Our ‘Obsession’ With UNC & Duke

Around the year 2000 when I first started my slow education of all things NC State, my father would tell me about “The Big Four” which always confused me because I couldn’t see what accomplishments or competitive edge the four universities had in common.

For those who are younger (like me) and may not be aware, “The Big Four” are NC State, Wake Forest, Duke, and UNC who used to all play in the Dixie Classic tournament in the 1940’s through the beginning of the 1960’s and later in the Big Four tournament of the 1970’s.  Generally speaking, these where four pretty good basketball programs that could all compete with each other on any given day.

Since then, a couple of us have fell of the wagon.  Suffice to say that NC State has seen better days (that mostly happen to reside a generation ago) and Wake Forest isn’t in any better shape (a few good seasons here and there, but they never have been a National Championship team).  Actually, in the last 10 years, we’ve only been seeded in the top half of the conference 4 times.  Not much of a powerhouse…

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.  As our very own Alpha Wolf was kind enough to point out, the rhetoric that has been spewed for years is that NC State is obsessed with beating UNC and Duke to a fanatical extent for no damn good reason other than we feel inferior due to their success.  The following is from an article published by Gary Parrish that Alpha Wolf posted in our forums.

Sendek coached the Wolfpack from 1996 to 2006 and finished in the top half of the ACC in each of his final five seasons, all of which resulted in NCAA tournament appearances. According to the “reasonable” Wolfpack fan who e-mailed, everything should’ve been hunky-dory. But everything wasn’t. N.C. State fans were so tough on Sendek after five straight NCAA tournaments that he decided to walk away and escape a scenario where he would very clearly never win enough to please the majority, and what Sendek has done at Arizona State in the subsequent years is irrelevant. The point remains the same. N.C. State fans were unhappy and glad to see their coach go after five straight NCAA tournaments.Why?

Because Duke and North Carolina were doing better.

This is technically correct, but not for the reasons that ole Gary thinks.

The problem is that the media seems to paint NC State as the third Baldwin to the ACC where we, as a program, struggle to ever be quite as good as UNC or Duke, yet want to pretend we are a part of their club.  The media, either not willing or flat-out incapable to do the research, sees us do things like firing*** Herb Sendek, an “alright” coach, and assumes that since we are doing well by many programs’ standards, we must be upset that we aren’t “the other two Baldwins”.


Pay attention and you might learn something, Gary.  Sure, NC State fans love beating UNC because… well… they are a cesspool of evil that spawns all we consider heinous on this earth.  Duke we just dislike because they are an obstacle and old rival.  So why don’t we hate Wake Forest?  Easy… they aren’t an obstacle and quite frankly most of the fans you meet from Wake Forest aren’t complete a**holes.

NC State wants to regain national prowess.  Period.  That’s it.  To do that, we must win championships in our conference, then in the NCAA tournament.  Duke and UNC are an obstacle to that end.  Therefore, NC State is upset when you can’t beat UNC and Duke because it means you can’t win a championship.

(***I know technically we didn’t “fire” Herb Sendek, but to be honest after hearing so many people bash NC State for “running him off”, I’ve started to take this little bit of false information as a badge of honor.  You’re damn right that we wanted him fired and for all I care, I’m more than happy to take on the factually incorrect accusation that the FANS fired Herb Sendek because not being on the top is NOT okay.)


Since the 2000-2001 season, the first one that I really started paying attention to, NC State has only been seeded in the top half of the conference 4 times.  How many times has Duke been in the top half of the conference during tournament time?  TEN out of the last 11 seasons.  What about Carolina?  EIGHT out of the last 11 seasons.  In addition to that, Duke has been to the ACC title game 9 times since 2000-2001, winning a total of 7 titles, and Carolina has been there 4 times, winning the title twice.

NC State has been to the title game just 3 times in the last 11 seasons, never once winning the title, and one of those years was the ‘pseudo-miracle run’ during Lowe’s first season.  The only other program to go to the ACC championship game more than once during that time span was Georgia Tech.  Note that Wake Forest isn’t even on the map.  They had a few good seeds in the tournament, but couldn’t seem to make for good competition.  They aren’t much of an obstacle.

