How the North Carolina Tar Heels Can Make the College Football Playoff

UPDATE: How the North Carolina Tar Heels can make the College Football Playoff.  Week 13.

The North Carolina Tar Heels moved up to No. 17 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night.

But, could Carolina crack the top 4 of the final ranking from the College Football Playoff committee?

College Football Playoff

College Football Playoff


It is more possible than you might think.

The reasons why the 9-1 Tar Heels are so low in the College Football Playoff rankings are well documented.  No team on Carolina’s schedule is currently ranked in the College Football Playoff top 25.  Every other ranked squad has at least two top 25 teams on their regular season schedule.  As a result, it will be tough for the committee to put the Tar Heels ahead of most one-loss teams.

Based on the remaining schedule, they might not matter.  Of course, I could just write about “disrespect.”  But, there’s no point to do that yet.  This week’s poll does not matter.  The next two polls also do not matter.

The last one matters.

So, here’s how the North Carolina Tar Heels can make the College Football Playoff.

College Football Playoff.

Not the Final Four.

It is not called the Final Four.

Do not call it the Final Four.

It is the College Football Playoff.

The Tar Heels must beat Virginia Tech and NC State to have any shot at consideration.  Then, they need to knock off an undefeated Clemson team to win the ACC Championship.

Of course.

But, that will not be enough.  The Tar Heels will need help.  There could be as many as eight teams in the Power 5 conferences (plus Notre Dame) with fewer than two losses.  That would be a tough situation for the Tar Heels.

The college football schedule is backloaded.  Many of the teams above Carolina in the College Football Playoff rankings will face their toughest tests over the next three weeks.  If you take nothing else away from this article, recognize that it is very possible for the Tar Heels to be one of only 4 or 5 teams from a Power 5 conference with fewer than 2 losses.  That situation is workable for the Tar Heels.

Let’s take a look at the games that matter moving forward.  I’ll highlight who to root for when you are scoreboard watching.

Week 12

The Cupcakes

1 Clemson vs. Wake Forest
2 Alabama vs. Charleston Southern
4 Notre Dame vs. Boston College
5 Iowa vs. Purdue
8 Florida vs. Florida Atlantic

Expect the favorites to win easily.  These are teams that will get likely get playoff spots if they run the table (Alabama and Florida would see each other in the SEC Championship).  Feel free to root for the underdogs, but don’t get your hopes up.  If the Tar Heels’ hopes hinged on a Charleston Southern upset, this would all be a big waste of time.

The Big Ones

3 Ohio State vs. 9 Michigan State

The winner is in the driver’s seat for a spot in the Big Ten Championship game against (probably) Iowa.  You want Ohio State to win.  If the Buckeyes lose and then beat Michigan the following week, they will be a one-loss team without access to a championship game.

The College Football Playoff committee would absolutely consider sticking the Big Ten Champion and Ohio State into the playoff in this scenario.

That’s bad.

6 Oklahoma State vs. 10 Baylor
7 Oklahoma vs. 18 TCU

The Big 12 is basically in a late-season round-robin.  These four teams are fighting for one spot that might not exist (look at Notre Dame) in the College Football Playoff.

The Big 12 is certainly not getting two teams into the playoff.  If the chips fall a certain way, they may not get anybody.  Let’s go for that one.

You want the Texas teams (Baylor and TCU) to beat the Oklahoma teams.

The Medium Sized Ones

11 Stanford vs. Cal
13 Utah vs. UCLA
23 Oregon vs. 24 USC

A Pac-12 conference champion is a long-shot for the College Football Playoff.  Every Pac-12 team has at least two losses.  The only teams with fewer than three are Utah and Stanford.

Let’s root for UCLA to upset Utah (Go basketball schools!).

But, Stanford matters.

Stanford is your friend right now, Tar Heels.  So, you want to Stanford to keep winning.  For now.

Our Big One

17 North Carolina at Virginia Tech

The Tar Heels need another strong victory.  Without one, this is a pretty pointless article.

At least two teams ahead of the Tar Heels in the College Football Playoff standings will fall in Week 12.  Then, it gets really interesting.

Week 13

The Rivalries

1 Clemson at South Carolina

Stay undefeated, Clemson.

2 Alabama at Auburn

It’s hard to imagine the committee keeping the SEC out.  Let’s hope Auburn wins, anyway.  That’s more fun.

