This post was written before the UCF game but due to scheduling SFN decided it best to move the publish date to September 20. Enjoy.
During the course of the UNC fiasco, it’s been asked by NC State fans and Carolina fans alike why Wolfpackers are concerning themselves with the Tar Heels’ problems. So far, either we haven’t been dignifying the nay-sayers with a response or we simply don’t have a firm handle on it ourselves. Either way, as football season kicks up, NC State has more to talk about than just a powder-puff opponent (like WCU last week), and questions still arise as to why NC State is pursuing the allegations over the hill so aggressively, it’s time to look back on why the Wolfpack even cares about Carolina.
We all know about the Jimmy Valvano “scandal” (you know… the one where Valvano was found not to be guilty of his most serious allegations and he got boned anyway) and how the media immediately jumped on the coach during the onset of the investigation. But I think it’s important for State fans and Tar Heel fans alike to understand that this isn’t only a 20 year grudge (even though for many that is a big part of it).
Like it or not, whether Carolina wants to admit it or not, University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University have been rivals ever since the North Carolina General Assembly, composed of a large number of UNC-CH alumni, refused to give any money to the new Land Grant college as many other states did to their respective Land Grant institutions. It’s also worth mentioning that Land Grant funding was originally being given to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but somehow disappeared once it came time to establish a “partner” institution. The rivalry between the Tar Heels and Wolfpack isn’t just athletics, it’s foundational to who we are.
Athletically, this rivalry has gone back since our first UNC-NC State football game on October 12, 1894 and our first basketball game in the 1910’s (compared to the UNC-DUKE rivalry that started in the mid-1920’s in both sports). It’s difficult to read too much into the series history between NC State and UNC (142-75 UNC in basketball and 63-30-6 UNC in football) since Carolina has had a longer established tradition athletically than NC State and since the nature of athletics was completely different prior to the establishment of conferences (the Southern Conference starting in 1921), but one thing can’t be denied: in the lifetime of the newest generation of Pack fans, UNC has enjoyed the reputation of “the more successful school” for most of the last 20 years.
Actually, there is only a short period of time from around 2000-01 – 2003-04 that NC State was generally more “successful” than UNC in both football and basketball. No wonder many of the (a) younger and (b) dumber Carolina fans don’t recognize NC State as their rivals. During this time span, NC State split 4-4 with UNC in basketball and dominated Carolina 3-1 in football. In other words, during Carolina’s worst basketball performance (thank you Doherty), we still only split with UNC. Much of this is agreeably due to the Jimmy Valvano fiasco, but at the end of the day, the record doesn’t care why someone lost… only that they lost.
So why does NC State care about Carolina and their troubles? Aside from the already discussed massive recruiting/performance implications the fall-out in Chapel Hill could produce for the Wolfpack, it’s also about the same thing every rivalry is about: bragging rights. What NC State has experienced in the past 20 years has been two decades (spare a few years) of bragging by Carolina on how superior their teams and athletic program are to NC State. The past 100 years we have dealt with piss-poor treatment from UNC Chapel Hill as an institution. Why does this matter to NC State fans? If you speak to the student/alumni, it’s institutional payback and a ‘settling of the score’ for watching Carolina treat NC State like the ‘lesser hick school in west Raleigh’. If you speak to the sports fan, it is payback for the arrogant chest-beating that Tar Heels have thrown in State fans’ faces since the downfall of our basketball program and resulting downfall of our athletic program in general.
Bottom line: this isn’t about gloating or being “mean”. It’s definitely not about any kind of ill-conceived notion of “Carolina Envy”. This is about poetic justice, the disrespect Carolina has treated NC State with over the years, and showing Carolina how it feels to be treated like NC State. Personally, I fully intend on being generous enough to give Carolina all of the “NC State experience” they deserve.