Search

7 NORTH CAROLINA

April 28, 1997
April 28, 1997

Table of Contents
April 28, 1997

Jock Schools

7 NORTH CAROLINA

VARSITY TEAMS: 25 INTRAMURAL SPORTS: 26
FAMOUS ALUMNI: MIA HAMM, MICHAEL JORDAN, LAWRENCE TAYLOR
EXTRA CREDIT FOR: NAPOLEON HOOPS, FOR MALE STUDENTS UNDER SIX FEET

This is an article from the April 28, 1997 issue

Some folks in Chapel Hill are still trying to figure out which
came first--the color of the sky or the color of the uniforms
worn by North Carolina's athletes. In showing their devotion to
those athletes, locals heed a simple rule of decor: If it ain't
painted sky blue, it ain't painted.

That rule governs the campus too. From the rafters of the Dean
E. Smith Center to the track at Fetzer Field to the windows in
Woollen Gymnasium, the ubiquitousness of the color is symbolic
of just how wide and deep runs the passion for sports.
"Athletics is Carolina, Carolina is athletics," says junior
Marion Jones, who is not only an All-America in women's
basketball but also finished fourth in the long jump at the 1995
NCAA track and field championships. "Everywhere you turn,
there's something to do, something to watch." Typical of North
Carolina's students is freshman Robby Spencer, a self-described
"sports freak" from Hendersonville, N.C., who since last fall
has attended basketball, football, soccer and volleyball games
and has played intramural basketball, soccer, volleyball and
Wiffle ball. "That's all I've had time for," he says glumly.

Every school in the country would love to count Michael Jordan,
Sam Perkins and James Worthy among its alumni. At North Carolina
those guys played on the same team. Eight national players of
the year have played men's basketball for the Tar Heels, who
have reached 14 Final Fours and won four national titles. Dean
Smith is Division I basketball's winningest coach (879 victories
and counting). Yet men's hoops might be only the second-most
successful athletic program at North Carolina. There have been
15 NCAA championships won in the history of women's soccer, and
the Tar Heels own 13 of them. As for other sports, the men's
lacrosse team has won four national titles and the field hockey
team, three. The women's basketball team won the 1994
championship game on one of the most memorable plays of the
decade, a last-second three-pointer by Charlotte Smith--wearing,
naturally, number 23--that gave the Tar Heels a 59-57 victory
over Louisiana Tech.

In recent times the level of intramural and club sports activity
in Chapel Hill has threatened to outstrip the facilities. But
six years ago students overwhelmingly passed a referendum to
raise student fees to build a new, two-level rec center. Last
year marked the opening of the new Outdoor Education Center,
which offers ropes courses, mountain-bike trails, an 18-hole
Frisbee golf course and the longest zipline (a cable that
students ride down, boot-camp style, while hanging from a
pulley) in the U.S.

When students aren't watching one sporting event or playing in
another, they can step onto Franklin Street and partake in that
most traditional of collegiate activities: the beer lift. Choice
seating for basketball telecasts is located at Four Corners
restaurant and bar, named for the numbingly effective delay
offense Smith employed before the advent of the shot clock. For
games not on local TV, there's the North Carolina Sports Bar on
West Franklin, which has 10 satellite receivers and an area for
shooting free throws.

"Athletics on campus was one reason I came here," says sophomore
Regina Healy, the president of the field hockey club. "I wanted
to get involved as much as possible, to try to make a big
university seem a little bit smaller." The heavy participation
in sports does make 24,439-student North Carolina seem much more
intimate and friendly, though as jock schools go, it looms large.

--SETH DAVIS

COLOR PHOTO: WALTER P. CALAHAN AFTER BIG BASKETBALL WINS, CELEBRATIONS RAGE ON FRANKLIN STREET [Two University of North Carolina students jumping over fire in street]