3 Ohio State at 12 Michigan

The Tar Heels’ rooting interest in this game is completely based off of whatever happens when Ohio State plays Michigan State.  If the Buckeyes beat the Spartans this week, you want Ohio State to win.

If Michigan State beats Ohio State, you definitely want Michigan to win.

Remember.  You don’t want a one-loss Ohio State team that does not win the Big Ten Championship.

6 Oklahoma State vs. 7 Oklahoma

You’re hoping this is a battle between a one-loss Oklahoma State and a two-loss Oklahoma.  In that situation, you want Oklahoma to win.  If that is not the situation, then you should expect the winner of this game to have a strong chance at scoring a College Football Playoff spot.

8 Florida vs. 14 Florida State

Go Florida State? A Seminole win strengthens the ACC and gives the Gators two losses.

Both good things.

10 Baylor at 18 TCU

Baylor still has to play Texas after this game.  So, you want them to beat TCU and then lose to Texas.

17 North Carolina at NC State

Make Carter-Finley empty by halftime.

The Biggest One

4 Notre Dame at 11 Stanford

Obviously, the NC State game is the most important contest of the day for North Carolina.


Tar Heels need Stanford to win this game.

Chaos could open slots that appear destined for the SEC and Big Ten champions.  But, the single game that could change the College Football Playoff landscape is Notre Dame’s visit to Stanford.

Right now, the assumption is that the Big Ten and SEC champions will both get spots in the College Football Playoff.  If Clemson runs the table, they also get a spot.  Carolina needs more than a win over the Tigers to get that one.

Notre Dame is also expected to get a spot in the College Football Playoff if they win out.

But, it would be better for everybody, especially the Tar Heels, if they lose.

Go Stanford.

The Biggish Ones

5 Iowa at Nebraska

This game would be a helpful spot for an upset.  Go Cornhuskers.

9 Michigan State vs. Penn State

If Ohio State beats Michigan State this weekend, their game does not matter to the Tar Heels.  Either way, a Michigan State loss wouldn’t hurt.

Championship Week

ACC Championship

North Carolina needs to knock Clemson from the ranks of the unbeaten and they need to do it convincingly.

Of course.

BIG Ten Championship

Most assume that the winner of this game gets a spot.  Especially if the winner is Ohio State, Michigan State, or Iowa.  You’re going to pull for whoever has the fewest losses going into this game.

Pac-12 Championship

Almost half of the conference is still in the running.  The Pac-12 could easily include no teams with fewer than three losses.  In our world, the fine folks at Stanford can take a loss here.  Just to keep this conference completely out of the College Football Playoff picture.

SEC Championship

The game will almost certainly feature Alabama and Florida.  The winner probably gets a spot in the College Football Playoff.  Probably Alabama.


Big 12 Championship

There isn’t one.

Get one, Big 12.

But, Baylor is playing Texas.  The Longhorns could finish off the Big 12’s College Football Playoff hopes with a win.

The Tar Heels’ Hopes

To summarize, let’s just pencil in the SEC and Big Ten champions.

In our perfect Tar Heel world, the SEC champion will be Alabama after they defeat a Florida Gator team that just lost to their rival, Florida State.  That puts Alabama in with no other SEC team with a legitimate argument for the College Football Playoff.

Hope for the Big Ten champion to be Ohio State.  In an ideal situation, Iowa will lose two in a row.  The committee would consider a one-loss Big Ten championship losing Ohio State team.  They probably will not give Iowa the same consideration, but let’s not risk it.

If Stanford knocks off Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish will have two losses.  Again.  That is the simplest route for the Tar Heels’ hopes.

A lot will happen in the Big 12 over the next two weeks.  Let’s just hope they cancel each other out.  A Big 12 with four teams tied for the conference championship is the Tar Heels’ second best shot at the College Football Playoff.

This is fun.

UNC vs. Temple

Friday, UNC took on Temple to tip-off their 2015-2016 season.  The Tar Heels beat the Owls by a score of 91-67.  See photos from UNC vs. Temple below.

Art’s Angle: Back to the Future

The Tar Heels returned to dominating Duke like they had over the last quarter century while showcasing a football program that looks like it could finally be reaching long-awaited new heights.