Again, Gary, you have to keep in mind that NC State’s goal isn’t wins against UNC and Duke; it’s returning to national prominence and winning titles.  So if NC State wants to win titles, who is it that is consistent in their way?  It’s not Wake Forest or Maryland or anyone else that someone may rationalize should be a rival.  It’s UNC and Duke.  Those are the teams consistently in the championship game, so if we want a good litmus test on whether we are good enough to win the ACC championship, we have to be able to consistently compete with this caliber of competition.

They are good teams.  I’m man enough to admit it.  But NC State doesn’t want a coach that is going to just “upset” these guys out of some ‘obsession’.  They want a coach that can have NC State in a position where THEY have to upset US because that means that our program is in good shape to be a conference and national player.


That’s not unreasonable, either.  Consider that in 1990, these were the accomplishments for each of the three programs in question:

Conference Titles = 17
National Titles = 2

Conference Titles = 19
National Titles = 2 (I don’t include that Helms trophy peice of s**t)

Conference Titles = 13
National Titles = 0

So back in 1990 before all of the Valvano/NCAA/”wasn’t an issue but the conference/our administration screwed us over anyway” stuff, Duke was lagging behind NC State and UNC and all that separated “the flagship” with State were two conference championships.  Both UNC and NC State were considered major “national” programs that were in the conversation for post-season aspiration every single season.

Now fast-forward to today.  Where do we stand?

Conference Titles = 17
National Titles = 2

Conference Titles = 25
National Titles =  5

Conference Titles = 24
National Titles = 4

Again, Gary, it’s not specifically about beating UNC or Duke; it’s about returning to national prominence.  You look at those numbers and what sticks out to you?  Perhaps it’s the improvement of Duke, but it’s most likely the lack of change in NC State’s numbers.  NC State has been dead-in-the-water since before the 1990s.  If that were your program, what would your priority be?  Would you be more concerned with beating one or two programs out there and risk firing “the world’s best coach” because he didn’t have enough head-to-head wins against rivals, or would you be more concerned with the fact that despite all of your “success” in making the NCAA tournament, your basketball program hasn’t been a real thread to ANYONE, in terms of hardware acquisition, since 1990?

NC State fans are smarter than you give them credit for.  They want the damn hardware.  Beating UNC and Duke is just the means to the end.


Last time I’ll say it, Gary: NC State doesn’t measure it’s success over some irrational obsession with UNC or Duke.  It doesn’t care as much about head-to-head contests as you think and it isn’t going to fire an otherwise successful coach because those head-to-head records aren’t getting better.  NC State hasn’t been a “game changer” threatening to grab national or conference titles in a long time, and that is NC State’s concern primary concern.  Want to know why we would fire someone who can’t beat UNC and/or Duke?  Because if they can’t beat UNC and/or Duke, they obviously can’t be in the running for the ACC title each year and can’t be counted on in the NCAA tournament.

What Gottfried brings to NC State is a lot of experience in grabbing titles.  His staff, collectively, brings in 8 different conference championships and 1 national championship at their former posts.  If Gottfried puts together a program that wins titles, it is going to have to beat UNC and Duke.  That’s just how it is.  Sure, the fans will whine and moan if we don’t beat our rivals, but at the end of the day, it’s our return as a national contender that is of primary concern.  ALL of our coaches in the last 20 years have been incapable of doing that.  That’s why they were fired; not because of some irrational obsession with conference rivals.  If UNC manages to beat us more than 50% of the time Gottfried is here, once his program is established, of course, I promise you no one will care too much if that record is accompanied by a few ACC Champion plaques and some deep NCAA runs to the final four.

It’s all about image and ours isn’t tied to UNC and Duke.  Now start doing your damn job, Gary, and help do some analysis on how we get back to where we deserve to be.

About NCStatePride

***ABOUT THE AUTHOR: NCStatePride has been writing for StateFansNation.com since 2010 and is a 2009 graduate of the College of Engineering.

