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UNC Football: A brief history of the Tar Heels’ Stormtrooper uniforms

A dark span for a bright uniform.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There was a great disturbance in the Tar Heel Blog slack earlier yesterday, as if around a dozen sports bloggers had cried out in terror. Just after noon, the UNC Football account on X (formerly Twitter) posted the below tweet:

Immediate responses were grim. One writer simply swore, while another wondered whether we were actually 0-1122 in these uniforms or if it just felt like it before changing gears and wondering why the Tar Heels would name a uniform combination after an “expendable army that can’t shoot straight?” There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the perceived bad juju that accompanies these all-white clothes, and honestly, I’m inclined to agree. I’m a sucker for that perfect shade of blue, and anytime it isn’t featured feels like a missed opportunity.

Are these uniforms truly bad luck, though, or just a preference shared among myself and my more vocal colleagues? Is it too easy to make jokes about the poor accuracy and faceless nature of those clone troopers in a galaxy far, far away? Is it just that the Tar Heels are aligning themselves with the Empire, the clearly-evil counterpart to the Jedi? Are they actually accursed?

Using my background in science (nonexistent) and my research skills from college (sadly, also pretty much nonexistent) I combed through the data—posts with images on the UNC Equipment X (formerly Twitter) account. The UNC Football verified account, unfortunately, posts images and videos too frequently to be feasibly reviewed within the time constraints I’ve placed upon myself for this post, so I did the scholarly thing and ignored it altogether.

Near as I can tell, since just before the beginning of recorded history (the first image posted by the UNC Equipment account linked above, on June 15th, 2013), Carolina has worn all white on 11 occasions, with tomorrow making an even dozen. Is it possible that an outing or two has slipped through the cracks? Imminently. Is it likely that there are enough missing data points to change my interpretation of this data? Likely not; I’m very stubborn.

On October 6th, 2012, Carolina wore all white in a game against Virginia Tech. Bry Renner propelled the Heels to a 48-34 victory in what was surely the first-ever outing in white helmets, white jerseys, and white pants. Stormtrooper record: 1-0

On September 28th, 2013, Ruffin McNeill and the Pirates of East Carolina University delivered an unholy ass-whooping to the Tar Heels, dropping 55 points to Carolina’s 31 on Military Appreciation Day. It should be noted here, though, that Carolina’s helmets that day did feature a one-off stars-and-stripes decal, in open defiance of the flag code, and perhaps giving the more nitpicky uniform juju researcher a reason to exclude this result. I am neither nitpicky or a reseacher, though. Stormtrooper record: 1-1

On October 11th, 2014, the white-clad team from Chapel Hill fell to an undefeated and sixth-ranked Notre Dame team in South Bend. Not too much to say about this one, except that the Heels were surprisingly close in retrospect, falling 43-50 to bring their record to 2-4 to that point in the season. Stormtrooper record: 1-2

2015 saw a marked uptick in Stormtrooper activity, with Carolina donning the snow camouflage on three separate occasions. On September 26th, a 41-14 win over Delaware saw Mitchell Trubisky coming off the bench to put a needed mark in the win column for the all-white uniforms. On November 21st, the Tar Heels spoiled Frank Beamer’s last game at Virginia Tech in overtime, taking the win 30-27 and giving the stormtrooper uniforms a short-lived winning record. In the Russell Athletic Bowl on December 29th, the clapping-on-the-1-and-3 Heels lost to Baylor 49-38. Stormtrooper record: 3-3

On October 15th, 2016, Carolina upset a #16 ranked Miami squad to give the all-white uniforms a surprising second stint with a winning record, taking home a 20-13 victory over the Hurricanes. Stormtrooper record: 4-3

On October 21st, 2017, the Hokies of Virginia Tech got revenge for their beloved former head coach, stuffing the all-white-clad Tar Heels in a locker with a final score of 59-7. My notes for this game simply say “oof.” Stormtrooper record: 4-4

2018 saw back-to-back Stormtrooper missions. On October 13th, the Tar Heels played Virginia Tech (for the fourth time in these uniforms) and lost 22-19, sending the all-white uniforms back below .500 for the final time. A week later, on October 20th, a 40-37 overtime loss at home to Syracuse began the TIE fighter tailspin in earnest. Stormtrooper record: 4-6

2019 also saw two Stormtrooper outings. On September 13th, in a nonconference game against Wake Forest, the snowy uniforms once more let Carolina down, 24-18. On October 19th, Carolina lost a marathon 6OT game against (who else) Virginia Tech, 43-41. Uh-oh. Stormtrooper record: 4-8

On September 25th, 2021, the #21 Tar Heels saw their pretty white jerseys perfectly highlight a 45-22 drubbing at the hands of a formerly listless Georgia Tech team. Stormtrooper record: 4-9

These jerseys aren’t even bowl-eligible with an extra game played, y’all. Now, do these results take into account that the majority of these games took place in hostile territory? They do not. Is there any reason to suspect whatsoever that uniform color has any impact on the outcome of a game? There is not. Are we doing purely vibes-based science here? Yes, yes we are.

These Tar Heels will take the field tomorrow at Pitt, once more wearing the chalky uniforms that are so widely feared amongst Tar Heel bloggers. We can only hope that the result is equally chalky, as Carolina once more travels to a team that has given them fits in the recent past with a top-20 ranking on the line. Odds makers and talking heads nationwide have their sights set on the Tar Heels to win.

I just hope their aim is true.

Big thanks to Tar Heel Uniforms on X for an easily reviewable database of uniform combinations that I only discovered after compiling my list, much to my chagrin.