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UNC introduces free streaming as the best gift for Carolina fans around the world

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With the announcement of a redesigned website, the UNC Athletic Department buries the lede.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday morning brought the first of July, which is big for a lot of reasons: NBA and NHL free agency chief among them. Between July 1 falling on a Saturday and those other big things going on, you’d be excused if you missed this announcement from the folks at the UNC Athletic Department:

This news itself really isn’t THAT big of a deal. Plenty of places are playing catch up with their website design, keeping in mind that a lot of folks are seeing these things from their phones instead of their laptops. As you’d expect, there’s a lot of argyle, further cementing the iconic pattern as a part of the university. The pattern is even used in the scrolling news feed, and pops up when you highlight a section at the top of the page. Overall it’s a crisp design and feels a lot more unique to UNC than a generic collegiate website.

I’ll be honest, I saw the tweet on my timeline and kept scrolling along. Mostly because I was looking for both what I missed overnight from NBA Free agency and trying to confirm the news of whether Justin Williams was, in fact, coming back to the Hurricanes (hey, I’m allowed to have other interests). I’m going to guess that pretty much all of you who follow @GoHeels didn’t check out that story, either, because it took until Sunday for this news to come across, broken by none other than the Voice of the Tar Heels:

Waaaaaaait a second...what?

Let me read that again-

So...NOW I clicked to that story to read because I still didn’t believe it. Sure enough, the first bullet point in the article:

- Free audio streaming of Tar Heel Sports Network game broadcasts for football, men's basketball, women's basketball and baseball, as well as free audio streaming of weekly coaches' radio shows with Larry Fedora, Roy Williams, Mike Fox and Sylvia Hatchell

Talk about burying the best news. For years, in order to get the...ahem...legal stream of athletic events, you had to buy a membership on the site for access. This led to folks trying to find back channels online to listen, going through the entire affiliate list and their corresponding websites to see if they would work or if UNC had caught them, or just relenting and dealing with whomever was calling the game for TV.

This sort of thing is a bigger deal at a place like UNC than it would be at other schools. UNC has a ton of alumni and fans living outside of the range of the THSN. I know I wasn’t alone in muting Billy Packer and Dick Vitale in favor of Woody and Mick, but since I moved away from North Carolina in 2003, I haven't been able to listen to a game on the radio. It was only then that I felt the pain that others had discovered in listening to a game called by most of the national crews.

There were issues with turning down the sound, of course. Due to satellite delays, the radio feed was typically ahead of the TV, creating an awkward situation where you knew what was happening before you saw it. It was so worth it; none sweeter than in 1993 when this happened:

And while I’m too young to remember 1982, I suspect folks who did see it won’t remember the CBS call, but will never forget this:

As we all know, Jones Angell has taken over for Woody and has his own share of calls. Sadly, I’ve never heard one of them live because of being outside of the THSN. So when this happened:

I had to wait for that call. I also had to suffer through ESPN U’s announcers during the Carolina-Pitt game instead of getting this:

And of course, since CBS didn’t do a homer’s broadcast, I had to hear Jim Nantz botch the title call instead of hearing that they were the National Dadgum Champions.

All of that is now available to fans as it happens. Thanks to sound bars and sound systems, DVR’s and so on, it’s possible to watch a game and mute the national broadcast, having it play out in real time. The only real question is when it becomes tournament time, if they’ll be allowed as the NCAA is known to make fans only listen to Westwood One’s coverage.

This is also a brilliant play for Carolina in a couple of ways: it addresses cord cutters who are unable to see every game due to some channels not being available online. It also allows UNC to get some additional revenue from sponsors in their streaming rights. Any radio broadcast will have local breaks, and UNC will be able to use that dead air for other advertising.

Most importantly, though, it allows alumni that are scattered across the world to feel like they are back home and listening to THEIR guy call the game, and thanks to phones, they can even listen to their guy at the game as well. This is truly Christmas in July.