Supporting such a successful athletics program has many perks. As a Carolina alumnus, I’ve been treated to four national championships in basketball in my lifetime, amazing moments in football and baseball, and countless national titles in Olympic sports. Being a Carolina fan, simply put, really does not suck.
Four basketball titles and zero football conference championships into my life, there have certainly been disappointments to make the success all the more sweet. As this is not an exhaustive list by any means, please let me know who the most glaring omissions are in the comments.
Marquette: Member since 1977.
I know people talk about Al McGuire’s 1977 Eagles as one of the great Cinderella stories of all time, but that’s bogus. Dean Smith’s first championship run was derailed by injuries to his three best players.
Tommy LaGarde played only 20 games averaging 15/9 before a knee injury sidelined him for the season. Walter Davis broke two fingers in the ACC Tournament. Oh, and for good measure, Phil Ford hyperextended his elbow in the national semifinals. The Heels still came within eight points of winning a title.
My father being among them, many say this was the best Carolina basketball team ever to grace Chapel Hill. Eat it, Al McGuire.
Indiana: Member since 1981, first ballot since 1984.
Isiah Thomas and Bob Knight beat the Heels in the national title game in ‘81, again delaying Dean’s first title. Michael Jeffrey Jordan helped stop that bleeding the next year.
But...1984. Fourth-seeded Indiana beat the Heels in the Regional Semis to end Jordan’s career. The most stacked team in UNC history boasted Sam Perkins and Brad Daugherty in addition to Jordan, Matt Doherty, and Kenny Smith*
*LSU: member since 1984.
The Heels were 16-0 when Smith was more or less tackled on a breakaway against the Tigers. The end of his season didn’t stop the Heels from starting 21-0, but it did eventually derail the last good chance at a Carolina team going undefeated.
Arizona: Member since 1997.
Miles Freakin’ Simon, man. Little did we know it would be Dean Smith’s last game. Which leads us to...
Utah: Member since 1998.
This was kinda Bill Guthridge’s fault. The alphabetical starting lineup put Shammond Williams, who was awful off the bench, on the bench to start Carolina’s Final Four game against the Utes.
To this day, 10-year-old me apologizes to my mother for causing a scene watching the 65-59 slog that would represent Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter’s last games in argyle.
Oregon State and Fresno State, both inducted in 2008.
I don’t care to delve into details, but... I have finally forgotten the name of the ‘defensive replacement’ at second base who made the 8th inning error to cost the baseball team its first College World Series title in 2006 (see, no details).
Oregon State/Carolina was fun the first time, all told, and sad the next year with the Beavers winning 9-4 and 11-3 in the championship series.
The next year, Carolina was poised for another run. Top seed Miami was eliminated early, giving the Heels a clear path. The Heels won their first round matchup with LSU, lost to 4th seed Fresno State, beat LSU again, beat Fresno State...and lost to Fresno State. Adding salt to the wound personally, they beat my other alma mater, Georgia, in the final series.
The Heels have not made it that far in the baseball tournament since.
Kansas: Member since 2008.
Given Roy Williams’ exploits in Chapel Hill, I’ll give him a pass for beating us in ‘91 and saving us from the dark, dark place that would be a Carolina/Duke national championship game.
But...I was a college sophomore in 2008 attending my first Final Four. I saw the greatest assemblage of NBA talent on a college court now or since in the forms of Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and more.
And I witnessed hell.
Kansas fans are really obnoxious. The “rock chalk Jayhawk” chant is cult-like. 20,000 Midwesterners singing “Come on Eileen” with the band during a TV timeout was...odd (but kinda cool). And 40-12 was NOT what a flight to San Antonio (with a flight out the next day to celebrate on Franklin when we cut down the nets) promised.
2012 cemented Kansas as a first-ballot hit-lister. 2013 was just cruel. Rest assured, next time Kansas has a vastly superior team to Carolina, the Heels will be playing a tournament road game again.
Virginia Tech: Member since 2010.
Snitches get stitches, and Frank Beamer was too skeert of UNC football during his decline to let us have nice things. Look it up.
(Also, I intended to keep this list out of the ACC because they’re all on our list, but the Hokies don’t quite count to me, and this #NCtoVA thing really grinds my gears.)
If you’re unintiated, Virginia Tech is underwhelmed with the talent in Virginia for the 2018 recruiting class, so they’re ‘raiding’ North Carolina.
They have three commits from the state, only one of whom is ranked above any UNC pledges.
Creighton: Member since 2012.
Ethan. ****ing. Wragge. I can still see that little smirk on his face. I wish nothing but bad things for all McDermotts and ‘Jays’ until the end of time.
(We still kinda almost made a Final Four with National Champion Stillman White taking over point guard duties.)
Maryland: Member since 2013.
Way to go, you feckless idiots.
Their football team made my list with an inexplicable upset of my Heels in 2009, but not until they left the ACC and Randy Edsall (of all people) had parting shots about the ACC’s football:
ACC Refs: Member since 2015.
Davidson: Member since 2017.
This actually inspired this post, given good banter on the THB Slack channel.
Look, I’m already mad that the Wildcats have “more prominent alumnus in NBA” on us. But for them to come into the Bosh, beat up on new Houston Astro J.B. Bukauskus, hang around, and beat us again two days later...ugh.
I’m sure there are other reasons to have Davidson on this list, but they can be the newest member as they played in the most recent Carolina sporting event.
Listen, I know we’ve had some good times as Carolina fans. I know, as a casual observer, that I’m missing some last-minute soccer and lacrosse misses. Just remember, the heartbreak makes the glory all the better. We could be N.C. State fans looking for an ACC championship in, well, anything since this list had more than three members.