UNC Athletics is re-launching its official website under the url of GoHeels.com, which is hardly a new name to Tar Heel Internet junkies. In the early days of the web, about 15 years ago, GoHeels was the website of choice for Carolina fans because it was the first out of the gate with news and edgy commentary about everything light blue.
GoHeels.com, the Site that Knows the Score – that was the slogan we used.
I say “we” because GoHeels was birthed by VilCom, which at the time also owned Tar Heel Sports Marketing and the Tar Heel Sports Network. Invented by a brilliant young Carolina grad named Chris Boulton, GoHeels caught on with its currently updated news and its band of columnists writing, basically, what all the fans were talking about around water coolers and on the streets.
In 1999, VilCom President Jim Heavner sold the Tar Heel Sports Marketing multi-media rights contract to Learfield Communications. Smartly, he held GoHeels out of the sale because it already had millions of page views and thousands of dollars in advertising from having been promoted non-stop on the UNC statewide radio broadcasts. . . . the Site that Knows the Score.
Many readers still regarded it as the official UNC website, because Woody Durham, Mick Mixon and Lee Pace, along with yours truly, continued writing for it. But as an independent site, GoHeels could cover recruiting and publish an occasional piece that would never have made it past the proof readers in the Sports Information Office.
For example, GoHeels criticized Dick Baddour’s hiring of career assistant Carl Torbush to succeed Mack Brown in 1997. The football Tar Heels were ranked No. 4 when Brown left for Texas. After three years under Torbush, they were ranked something like one-hundred and four.
GoHeels was all over the regrettable firing, rehiring and firing of Torbush, when Chancellor Michael Hooker had taken ill with fatal lymphoma and Baddour was left waiting at the alter by Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer. Then came John Bunting, who loved his alma mater but had no Division I coaching experience. More debatable fodder for fans who hung on every word GoHeels had to say about it.
The ambiguity over how long Bill Guthridge would remain head basketball coach gave those rivals who had been whipped regularly by Dean Smith’s teams a chance to say the future of UNC basketball was in doubt. Which it was after Guthridge retired following two trips to the Final Four in three seasons.
The Carolina cupboard was getting bare in 2000, and Roy Williams decided to stay at Kansas. GoHeels really gave it to ol’ Roy for disappointing everyone the first time.
Then, of course, came the Matt Doherty debacle, during which Learfield and UNC finally purchased GoHeels from VilCom and transferred all the news that they thought was fit to print to the official athletic site, which became known as TarHeelBlue.com. Carolina kept ownership of the old url and is now bringing it back because, as Associate Athletic Director Steve Kirschner says, and rightfully so, it’s the phrase that all fans use when cheering on our teams. GO HEELS!
Some UNC employees retained a bad taste for GoHeels, which was merely “telling it like it was” during the most turbulent period in Carolina athletic history – before the Butch Davis controversy 10 years later. Many of the fans we heard from missed the “balanced” coverage that GoHeels provided – mostly positive but sometimes reporting and commenting on not such good news. Since then, several other “unofficial” sites have grown popular, picking up where GoHeels left off.
Although the old name returns, don’t expect the old content to come with it. The digital age has turned websites into as much audio and video portals as e-newspapers. And the columnists covering UNC are still paid to write it through Carolina blue eyes, as it should be with an official school website.
But it didn’t have to be that way with the old GoHeels – and it wasn’t. And we think most Carolina fans have missed it since going dark in 2002.
In fact, the journalists at GoHeels took pride in the disclaimer that the university insisted it carry: Never Has Been, Never Will Be, the Official Site of UNC.
Except now it is. Funny how things turn out.