On a day when only an 80 percent chance of rain kept every seat in sold-out Kenan Stadium from being filled, the raucous near-capacity crowd and a crazy, overflow student section created the wild atmosphere UNC has been seeking for years, but never has been able to sustain.

The home team, clad in light blue and Alexander Julian argyle, demolished what was supposed to be the ninth-best total defense in the country from its very first snap and, despite how competitive Duke has become, made beating the Blue Devils for the 23rd time in the last 26 years look easier than ever.

What was billed to be a close game turned no contest in a hurry.

The day proved UNC fans will come out in droves if they have a football team worth supporting, and they go well beyond the elite group that can demand the limited supply of season basketball tickets to the Smith Center.  No one would like that more than Roy Williams, a UNC alumnus who bleeds Carolina Blue but also wants football to succeed to take the pressure off his program.

Carolina fans love a good game and a good party to follow. They watch the game, they know the game. On the Tar Heels’ first offensive snap, when Marquise Williams got the flea-flicker back from Elijah Hood, they were up screaming, “He’s Open! He’s Open!” as Ryan Switzer raced past the Duke secondary. The 89-yard bomb took 12 seconds, and the Blue Devils never recovered.

Later, the fans easily spotted, and yelled for, a holding penalty that nullified a Duke first down.

The gray skies never opened up once the old rivals kicked off. It kept from putting a damper on anything and everything that was planned.

During timeouts, UNC also put on a good show, introducing its latest Nobel Prize winner, Aziz Sancar, who shared the spotlight with a fellow Dukie chemistry scientist; the six Tar Heel beauties on the women’s World Cup soccer team, who glowed as much as the trophy they held; and Carolina legend Don McCauley, who 45 years ago this month rushed for 279 yards and scored five touchdowns in a 59-34 win over Duke. Saturday’s 66 points surpassed that day and were the most the Tar Heels had ever scored in Kenan Stadium, against Duke and any other ACC foe.

The Blue Devils gained more than 500 yards (compared to Carolina’s 704 in less than three quarters with the regulars in) but were never in the game after the Tar Heels scored with ease on their first three possessions. For UNC alumni and fans, who clamor to beat the Blue Devils in basketball and other sports, it further restored order to a football series they owned until losing two straight on the last possessions of those games in 2012 and ‘13. The Heels pushed the reset button a year ago, and have now outscored Duke 111-51 in the last two matchups.

The outcome was not in doubt at halftime, or earlier, but the Tar Pit kids and much of the crowd stayed around to the sweet end, some obviously hoping the Tar Heel reserves could crack 70 points, which would have added to the Blue Devils’ embarrassment. Both teams quit trying to score midway through the fourth quarter, using up entire play clocks and keeping the ball on the ground. UNC had had enough time to score nine touchdowns by seven different players plus a Nick Weiler field goal.

The Heels’ eighth straight victory keeps them ahead in the championship race that continues this Saturday on Senior Day against Miami. Should they win, and Duke helps out by defeating Pitt, they will earn their first Coastal Division title since the ACC split up 10 years ago. Carolina would play Atlantic Division champion Clemson, which eliminated lone contender FSU later in the day, on December 5 in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

For a program that has not won more than eight games since 1997, and has never won 11 in the regular season, the Tar Heels’ emergence will surely move them up from No. 21 in the polls and put them into the College Football Playoff rankings for the first time. That recognition comes easier with a tradition of winning, which Carolina football does not have on the national level.

But thanks to a record-shattering quarterback and more scoring weapons than the New England Patriots, UNC is about to get those football props. Capturing the Coastal is within reach and running the table will require winning at Virginia Tech and N.C. State the last two weeks of the season. Such road games are always dicey, and Carolina could still fall from the national spotlight.

But, thus far, how Coach Larry Fedora managed to get this team there with the clouds that have hung over his program like they did over Kenan Stadium Saturday conjures up this question: What could Fed do if the skies ever cleared?

That result, by going back to the future, was on preview for all their fans and a national television audience to see and celebrate; fans who are obviously willing to help turn Carolina Football into a very big deal, if given the reason.

UNC 66, Duke 31: Postgame Notes

UNC 66.
Duke 31.

You will remember those numbers for the rest of your life.  Now, enjoy more incredible postgame notes from

  • North Carolina improved to 8-1 overall, 5-0 in the ACC with a 66-31 win over Duke.  Carolina has won eight straight for the first time since 1997 and is 6-0 at home this year. UNC is 5-0 in ACC play for the first time since 1997.