General Mark Gottfried NCS Basketball NCSU Sports History Tradition

28 Responses to Our ‘Obsession’ With UNC & Duke

  1. Wufpacker 01/11/2012 at 8:40 AM #

    “NC State wants to regain national prowess. Period. That’s it. To do that, we must win championships in our conference, then in the NCAA tournament. Duke and UNC are an obstacle to that end. Therefore, NC State is upset when you can’t beat UNC and Duke because it means you can’t win a championship.”

    Just thought this bears repeating. I always wondered why this was such a difficult concept to grasp. Then I realized it wasn’t. It was just the good ol’ double standard. How else can one explain the PR shitstorm NC State received (and is still receiving to a certain degree) for not getting into a bidding war for a coach that hadn’t even earned his 10 yr multimillion dollar payout to that point? And yet, just right down the road, there was hardly a peep when “the hammer” fell on Mr. Doherty’s head after only three yrs despite his numbers being arguably better.

    Also, Mr. Parrish thinks he can just throw out Sendek’s subsequent years’ results as irrelevant? Says who? The same writers that said things like “mark it down, Sendek will thrive in the desert” ? Sorry, Gary….doesn’t work that way. You were wrong.

  2. tractor57 01/11/2012 at 8:44 AM #

    The worm is turning.

  3. hoop 01/11/2012 at 8:47 AM #

    The more NC State fans talk about how they are not obsessed with UNC & Duke, the more people think NC State fans are obsessed with UNC & Duke.

    So just stop talking about them.

  4. Wufpacker 01/11/2012 at 8:51 AM #


  5. LRM 01/11/2012 at 8:53 AM #

    May want to point out that you’ve included Southern Conference titles in the count. State has 10 ACC titles, which in 1987 (when we won our last), was tied with Carolina and led Duke (7).

    NCStatePride: Good point. In an attempt to give any UNC/Duke fringe elements the “benefit of the doubt” regarding the ‘superiority’ of UNC, I wanted to include some of those early-on years where Carolina did very well… primarily because they had fielded a team already for a significantly larger amount of time than NC State and many others. Point is well taken, though, that in reality, we were even better than the numbers in the article indicate.

  6. wolfie91 01/11/2012 at 9:06 AM #

    I agree with hoop.

  7. Plz2BStateFan 01/11/2012 at 9:32 AM #

    Love the article, kind of agree with hoop.

    Gary is looking for hits. He has recognized how much better NC State is looking with Gottfried.

    So I am not worried about the media. Once we make a statement it will be interpreted as such.

  8. NCStatePride 01/11/2012 at 9:36 AM #

    The “just stop talking about them” argument is very similar to the arguments about Herb Sendek immediately after he left for ASU: in a vacuum it might not be a bad idea, but if you are expecting the media to not talk about it just because we don’t talk about it, I have some beach-front property to sell you in Kansas…

    Like Sendek’s performance at ASU, it goes a long way to vindicating our feelings during a time when the media was bashing us for a decision to advance our program. Similarly, it is completely appropriate to “set the record straight” on exactly what these guys keep getting wrong. It’s important to note why our fanbase appears to ‘obsessed’ with Duke and Carolina being as successful as they are because it has direct implications to our program regaining the success it once had.

    Sitting back and not doing anything when our image is being besmirched was the Lee Fowler approach. I wasn’t a big fan then and I’m not a big fan now.

  9. tractor57 01/11/2012 at 10:16 AM #

    I’m obsessed with beating UNC, Duke, Wake, Clempson …

  10. NCSU88 01/11/2012 at 10:17 AM #

    Well stated NCStatePride.

    My favorite part “UNC because… well… they are a cesspool of evil that spawns all we consider heinous on this earth.”

    Those numbers from the past few decades are telling.

  11. T-Pack 01/11/2012 at 10:21 AM #

    Perhaps some would look at it as an “apples and oranges” comparison, but what we’ve recently seen in the football program supports NCStatePride’s point here. Despite five years of dominance over the Tarheels, it is quite possible that TOB would be looking for another job now had it not been for the comeback win over Maryland. As gratifying as wins over the ‘blues’ are, most of us have bigger goals in mind than just getting bragging rights.

