The paper was free, but we could only hand out one copy per person. I had to argue with elementary schoolers, dads and grandmothers to make sure I stuck to that rule. Less than 30 minutes in I was sweating bullets as I tried desperately to keep up with the crowd forming around me.
I started handing out papers robotically, not bothering to check who was on the receiving end and only snapping out of it when someone tried to fight my one-per-person rule. I came to as a tall blonde in front of me blinked, paused for a moment, spoke in a voice that I recognized from a press conference, of all places.
“Can I actually —,” Taylor Koenen started.
“Take as many as you want,” I said, surely eliciting groans from the sea of argyle around me.
I didn’t care. She deserves this.
I covered a women’s basketball game that semester for a sportswriting class. It wasn’t pretty. UNC lost 71-95 against Duke on Senior Night. I don’t think that the Senior Night part mattered too much — there was only one senior on the team, and she had retired from college ball early to try and save whatever worn-down knee joint she has left.
There’s a lot to be said about the recognition of non-revenue sports and their athletes in general, but nowhere is it felt more keenly than UNC’s women’s basketball team. You can deny it all you want, but that program took the fall for the NCAA scandal that rocked the Tar Heels in 2012.
Roy’s boys wouldn’t have been able to cut down those nets in April if it wasn’t for Sylvia’s girls — the ones that stayed, the ones that didn’t, the ones that are slowly trickling back through recruitment to form a laughably youthful team.
And if it wasn’t for the scandal, Sylvia Hatchell might have had a championship welcome home of her own. UNC’s class of 2017 was good. They’re still good, they’re just at different universities, running as fast as they could from visions of AFAM classes and lost scholarships and NCAA sanctions. The rest of women’s basketball was bad this year — UConn lost in the Final Four, for God’s sake.
So I’m sorry to the grandmothers of UNC, but Taylor Koenen gets as many newspapers as she wants. She’s taking a chance on us. She’s taking a chance to rebuild. And in a couple years, we might know her as well as a member of the men’s team. She put up a career-high 11 points in that Duke game. And by the time a proper senior class is restored to Carmichael, maybe we’ll be able to give them credit for all the good they’ve done.