On January 6, 1985, the North Carolina Tar Heels defeated Jim Valvano’s NC State Wolfpack in the final regular season game held at Carmichael Arena. Besides being another great battle in the days of the eight-team ACC, the game is also memorable for Valvano taking the basketball after the final horn and running down the court for a layup. The reason? He wanted to be the final one to score in Carmichael.
The Tar Heels would move to South Campus later and open up the glistening new Dean Smith Student Activities Center, and do so with a win against Duke. As fondly as people remember Carmichael, the Heels have playing in the Smith Center longer than they played in Carmichael, as the ‘19-’20 season will be 35 years for the Dean Dome versus 21 for Carmichael. Despite this, there has long been a cry from fans for the team to play a game in their old home. Jake even wrote last year about his idea for an exhibition game there.
It took a good series of events to get the team to play their only game in the Arena since ‘85, when they made the NIT in 2010. Because that game wasn’t scheduled, the staff had the flexibility to move the game to Carmichael and recreate the electric atmosphere that an older generation of fans knew well. There had been a hope of getting a regular season game there, but mostly due to the commitments that UNC had to make in order to get donors to build the Smith Center, it seemed like it was never going to happen.
That is, until word came out Thursday that the team will return to Carmichael December 15th against Wofford. How did this magic happen?
It was a perfect confluence of events. While Carolina isn’t playing a lot of games in December, their schedule is tight with exams, the trip out west to Gonzaga, the holiday break, and the new 20-game ACC schedule. That leaves a limited number of days the Heels and the Terriers can play, and then when December 15th was agreed on, there’s a little matter of Winter Commencement. That event has to be in the Smith Center as it’s the only place on campus to be able to hold the crowd, and the logistics needed to host that event keep it out of play for pretty much the whole weekend.
Add all that up, and you have your game in Carmichael. Per UNC, ticket info will be released in October for the game in the 6300-seat arena. It won’t be included in season tickets, and so it’s unknown how many students will get, where Rams Club members will be allocated, and how many will be available to the general public. Chances are, though, whatever tickets do go on sale will disappear quickly for an event that may not be replicated again.
Either way, a game that normally would have trouble eliciting excitement has now probably become the second most anticipated home game of the upcoming season.