  12. redcanine 01/11/2012 at 10:31 AM #

    “I’m obsessed with beating UNC, Duke, Wake, Clempson …”


  13. Prowling Woofie 01/11/2012 at 10:38 AM #

    Good article, Pride – the blues are just obstacles in the way to our ultimate goal, and should be treated and regarded as road kill. My introduction to Pack fandom came at the advent of the Thompson years, when we moved to Raleigh and got season tickets, and for several years, that’s EXACTLY what they were – especially Duke.

    I’ll nitpick one statement: The media, either not willing or flat-out incapable to do the research, sees us do things like firing Herb Sendek…

    We didn’t fire him, we just opted not to fight to keep him. He walked. We let him. Semantics, perhaps, but different.

    NCStatePride: I added a clarification regarding Sendek that you’ll probably enjoy.

  14. Baylisascaris 01/11/2012 at 10:39 AM #

    I remember during V’s early years he was asked a question about Dean Smith. V said something to the effect of “I like Dean Smith, I respect Dean Smith, but I have got to beat Dean Smith.” That sums up how it is with the Holes and Duke. We have to beat them if we want championships.

  15. NCStatePride 01/11/2012 at 10:50 AM #

    I just wanted to point out that Jordan Vandenberg just Tweeted the link to this article. It’s important for the PLAYERS to know exactly what the fans are seething for and exactly what we want for them to be: dominant and uncompromising.

    So when you see something like this, just bear in mind that it’s not just about arguing with a media talking-head that I’m sure won’t read or listen to any sort of response; these things are written for the fans and the players so that our own compasses aren’t skewed by the crap you read in the News & Observer.

  16. logarithm 01/11/2012 at 11:12 AM #

    My experience from when I voluntarily spent a lot of time in Chapel Hill, with a lot of UNC-CH students my age, trying to impress my girlfriend (who now has the good sense to live and work in Raleigh) was that the younger UNC-CH fanbase very much enjoys feeling like 30,000 people down the road are obsessed with them. It validates their feeling of superiority. And I’m glad Pride has the same conclusion I gave them: I just want my team to be nationally relevant again and your team is in the way. They never took that explanation and never seemed to care about the history of the programs before we were born.

  17. Wufpacker 01/11/2012 at 12:01 PM #

    There have been times when NCSU was the objects of their obsessions. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

  18. Lunatic Fringe 01/11/2012 at 12:04 PM #

    I completely agree with sentiment behind your “firing” comment. It is why I don’t mind being called part of the Lunatic Fringe though it was originally meant as a derogatory term by our past AD and those who supported Sendek.

    I take Lunatic Fringe to represent a group of people who had vision to see status quo was not going to get us there and cared enough to voice that opinion even with the media berating us every step of the way.

    The current season (at both ASU and NCSU) is proving everyday that we were not that “crazy”.

  19. triadwolf 01/11/2012 at 1:32 PM #

    I don’t want this to be a Sendek thread, but there is one more important note that the media completely misses: Yes, Sendek took us to 5 straight NCAA tournaments, but it’s how he did it that irks most fans. He basically set up a weak OOC schedule and beat up on the the lower half of the conference to just “squeak” into the dance in 4 of those 5 years. That model would not have continued to succeed beginning that next year when the NCAA started making SOS a key criteria (see Greenberg and VT).

    I really think this is one of the main reasons Sendek chose to move on; not to mention the fact that he knew the cupboard was about to be pretty bare. His value was the highest it was ever going to be and he was smart enough to realize it. The fact that the subsequent coaching search/hire was a cluster F#^% is irrelevant.

  20. PackMan97 01/11/2012 at 1:51 PM #

    A-FREAKIN-MEN! Very well said.


    That said, I am a little obsessed with beating Carolina. Ok, maybe a lot. There is a reason fan is just a shortened form of fanatic 🙂

    Duke, I could care less about as long as they beat Carolina. Doh! Not only am I obsessed with beating Carolina, I’m also obsessed by seeing them beaten, by anyone.