  • The 66 points are the most Carolina has ever scored against Duke.  UNC scored 59 in 1970 and 2000.  This is the sixth time Carolina has scored 50 or more points against Duke.


  • This was the highest scoring Carolina-Duke game ever played (97 combined points). The previous high was 93 in 1970 when Don McCauley scored five TDs for the Tar Heels (UNC 59, Duke 34).


  • The 66 points are the most Carolina has ever scored in an ACC game. The previous high was 59 against Duke in 1970 and Maryland in 1993.  Carolina set single-game highs for most points in a game (66) and a half (38 in the first) this season.


  •  Carolina compiled 704 total yards of offense, the third-most in UNC single-game history. UNC had 721 vs. Old Dominion in 2013 and 714 vs. Maryland in 1993.


  • Carolina (704) and Duke (533) combined for 1,237 yards, the most in any game in UNC football history. The previous high was 1,228 at East Carolina in 2014. The previous high at Kenan Stadium was 1,190 by UNC and Georgia Tech in 2014.


  •  QB Marquise Williams set a school record with 524 total yards of offense and accomplished that in less than three quarters. The 524 yards are the sixth-most in ACC single-game history.  Williams eclipsed his own previous UNC record of 469, which he set against Old Dominion in 2013.


  • Williams has the top three and four of the five highest single-game total offense figures in Carolina history, including today’s record 524 yards.


— 524 by Williams vs. Duke, 2015

— 469 by Williams vs. Old Dominion, 2013

— 463 by Williams vs. Georgia Tech, 2014

— 443 by TJ Yates vs. Florida State, 2010

— 435 by Williams vs. Notre Dame, 2014


  • Williams passed TJ Yates for second place in career total offense by a Tar Heel. Darian Durant has the record with 9,630. Williams is now second with 9,078. Yates is third with 9,044.


  •  Williams passed for 494 yards, the most in UNC history. He broke the UNC single-game record less than three minutes into the second half and on his second completion of the third quarter. Williams’ 494 passing yards broke T.J. Yates’ mark of 439 at Florida State in 2010.


  •  Williams set the UNC record for passing yards in a half with 404 yards in the first half.  Williams held the previous record with 379 passing yards vs. Old Dominion in 2013.  Today, he completed 18 of 28 attempts for 404 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, including a 89-yard scoring pass to Switzer, a 74-yarder to Hollins and a 49-yarder to Bug Howard.  Williams also tied his school record for total offense in a half with 425 total yards (404 passing, 21 rushing).


  •  Williams set a single-game UNC record for most passing yards per completion at 21.48 per play (23 completions for 494 yards). He held the previous mark at 20.5 vs. Old Dominion in 2013.


  •  Carolina set a record for most passing yards in a game with 537 (Mitch Trubisky added 43 yards passing). The previous record for the team was 469 vs. NC State in 2003.


  •  Williams’ 494 yards is the most in the ACC this year and the 10th-most in ACC history. It is the most by an ACC quarterback since Stephen Morris of Miami set the record with 566 against NC State in 2012.


  •  Williams connected with Ryan Switzer on an 89-yard flea-flicker touchdown on the Tar Heels’ first play from scrimmage.  It is the fourth-longest pass play in school history and the second-longest by a Tar Heel at Kenan Stadium.  Carolina’s only longer pass play at Kenan Stadium was Williams’ 91-yard touchdown pass to Mack Hollins in 2014 vs. San Diego State.


  •  Williams is responsible for a school-record 83 career touchdowns.  He has 28 rushing scores (UNC record for QB), 52 touchdown passes and three receiving TDs. The previous record of 79 was held by former standout QB Darian Durant (2001-04).


  •  Williams has seven career pass completions of 70 yards or longer:

— 2013 – 79 to Eric Ebron vs. Duke; 71 to Ebron vs. Miami

— 2014 – 91 to Mack Hollins vs. SDSU; 75 to Ryan Switzer at Clemson

— 2015 – 71 to Switzer at Pitt; 89 to Switzer vs. Duke; 74 to Hollins vs. Duke


  • Williams threw four touchdown passes today and became the fourth Tar Heel with at least 50 career touchdown throws.

