The North Carolina Tar Heels football team represents the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the sport of American football. The Tar Heels have played in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Being the oldest public university and oldest collegiate team in the Carolinas, the school is nicknamed “Carolina” in athletics. The program’s title in football is “Carolina Football”.
In Carolina’s first 121 seasons of football competition, the Tar Heels have compiled a record of 646–488–54, a winning percentage of .566. North Carolina has played in 31 bowl games in its history and won three Southern Conference championships and five Atlantic Coast Conference titles. Thirty Tar Heel players have been honored as first-team All-Americas on 38 occasions. Carolina had 32 All-Southern Conference selections when it played in that league until 1952 and since joining the ACC in 1953, has had 174 first-team All-ACC choices. Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953, the team has won five conference championships, with the most recent title coming in 1980.
One very important contribution to the game of football by Carolina is the modern use of the forward pass; they were the first college team to use the play in 1895. Bob Quincy notes in his 1973 book They Made the Bell Tower Chime: “John Heisman, a noted historian, wrote 30 years later that, indeed, the Tar Heels had given birth to the forward pass against the Bulldogs (UGA). It was conceived to break a scoreless deadlock and give UNC a 6–0 win. The Tar Heels were in a punting situation and a Georgia rush seemed destined to block the ball. The punter, with an impromptu dash to his right, tossed the ball and it was caught by George Stephens, who ran 70 yards for a touchdown.”
University of North Carolina and Duke University
Duke is one of North Carolina’s biggest rivals. The football rivalry between Duke and North Carolina began in 1888, when Duke was known by the name of Trinity. Trinity won the first game in the now-longstanding series. While the two teams are more known for their basketball rivalry, they have been known to have some great games every now and then. The Victory Bell was introduced for the 1948 match-up, which North Carolina won 20-0. It’s tradition for the school that has possession of the bell to paint the bell in the shade of blue of their school. The longest consecutive win streak in the series is a 13-game win streak by the Tar Heels from 1990-2002. The all-time series record is 55–35–4 (excluding the two Carolina vacated victories) in favor of the Tar Heels.
University of North Carolina and Virginia Cavaliers
The Tar Heels’ rivalry with the Virginia Cavaliers began in 1892, and the rivalry has come to be known as the “South’s Oldest Rivalry.” The teams played twice during the 1892 season, with the Cavaliers winning the first game and the Tar Heels winning the second. The two teams have played a total of 116 times, more than the two teams have played any other program. It is the fourth most played rivalry game among college football’s major conference schools. The all-time series record is 62–54–4, in favor of the Tar Heels.
University of North Carolina and South Carolina Gamecocks
The Battle of the Carolinas is a rivalry that began in 1903. North Carolina holds a 34–19–4 overall leads the series. Since South Carolina left the ACC the teams still meet every once and while. In the 2010’s Decade the series have been played on a Thursdays. It was announced in September 2015 they will play every four years in 2019 and 2023.
Before Matt Kupec could begin his career as the UNC starting quarterback, he suffered torn ligaments in his during a preseason practice. He returned home to Long Island and considered transferring to a school closer to home, but decided to persevere. He spent the next year rehabbing with the team surgeon for the New York Jets and readied himself for what would become a record-setting college career. Matt Kupec wound up starting at quarterback for all four years, from 1976-1979, setting 19 career and season passing records, including most games in a row with a touchdown thrown and most wins as a starting QB.
North Carolina has played in 32 bowl games in its history with a record of 14–18