SFN: Long time readers may remember some of our old entries (from 2005-2006) that we named “Perpetually Disappearing Pie”. We won’t link them here since our most recent server transition removed the key graphs from the entries. Today’s entry is a special submission from one of our long time contributors, SMD, and brings with it a similar perspective. Before reading this, we ask that you click here to view one of the many fascinating quotes from NC State’s current Athletics Director that will serve to provide direct insight into the mindset in Raleigh that helps create the results that SMD discusses in his submission.
I had tickets to the NC State-UNC-CH game today but didn’t go. I didn’t even watch it on TV. The last thing I wanted to see was another reminder of how far NC State has fallen behind the Tarholes.
While it is no exaggeration to say that I would literally pull for the Taliban National Team against the Baby Blues, the fact remains that I respect the hell out of their program. Frank McGuire, Dean Smith and now Roy Williams have established one of the top three college programs of all-time in Chapel Hell.
I give the Tarholes their due as a way of saying this; As a Wolfpacker, I have never expected our basketball program to compete neck and neck with UNC-CH for national prominence and titles. That idea is pretty much a pipe dream for anyone not named Coach K. However, given NC State’s storied tradition up to the early 1990s, there was no reason to ever think that we could not keep the Smurfs from feeling the wolves’ breath on their back.
Unfortunately, the Wolfpack is doing little to keep that pace and now we are a distant gleam in their rearview mirror – assuming they look back at all.
I’ve crunched the numbers from State’s basketball media guide and found some interesting statistics regarding the series record with UNC-CH. I looked at the head to head records for each decade starting in the 1950s and found the following;
1950 to 1960:
- State won 16 of 27 for a win percentage of .592.
- State won in 8 of the 10 years.
- State won 4 of 22 for a win percentage of .181.
- State won in 4 of the 10 years.
- State won 14 of 30 for a win percentage of .466.
- State won in 9 of the 10 years.
- State won 8 of 25 for a win percentage of .320
- State won in 6 of the 10 years.
- State won 6 of 22 for a win percentage of .272.
- State won in 5 of the 10 years.
- State won 5 of 18 for a win percentage of .277.
- State won in 3 of the 9 years.
Over the course of the last 6 decades, NC State had one, four-year losing streak in the 60’s. In the current decade there was a three-year losing streak from 2004 to 2006. Besides those two streaks, the Wolfpack has never suffered long losing streaks to the Tarholes. Like I said, State was able to keep the wolves’ breath on the Heels’ back.
Here’s the killer; against UNC-CH coaches not named Matt Doherty, State has won just twice in the last 13 years and once in the last decade. Let that sink in. Throw out the anomaly that the Doherty years were for UNC-CH and our record against “normal” Tarhole teams is nothing short of dismal.
Let’s state it again for emphasis – Setting aside the Matt Doherty years, State has beaten UNC-CH twice in the last 13 years and once in the last decade.
Digging into the numbers deeper, and comparing the records of the nine schools in the old ACC, against non-Matt Doherty Tarhole teams over the last 13 years, NC State has the fewest wins against UNC-CH of ANY ACC institution.
Here’s the point of all these dismal and pathetic statistics; until NC State leadership decided to de-emphasize basketball (and some could argue the entire athletics program) the Wolfpack beat one of the top programs in all of college basketball on a regular basis. Tarhole basketball is what it is and NC State has no control over how great things are in Chapel Hell. But what we can control is keeping the pace with the legendary program we all love to hate. As I’ve said before in the comments section of this blog, younger Wolfpackers should know that until the late 1980’s, the Wolfpack was tied with UNC-CH for ACC titles. We had the same number of national titles until 1993.
One could argue that while beating the Tarholes feels good for the Monday after work, there are many other barometers to measure the strength of a basketball program than wins against a top notch arch-rival.
While there are other indicators of program strength, I strongly believe that how NC State’s program fares against our argyle-wearing enemies should be the indicator that matters most. Why?
If NC State is beating UNC-CH on a regular basis, then our program is in pretty good shape. The Tarholes are without a doubt the gold standard by which the rest of the ACC and other programs across the country are judged. The years that the Wolfpack has fared best in the rivalry typically runs parallel to the years of overall success for the program. That’s no coincidence. If you’re going to run with the top dogs, or near the top dogs, you have to beat them. And if you’re beating them, you’re probably doing pretty good against the mutts and other dogs that aren’t as good.
I don’t think we’ll ever make up the ground we’ve lost over the last 19 years in my lifetime. Recruits today have no clue what Wolfpack basketball used to be. But sometime or another NC State has to step up and at least try to keep pace with UNC-CH. We have to stop accepting the ever-widening gap between the two programs. Who will accept that challenge?