— Darian Durant, 68

— Bryn Renner, 64

— TJ Yates, 58

–  Marquise Williams, 52


  • Williams also scored today on a 4-yard run for his 28th career rushing touchdown. That breaks a tie for fifth-place in ACC history ahead of Clemson’s Woodrow Dantzler.


  • The 89-yard scoring pass was the longest reception in Ryan Switzer’s career. His previous long was 75 yards vs. Clemson in 2014.


  • WR Mack Hollins had five receptions for a career-high 165 yards and one touchdown. He averaged 33 yards per reception.


  • TB Elijah Hood rushed for a career-high three touchdowns.  He had a 4-yard run in the first quarter, a 16-yarder in the third and a 5-yarder in the third.


  •  Hood has a team-leading 11 touchdowns on the season, all by rush.


  •  WR Quinshad Davis had three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. He extended his school records for completions (186) and TD receptions (23).


  •  CB Des Lawrence 10th breakup of the season came in the end zone on Duke’s second drive of the game.


  •  LB Jeff Schoettmer forced the first fumble of his career and recovered it.  Carolina would score a touchdown on the ensuing drive.


  •  TE Brandon Fritts had a career-best 36-yard reception in the first quarter.


  •  In the first quarter, Carolina ran 18 plays for 239 yards and had the ball just four minutes and 59 seconds, scoring on drives of 12 seconds, 1:51 and 2:56.


  •  In the first half, Carolina had 486 yards, including 404 yards passing and 82 rushing.


  •  S Dominquie Green made his first interception of the season and fourth of his career in the second quarter.


  •  Carolina scored three touchdowns on drives of less than one minute, including a one-play, 89-yard drive in 12 seconds; a two-play, 92-yard drive in 41 seconds; and a three-play, 65-yard drive in 18 seconds.

Tar Heels on top of 2015-16 ACC Preseason Poll

The North Carolina Tar Heels landed on top of the 2015-16 ACC preseason poll.

Media members made their selections at ACC Media Day on Wednesday.  The Carolina basketball team received 60 out of the possible 89 first-place votes.  The Virginia Cavaliers were picked second, followed by Duke, Notre Dame, and Miami.

In the 47-year history of the ACC preseason poll, the Tar Heels have been selected a record 21 times (20 times outright and 1 tie).  This is the sixth time Carolina has earned the top spot under head coach Roy Williams.

Since joining the ACC in 1953, the Tar Heels have won 29 ACC regular season titles and 17 ACC Tournament championships.

Earlier in the month, the Tar Heels landed on top of the USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll with the Kentucky Wildcats.

Last season, Roy Williams and the Tar Heels reached the finals the ACC Tournament and made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.  They return four starters.

One of those starters, Marcus Paige, landed at the top of another ACC preseason poll.  The Tar Heel guard was named the Preseason ACC co-player of the year. He shares that honor with Virginia’s senior guard Malcolm Brogdon.  Both players received 36 votes on that ballot.

However, Paige did receive the most votes for the 2015-16 Preseason All-ACC Team.  The Tar Heel pulled in 86 votes to Brogdon’s 77 on that ballot.

Paige’s teammate, Brice Johnson, landed on the All-ACC Second Team list.

See the full voting run-down via here.

Williams has previously made note of the high expectations of this team.  “In ’05 I thought we were if not the best, one of the two best teams in the country,” Williams said. “In ’09 I thought we were the best. I think this year we’re one of the best.  And if we play the best down the stretch, then we could be the best,” he continued. “But there’s a big difference there.”

The Tar Heels officially kicked off the 2015-16 season with Late Night With Roy on Friday night.  Their first game is November 13 against Temple.

Tar Heels Overcome Mistakes, Shut Down Virginia 26-13

CHAPEL HILL – Two years ago, the Tar Heels came to the mid point of their season at 1-5.  This year, the boys-in-blue-and-argyle came to the mid point with the reverse record.  Sitting at 5-1 going into Saturday’s game against the Virginia Cavaliers, Carolina’s Football team was confident, calm, and ready.

And perhaps a little cocky, because for the second week in a row, the Tar Heels turned the ball over on their opening possession.  Starting with the ball on their own 25, UNC moved the ball methodically down field to the Virginia 30 yard line.  But that’s where the drive stalled.  Following two offensive penalties that pushed the Tar Heels back ten yards, Quarterback Marquise Williams completed a pass to Wideout Mack Hollins who was stripped of the ball and the Cavaliers’ defense swarmed to it, returning the ball 21 yards to begin their first drive in very favorable field position.

