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Tar Heel Firsts: UNC football’s first 10-win season

Before we hopefully get some more in the coming years, let’s go back in time to look at the first time a Tar Heel football team reached double digit wins.

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Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It might not even be possible depending on what happens with the schedule, but the main intriguing story surrounding UNC football was whether they could take a step forward to 10 wins.

A 10-win season in general is the mark of an elite season in college football. If you’re in a power conference, there’s a good chance you end up in the top 15 at the very least. It’s an especially big mark for UNC, who only have eight 10+ win seasons in school history. Mack Brown is responsible for three of them, and his second tenure has pretty much every Tar Heel fan optimistic that he’ll add to that in the coming years.

To find the first ever 10-win season from a UNC team, you have to go back for there was even the Southern Conference, never mind the ACC.

Having coached the team for one season in 1895, Thomas “Doggie” Trenchard return to Chapel Hill to coach the UNC football team in 1913. In his initial stint with the team, the former Princeton start led Carolina to a 7-1-1 record with just 17 points allowed all season in 1895.

In the years after he left, UNC finished above .500 more often than not, but they had slipped to 3-4-1 in 1912. In Trenchard’s first season back, he guided Carolina to a 5-4 record in 1913.

This upturn had people around the school excited. A Daily Tar Heel edition from before the 1914 season said this about the team during their training camp:

Led by Head Coach “Doggie” Trenchard and coaches Cunningham and Bluethenthal a squad of more than sixty men have answered the call for fall practice. And have you noticed the appearance of the squad this year? The fellows have a knowledge of the game. They look like veterans.

How delightfully 1914.

Trenchard’s team lived up to the hype, winning their first four games over Richmond, Virginia Medical, Wake Forest, and South Carolina by a combined score of 207-0. The “closest” of those games was a 41-0 win over Richmond.

Their first blemish came when Georgia scored six points on them in the fifth game. UNC still won that won 41-6 and got back to crushing teams with a 40-0 over Riverside after that.

Next up was a Vanderbilt team that would finish the season 2-6. Yet, they gave UNC an incredibly close call. Carolina snuck out with just a one-point victory on the road, winning 10-9.

Some easier wins came after that as they beat Davidson and VMI by at least two scores each. A fairly close call against Wake Forest and set up a meeting with 7-1 Virginia.

There wasn’t even an AP Poll back in 1914 and scheduling was very regional, so there wasn’t exactly a good way to crown a national champion. However, with an 11-0 record, UNC very possible would’ve come under consideration for the 1914 crown. Unfortunately, we’ll never know. Carolina lost 20-7 to Virginia. Even still a 10-1 record is pretty good.

Trenchard wasn’t really able to build upon the success of 1914, as he coached just one more season in Chapel Hill. The ‘14 squad’s 10-1 record would be the best in school history until Bill Dooley led the Tar Heels to an 11-1 record in 1972, which was also the second time they had reached double digit wins.

Hopefully, we’ll have some more additions to the UNC 10-win list in the coming years.


“University of North Carolina Football” by Adam Powell