Tar Heels Celebrate Christmas in Charlotte with Belk Bowl Preparations

CHARLOTTE– It may be Christmas Eve, but the 6-6 Tar Heel football team is busy preparing for its Belk Bowl match-up with 9-3 Cincinnati on Saturday in Charlotte.

And undoubtedly, one of the keys to the game will be whether Carolina’s improving defense can slow down a versatile Bearcat offensive attack replete with the play-action and screen plays.

Cincinnati ranks 15th in the nation in passing offense, averaging 313.8 yards per contest, and is 12th in third-down conversions, picking up first downs on half of the opportunities on the “money down”.

The first order of business for the Tar Heels, according to Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning, will be stopping the run.

“They throw the ball around a lot, and they’re good enough at running the ball. We’re going to have to stop the run. Their run game is somewhat similar to East Carolina’s and some of their pass game is. We got some bad memories of that,” Coach Koenning says.

Despite all the perceived troubles of the UNC defense, the unit has only given up more than 30 points on one occasion this season in that 55 point debacle against ECU back in September.

Coach Koenning says he hopes his defense has learned a lot from the season and comes out fired up and ready to roll from the outset in the bowl game.

“We’re going to have to play with a lot of energy and passion and be physical. Hopefully, we’ve grown from the mistakes we made during the season and improve,” Coach Koenning says.

Head Coach Larry Fedora says Cincinnati is a well rounded team under Coach Tommy Tuberville, a man who has a proven track record of success wherever he’s been through the years.

“They are a very good defensive team. Nobody’s run the ball on them very well. They’re sound in everything they do. Their guys are making plays for them. They’re playing hard. Offensively, they’re spreading it around really good, throwing the ball around, and doing some really nice things,” Coach Fedora says.

Kickoff is set for 3:20 p.m. Saturday. WCHL’s live on-site pregame coverage begins at 12pm, and the game will be televised nationwide on ESPN.


Tar Heel Football Preparing to Win Bowl While Having Fun

CHAPEL HILL– The 6-6 UNC football team was back to the grind on Monday at Navy practice fields. With exams over, the Tar Heels have shifted their focus to preparing for a tough 9-3 Cincinnati team in the Belk Bowl Dec. 28.

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Head Coach Larry Fedora says his team was eager to get back to business following the brief hiatus.

“We had a good workout Saturday morning, Sunday and another one today [Monday]. We’ve had three really good workouts this week. We had one last week. I think they were ready to get back out here and get going again,” Coach Fedora says.

Senior offensive lineman James Hurst says Cincinnati is a formidable opponent that features a defense that makes you earn every inch of yardage.

“They’re a great team defense. Early on, looking at it, it’s hard to find any holes or anything like that. You know you’re going to have a challenge, and they’re going to make you earn every yard that you get. We’re going to have to be consistent and put some drives together in order to put points on the board,” Hurst says.

Charlotte provides a friendly locale for the Tar Heels in the Belk Bowl. Hurst says he’s relishing the opportunity to play his final game in Carolina uniform inside the state of North Carolina.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to get such a big fan base at the game and finish at some sort of a home game a little bit. We’re excited about it. I’m sure our fan base is excited about it. It’s a great way to go out for us not being able to play at home for your last game, but being able to play in the state of North Carolina,” Hurst says.

Sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams went to high school in Charlotte. He says he’s looking forward to returning home to play in front of family and friends.

“It’s a big home game. It’s especially a home game for me. That’s where I played high school at down in Charlotte. It’s going to be unbelievable. A lot of alumni is in Charlotte and can’t wait to watch us play Dec. 28. We’re excited to come down there, have some fun, and just enjoy the time,” Williams says.

Coach Fedora says he wants his team to enjoy the bowl game atmosphere, a reward for a successful season. But of course, he says that doesn’t stop the desire to go win a bowl championship trophy.

“We’re going down there for our guys to have fun, but we’re planning on winning the football game. I’m sure Cincinnati is doing the same thing. We want to win the football game. We’re going to prepare that way, but we also want to enjoy it,” Coach Fedora says.


Belk Bowl Adds $1.7 Mil To ACC Revenue Distribution

CHAPEL HILL – Nearly $300 million will be paid out to schools competing in this year’s bowl games, and North Carolina will take nearly four million for its appearance in the Belk Bowl on December 28 in Charlotte.