And just like that, we had a football game on our hands.

Virginia took advantage of the early mistake, driving down the field for a 35 yard field goal.

On their second try, the Heels answered back with a sustained drive, capped by a 16-yard touchdown run by TJ Logan.

Finally, mid way through the second quarter, Elijah Hood went full beast mode.  With his team trailing 10-7, Hood took a handoff at his opponent’s 3 yard line and without hesitation, proceeded to run over a Virginia defender on his way to paydirt.

Hood finished the night with 101 yards on 21 carries and 2 touchdowns, but it was the Tar Heels defense that made the biggest difference in this game.

Coming out of the halftime break locked in a 13-13 tie, the Tar Heels shut down Virginia on all six of the Cavaliers’ second half possessions, allowing no scores and creating 5 turnovers.

Meanwhile Carolina’s offense continued to roll, breaking the tie by scoring on it’s first 3 drives of the 2nd half.

Virginia’s Matt Johns had one fumble and was picked off 4 times in the second half, including a game-clinching interception to Shakeel Rashad on 4th and goal with under 6 minutes to play.

It was a penalty and turnover riddled football game, as the Tar Heels came close to a school record for penalty yardage – committing 13 fouls for 135 yards.  The difference, though was UNC was able to overcome their mistakes, while Virginia could not.

Marquise Williams made mistakes early, with the fumble on the Heels opening possession, and a later interception, but also bounced back nicely in the second half – completing 11 passes in a row at one point to finish 21 for 26 passing for 226 yards.

The defining moment of this game came late in the 3rd Quarter.  Starting with the ball on their own 7 yard line, the Tar Heels offense was 93 yards away from where they needed to be in order to add to their then slim 16-13 lead.

Calmly and systematically, Carolina marched down the field in 13 plays, chewing up clock and taking the game into the 4th quarter.

Then, once again from 3 yards out, Beast Mode Elijah Hood stuck in the dagger with another touchdown run.

Looking ahead to their next game, the Tar Heels will head to Pittsburgh this week to face the Pitt Panthers for a Thursday night matchup that will have major implications in deciding the ACC Crown.

Art’s Angle: Hatchell Should Go Gracefully

Hiring Sylvia Crawley as an assistant coach is the right play for Sylvia Hatchell. Getting her friends and colleagues in the university to lobby for an extension to her contract is the wrong play.

Crawley, a star player and captain of the 1994 Tar Heels, will be seen by many people as Hatchell’s successor after she resigns following the 2016 season or is fired. Hatchell cannot survive as the Carolina coach for reasons that go beyond her program’s complicity in the NCAA allegations.

That first. Her support group calling women’s basketball a “sacrificial lamb” is ill-advised, some would say stupid. Anyone who reads the Notice of Allegations can see where Hatchell’s program is cited through the actions of former academic advisor Jan Boxill, the long-respected faculty member who was fired for her role in the AFAM scandal. Beyond the substantial fine the university will receive for a “lack of institutional control,” women’s basketball is the sport most likely to be penalized. One of the five allegations is entirely devoted to emails between Boxill and the AFAM department.  If so, Hatchell will be held accountable as the CEO of the program.

Just as Butch Davis was fired for, among other things, violating his contract by hiring a coach (John Blake) who broke NCAA rules. UNC firing Davis “without cause” and paying him the balance of his contract worth between $11 and 12 million seemed foolish, but the university did not want to invest the time and legal fees to defend a prolonged lawsuit that Davis surely would have filed. Any Carolina coach whose program breaks NCAA rules, including Roy Williams, should be and would be fired.

Second, the collateral damage from the NCAA probe that has injured almost every Tar Heel sports team in recruiting has just about killed women’s hoops. Hatchell has lost the No. 1 recruiting class of 2013 — from Diamond DeShields transferring to Tennessee after her All-ACC freshman season to Jessica Washington, Allisha Gray and Stephanie Mavunga leaving this summer. Only Gray acknowledged that the stigma of the NCAA investigation caused her departure, but surely Washington and Mavunga feel the same way. These women worry that their association with a tainted team will hurt their professional careers, in and out of basketball, moving forward.

