In terms of popularity of college sports, baseball is probably a pretty distant third. Football seems to have a lock on number one, while basketball is a steady number two. At North Carolina Tar Heels, that order is reversed, but baseball at number three still probably holds true.
Before football or basketball or any other sport, baseball was one of the first two teams in the athletic department at UNC. The school officially claims it’s first ever game as 34-17 a win over a Raleigh all-star team in 1867. (That final score reads more like a football score, which is funny because the final score of the first UNC football game was 6-4, which reads more like a baseball score.)
The school then did not have an official baseball team for the next 23 years. It was not until 1891 when they fielded another team. When the team finally returned Perrin Busbee was named coach.
Busbee, who had also been one of the leaders of a petition to bring football to UNC and eventually played for the team, wasn’t as much coach as he was captain. He was born in 1872, making him around 19 years old at the time of that first baseball season. Nevertheless, he is officially recognized as the first baseball coach at the university. He coached/captained the team for three seasons from 1891-93. The team went 9-6 in that time. However, Carolina baseball is not the only notable program in the state that he was the first coach of.
In 1892 (which as you may notice was during his tenure with the UNC baseball program), Busbee coached North Carolina A&M in their first ever football game. He led the team to a 12-6 win over Raleigh Academy. North Carolina A&M is today known as NC State.
Someone else took over for him after that game, but Busbee returned to coach State’s football team from 1896-97. In total across those two stints, he went 3-2 as coach. In his only meeting against his alma mater, UNC won 40-0.
It’s not entirely clear how or why Busbee coached two different sports and two different school at the same time. However, one could assume it was the same reason UNC brought in Hector Cowan as their first football coach. It was a completely new team and they just needed someone to guide them in playing the sport, so they brought in a player from somewhere else.
After his coaching career, Busbee stayed involved at his alma mater, becoming a member of the board of trustees. It is fairly amusing from a Carolina blue perspective that State’s first football coach is someone with heavy Tar Heel connections. State football would not exist if not for UNC, that’s canon now.
Battle, Kemp P. History of the University of North Carolina. Reprint Co., 1974.
Golden Jubilee Number: North Carolina University Magazine. The University Magazine, 1894.