University Blue Devils, a college situated just a few miles from the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill. Tobacco Road, the nickname for the rivalry among the North Carolina schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference, is legendary. Consisting of the Tar Heels of UNC, and the Blue Devils of Duke, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the NC State Wolfpack, each school has one at least two NCAA Division 1 titles.
Not to be outdone, the UNC baseball team has also made their mark. The team, often just referred to as Carolina, made it to the College World Series four consecutive years in a row and came in second twice. In all, they have made it to the College World Series a total of ten times and they were last conference champs in 2013. Baseball fans watch the team at Boshamer Stadium, the Tar Heels home turf, which underwent a complete renovation in 2007. The updated facility seats up to 5000 baseball fans.
It comes as no surprise that Tar Heel football is very popular in North Carolina. A member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), UNC is the oldest public university and has the oldest collegiate team in both North and South Carolina. They have been successful, too: they won three Southern Conference championships along with five ACC titles. Since their inception, North Carolina’s played in over 30 bowl games.
Other smaller programs have tasted success, as well. The golf team at Carolina has notched some pretty impressive numbers over the years. They have won over 80 collegiate championships since the 1920’s, and in dual-match play, they have posted winnings at least 75 percent of the time. The Tar Heels golf team has produced some professional golfers, including Davis Love III, Tom Scherrer, Mark Wilson and Pat Moore. The Finley Golf Course is home for the Tar Heels, an 18-hole, par 72 public course.
The women have certainly brought some athletic prowess to the UNC campus, as well. The Carolina Field Hockey team, who play at the Francis E. Henry stadium to a 1000 spectators, have racked up six NCAA championships. In the ACC, they are close to 20 championship wins. Several former UNC Field Hockey players, including Leslie Lyness, Cindy Werley, and Laurel Hersey even represented the United States in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia
While it might be Tar Heel basketball that gets the majority of the press, the women’s soccer team has quite the impressive numbers. They have won 20 out of 27 ACC titles and 22 of 36 NCAA championships, all with the same coach. Anson Dorrance, an inductee to the National Soccer Hall of Fame, has been the women’s soccer coach since their inception in 1979.
The men’s soccer team has taken their team to championship level, as well. In both 2001 and 2011, the UNC men’s soccer team won the NCAA Division 1 title. In 2011, they were led by team captain Kirk Urso, who would die at the age of 22 from a congenital heart defect the following year.
Carolina even has titles in both men’s and women’s lacrosse, with both teams clinching the NCAA championship title in 2016. The men’s lacrosse team pulled out an overtime win against the number one seeded Maryland to win the 2016 title—and they weren’t even seeded in the rankings!
The UNC Wrestling team has won a total of 17 Atlantic Coast Conference titles, with many of its athletes named as All-Americans. They also captured three NCAA wrestling championship titles, and several UNC wrestling graduates have gone on to successful college wrestling coaching careers.
Overall, UNC is known as an athletic powerhouse. Their dominance is several sports coupled with their winning seasons, their championships and the number of students who became sports professionals solidifies their place as a collegiate athletic leader. From basketball to soccer, you will be hearing more from the Carolina Tar Heels in coming years.