Clearly, Hatchell’s program has become fatally flawed and a change must be made to start over. Hatchell is a Hall of Fame coach who has won a national championship (1994) and more than 900 games. She also won her courageous battle against Leukemia that kept her off the bench during the 2014 season. She has been a great representative of the university until the NCAA revelations that have divided the campus and caused fractures in the athletic department itself.

Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham must negotiate an athletic program, 98 percent of which still operates and succeeds at the highest level, through the awful hand he was dealt when he took over for Dick Baddour in November of 2011. Aware he was inheriting the three-year probation in football for impermissible benefits during the Davis era, Cunningham said recently that he had not heard the acronym “AFAM” until a few months into his job.

The Rams Club continues to raise money at record levels, proving an angry alumni and fan base has not deserted the program, but by charter can only pay for scholarships and capital improvements. Cunningham is stuck with about an $80 million operating budget with most of its revenue streams maxed out. Sure, UNC gets an occasional windfall from additional post-season payouts from the ACC, but not enough to increase salaries and recruiting budgets for all but two of UNC’s 28 sports that do not make money.

When revenues are flat, expenses need to be cut. Cunningham and UNC are committed, for now, to a broad-based program driven by participation for as many varsity athletes as possible. But that will have to change one day. Current Title IX guidelines dictate any sport cut will be on the men’s side, and Cunningham has an opportunity to start by dropping the struggling wrestling program after he recently fired veteran coach and former Tar Heel All-American C.D. Mock. Wrestling gives out all 9.9 scholarships allowed by the NCAA, so that could save some money for the Rams Club. Also, coaches’ salaries and recruiting and travel costs would be eliminated from Bubba’s budget. Wrestling could still be offered as a club sport, where UNC’s program is among the biggest and most successful in the country.

Women’s basketball loses more money than any sport at Carolina. Hatchell earns about a million dollars from her state salary, stipends and her successful summer camp. The team draws sparse crowds to revamped Carmichael Arena, employs eight assistant coaches or support personnel and has significant recruiting and travel budgets. UNC has a “cost per athlete” metric computed by revenues versus  expenses divided by the number of players on a team. While losing about $2.5 million a year, Hatchell’s program has the highest cost-per-athlete of all women sports and one of the highest of all 28 teams.

Surely, UNC can play competitive women’s basketball for half the cost. The money saved could be spread across all other women’s sports, increasing subpar coaching salaries and recruiting budgets in most of them. It is truly amazing that Carolina athletics continues to finish high in the Learfield Director’s Cup (fifth in 2014-15) with an operating budget far behind schools like Stanford, Ohio State and Texas.

Changes are on the way. They need to include women’s basketball where, after one season as Hatchell’s well-traveled and accomplished assistant, Crawley becomes the new face of the program. She has already held three head-coaching positions and is respected in the profession. Her charge would be to rebuild the Lady Tar Heels for less than what it has cost UNC, monetarily and otherwise, under Hatchell.

Tar Heels in the Pros: Matt Harvey

Considered to be one of the best young pitchers in the major leagues, Matt Harvey has been on fire this season as a starting pitcher for the New York Mets. He holds a 4-0 record, tied for first in Major League Baseball with his teammate Bartolo Colon and his 3.04 ERA is ranked 12th among pitchers with at least three winning starts this year.

Harvey was a standout pitcher in college, leading the Tar Heels to NCAA tournament appearances in all three years he was a part of the program. Deciding at the end of his junior campaign to forego his senior year at UNC, he was drafted seventh overall by the Mets in 2010.

Matt Harvey (UNC Athletics)

Matt Harvey with the Tar Heels (UNC Athletics)

After suffering a partially torn UCL in his right elbow in August of 2013, Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery and had to miss the entire 2014 MLB season. Being back on the mound this year as a star for the Mets has provided a spark for his team and has given Harvey a fresh perspective on the game he loves.

“Missing a year, I think definitely bring the freshness of being up here back. I’m definitely excited again to be playing and I think that goes back to 2012 and the beginning of 2013, just being excited to be out there and be with my teammates again and be able to put the Mets uniform is something that I know now not to take for granted,” Harvey says.