“The ACC brings in all the bowl money, and that becomes part of the conference distribution,” says UNC senior associate athletic director, Rick Steinbacher. “So, eventually we get 1/14th of all the bowl receipts that the ACC gets.”

All 14 of the ACC member institutions will receive an equal share of the bowl payouts, and thanks to ten teams participating this year, the schools are sharing $54.74 million. Carolina is contributed $1.7 million when it accepted its invitation to the Belk Bowl.

A portion of that money will also go to travel expenses for the team.

“There’s a lot of expense in going to a bowl game,” Steinbacher says. “Our team will get there on December 23 and stay through the game on December 28.”

Steinbacher says Carolina is finalizing its plans and doesn’t yet know how much it will cost, but he says part of the bowl payout will go toward covering that cost.

The week leading up to the game, the team will be practicing and fulfilling media requests, but the players will also be taking part in a few events set up for them while they’re there.

“They’ll get to go to the Charlotte Motor Speedway and ride around in a car on the racetrack,” Steinbacher says. “The entire team is going to visit the Levine Children’s Hospital down in Charlotte and do some other kind of community outreach events. So, it’s really a unique experience.”

Since Belk is the title sponsor of the bowl, it is also giving Carolina football players a shopping spree. Each bowl is allowed by NCAA rules to give a gift for participating in the bowl game. This year the gift allotment is $550. Every year, Belk gives most of that away in the form of a Belk gift card for a shopping spree.

Executive vice president for sales, promotion, and ecommerce at Belk, Jon Pollack says this year Belk is giving each player $450.

“In some cases, we’ve experienced with some players that this is their first chance ever to have the means to buy Christmas presents for their family,” Pollack says. “We had one of the big offensive linemen from one of the teams last year showed up at the register with a Cuisinart and a pair of pink slippers. We knew the pink slippers weren’t for him. He just said, ‘this is great; this is the first time I’ve had a chance to buy a Christmas present for my mother’.”

The overall payout for bowl games is up compared to two years ago because of a boost to the BCS bowls and the national championship. The last two years, the big five games netted $86 million in payouts; this year, ten teams will walk away with a combined $94 million.

However, some of the other bowls aren’t giving out what they used to. The New Mexico Bowl gave out $1.5 million to its two schools two years ago, but last year and this year it’s totaling less than $912,500. The Idaho Potato Bowl was also giving $1.5 million, but in each of the last two years it’s given only $650,000.

A couple bowls have also given slight increases like the Military Bowl, which has increased from $1.725 million to $2 million.

The Belk Bowl has stayed consistent at $1.7 million per school.

Steinbacher says this is all in response to the turnout the bowls produce over the years.

“The bowls are funded by—for the most part—tourism dollars in whatever market they’re in,” Steinbacher says. “So, the amount of eceonomic impact that a particular bowl game brings to that particular city is over the course of time eventually going to determine how much those payouts are.”

The VIZIO BCS National Championship is being played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California this year. Florida State and Auburn will each walk away from the game with $22 million for the ACC and SEC, regardless of the outcome.


Staying Local: Tar Heels Return to Charlotte for Belk Bowl

CHAPEL HILL– The Tar Heels will be bowling in Charlotte. UNC accepted an invitation to represent the Atlantic Coast Conference in the 2013 Belk Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 28, in Bank of America Stadium.

6-6 Carolina will face 9-3 Cincinnati of the American Athletic Conference at 3:20 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

“I’m excited for our team, especially our seniors, who fought through some early season adversity and won five of the last six games to become bowl eligible,” Head Coach Larry Fedora says.

The Tar Heels will be hoping to improve upon their rather sour history in Charlotte postseason play. Carolina will be making its fourth appearance in the bowl hosted in Charlotte, but will be seeking a first win. UNC lost to Boston College in 2004, West Virginia in 2008 and Pittsburgh in 2009.

“This is a resilient bunch of guys that kept believing in one another throughout the year and I’m glad they were rewarded with a bowl game. We’re looking forward to facing a very good Cincinnati team led by an outstanding coach in Tommy Tuberville,” Coach Fedora says.

The Tar Heels made history just to get to the bowl season. They are only the sixth team since the regular season expanded to 12 games in 2006 to start the season 1-5 and make a bowl game. And only Rutgers in 2008 came from a BCS conference.

The Bearcats will be making their second appearance in the Belk Bowl after downing Duke 48-34 last year in Bank of America Stadium.