  21. ppack3 01/11/2012 at 3:07 PM #

    “There have been times when NCSU was the objects of their obsessions. Don’t let anyone tell you different.” Wufpacker

    Amen, brother. There are plenty of stories about UNC coaches lurking in bushes, etc. In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s the UNC/NC State rivalry was much more like Alabama/Auburn Football. Some people equate it to Duke/UNC. That’s insulting.

    Our rivalry with UNC spilled over into the streets. Mascots were harmed. Properties were defaced. Those nerds at Duke couldn’t hang with the nerds from Lambda Lambda Lambda. We didn’t know what Political Correctness meant, back in the day. As Hubert Davis said, during the broadcast of the Maryland game on Sunday night, “Reynolds was the one arena that I played in where, when the game was over, you wanted to get out of there! The fans were right on top of you, the locker rooms were down three flights of stairs, and when you ran through the tunnel, the fans threw Coke and spit on you!” He forgot to mention that our players would also beat them!

    I understand NCStatePride’s points about Duke and UNC being hurdles for us and about them standing in our way, and I agree with them. But, I don’t discount the disdain that I feel for all things Blue. The quote from Herb about the Duke and UNC games only counting for one loss or win, just like every other game, really struck a nerve with our fans, because good or bad, it’s not just another hurdle. When Doherty had UNC reeling, I wanted to whip UNC’s ass just as bad as in their Championship years.

    One last note, with regards to titles… I know the Championship records of UNC, Duke and State, but how about other ACC teams? Maryland has one National Championship. ONE! Any other teams? Nope. In the great ACC, there have only been four teams that have taken home that trophy. That’s it! Correct me if I’m wrong.

    On a side note, Wake has 4 ACC titles. Maryland and GT have 3 apiece, and UVA has one. SoCar has one from their ACC days, too. But, that’s it! We have more ACCC’s than all of these teams combined.

    Sorry for the rant.

  22. freshmanin83 01/11/2012 at 3:29 PM #

    I want the ACC to be the dominant basketball conference in the country so I pull for every ACC team to beat every non-conference opponent. I want the state of NC to be the dominant state in the ACC so I pull for the big 4 against all others. I want NCSU to be the dominant team in the ACC so I pull for them against all others.

  23. GoldenChain 01/11/2012 at 5:13 PM #

    Dear hoop & 91,
    If you don’t want us talking about “them” then DON’t POST on threads like this because your comments will certainly cause others to react….same advice I give to those who don’t like the non-sports stuff in the forum.
    Frankly its a GREAT piece Pride and says EXACTLY what old timers like me think! I don’t care about dominance of unx or Duke, I just want a competitive program…which includes occasional wins against them, or at least competitive games…how many competitive games have we had against them (not counting the handful we won) in the last two decades?!
    …yeah that’s what I thought. The shame is that many under 40s accept that this is our lot in life as Wolfpackers. That’s the true shame!

  24. Greywolf 01/12/2012 at 9:54 AM #

    What GC says…

    Plus: Wanna see something interesting? Google Dixie Classic Basketball. Draw your own conclussions.

  25. GoldenChain 01/12/2012 at 4:28 PM #

    Great point hoop.
    As an almost 54yo I don’t grasp the difference between Blog vs Forum.

    However I do grasp camping outside of WmNReynolds for sideline seats to watch DT, Kenny Carr, Hawkeye, Sid & Witt (I guess I was too young and naive to know what I was watching at the time!). I know what it’s like to see the ‘noise meter’ peg-out for most of a game, I know what its like to sweat for two hours then exit into the cold February night to go back to Owen and dig back into the books. I know what its like to be in the “Grand Ole Lady” when she was rocking during a State/Xarolina game and both were ranked.
    ….which I expect many on here have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.
    Therefore I don’t see WTFreak difference a “blog” vs a “forum” makes to Wolfpack basketball history.

    But I defer to you on the matter.

Leave a Reply