Harvey’s most recent win came against the Yankees last Saturday in which he allowed only 5 hits and 2 earned runs. He came one out shy of throwing a complete game before the Mets’ manager Terry Collins called reliever Carlos Torres from the bullpen, spoiling what could have been the first complete game of his young career. Recognizing that there is room for improvement, Harvey notes that it’s more about the win than his own statistics.

“You get into the 8th or 9th inning I think finishing the game is on your mind so it’s tough but I think at the same time I needed to do a better job of getting those last two guys out and that decision’s not hard to make. So he [Collins] obviously made the right call and brought in Carlos and he got the last out and we won the game so that’s all that matters,” Harvey says.

Harvey surveys home plate (

Harvey surveys home plate (

With his opponents’ batting average at .220 against him this season, Harvey hopes to continue his success as the Mets hold the best record in all of Major League Baseball at 15-5. He spoke before their game Sunday about what it will take to continue this upward trend for their ball club.

“I think just coming to the ballpark knowing we’re going to win, and we had that mentality in spring training, we knew we were going to be good, we knew we had a good pitching staff and we knew we were going to win a lot of games and to have that mentality going into the clubhouse and onto the field every day is half the battle,” Harvey says.

Harvey’s next appearance is scheduled for this Friday, May 1 in the first game of a home series against the Washington Nationals.

Visit us next week for another edition of “Tar Heels in the Pros” featuring NBA rising star, Harrison Barnes.

UNC Volleyball Releases Challenging 2015 Slate

North Carolina women’s volleyball has announced its 2015 season schedule – one of the most challenging in recent memory. The Tar Heels will play eight teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2014, including four that made it to the second round.

Head coach Joe Sagula, who is entering his 26th season at UNC, noted the challenges in the schedule for the upcoming season.


UNC Volleyball (UNC Athletics)

“I think our schedule in 2015 is one of the toughest we have ever played,” Coach Sagula says. “I think it will challenge us with the diversity of teams we are going to see, from the Pac 12 to the Big West and Big Ten. We play four Big Ten schools. I think it is really going to give us a good idea of our team since we will be playing so many NCAA-caliber teams. It is a good year for us to play this kind of schedule, with several veterans returning and a talented incoming class. This team will be ready for the challenge.”

Included in the schedule is a trip out west where the Heels will face Southern Cal and 2014 NCAA tournament runners-up BYU. For their ACC-Big Ten Challenge opponents, the Heels will play Minnesota and Wisconsin, who returns the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year in Lauren Carlini.

Featuring in home matchups at Carmichael Arena, Carolina has matches scheduled with 6-time national champion Stanford, who returns four All-Americans, as well as Michigan and Michigan State in the second leg of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Even with the toughest of preseason opponents, the road does not get any easier in ACC play where the Tar Heels finished first at 17-1 last season. The conference had three teams make the 2014 NCAA Tournament and saw a third of its member schools post 20-win records.

“I like that the ACC schedule is returning to 20 conference matches, even though it is difficult for any team to sustain a high level from beginning to end across 20 matches. The conference schedule will really be a challenge, facing teams like Florida State and Miami at home and heading to Georgia Tech and Boston College on longer road trips. We also play our rival Duke twice and also NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh twice,” Coach Sagula says.

Carolina, however, should be equipped for the tough slate. The Heels are returning 13 veterans including All-American honorable mentions Paige Neuenfeldt and Victoria McPherson as well as welcoming in a loaded freshman class.

UNC Volleyball Climbs Four Spots After Classic Sweep

The UNC volleyball team jumped four spots in this week’s national rankings after sweeping its opponents in the Carolina Classic over the weekend.


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The AVCA Coaches’ voted the Tar Heels into the No. 13 spot after a hard-fought meeting with then-No. 16 Kentucky opened the weekend. The Tar Heels, then ranked No. 17, pulled off the five-set victory with a 16-14 final set. The Wildcats took sets two and three in dominating fashion (25-15 in each), but the Heels answered with a 25-13 set four to force the deciding set.

The weekend’s remaining games was a breeze comparatively as Carolina swept Georgia Southern and VCU on double-header Saturday.

UNC is 7-1 on the season and on a five-match winning streak after its 3-0 loss to Illinois in the Illini Classic on August 30.

The Tar Heels remain home this weekend for the ACC-Big 12 Classic. Oklahoma comes to town Friday, and Carolina hosts West Virginia on Saturday. Both matches begin at 6:00 p.m.