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The Daily Tar Heel

Ten years ago today, what was the state of UNC's most prominent athletic programs?

Quarterback TJ Yates broke his single-season passing record in the first half.  Yates threw one touchdown.
Quarterback TJ Yates broke his single-season passing record in the first half. Yates threw one touchdown.

The North Carolina men’s basketball team is 6-1 after the departure of multiple contributors from last year, the football team recently became bowl eligible for the first time since 2016 and the women’s soccer team is preparing to take on Washington State in the program’s 29th College Cup appearance.

But not all of these programs were always as successful as they are today. Let's take a stroll down memory lane to the 2009-10 UNC athletic year.

Men’s basketball

The 2009-10 season was the lone blemish on an otherwise impressive decade for one of the nation’s premier men’s basketball programs.

North Carolina advanced to at least the third round in every NCAA tournament of the last decade except for one year: the 2009-10 season. In fact, the Tar Heels didn’t even receive an invitation to the tournament after falling to Georgia Tech, 62-58, in the first round of the ACC tournament, giving UNC a 16-16 record before the selection process.

After some strong performances early in the season — a 77-73 win over then-No. 15 Ohio State, a seven-point victory over then-No. 9 Michigan State and a two-point loss in Rupp Arena to then-No. 5 Kentucky — things quickly fell apart for the Tar Heels.

North Carolina managed a dismal 5-11 record in conference play and had to settle for focusing on making a deep run in the NIT the year after winning a national championship. The Tar Heels would go on to fall in the NIT finals, a 79-68 loss to Dayton.

The Tar Heels opened the season looking to defend the previous year’s NCAA title, but only returned 25.2 percent of that squad’s scoring. Only two players finished the year with a scoring average in double digits — senior Deon Thompson (13.7) and sophomore Ed Davis (13.4).


Coming off of an 8-5 season that ended with a one-point loss to West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl and with quarterback T.J. Yates returning, the North Carolina football team opened the 2009 season ranked No. 21 and flirted with a top-25 ranking for the entire year.

After jumping out to a 3-0 start with wins over Citadel, Connecticut and East Carolina, another Tar Heel program began to falter in ACC play. UNC’s defense allowed 317 rushing yards against Georgia Tech’s flagship triple-option attack and gave up 438 total yards to a Christian Ponder-led Florida State offense.

North Carolina fell to 4-3 after its first seven games and was unranked for weeks before a midseason turnaround propelled the Tar Heels back into bowl game contention.

UNC rattled off four straight wins, including strong upsets over No. 14 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the No. 12 Miami Hurricanes, to reappear in the rankings at No. 23 heading into the regular season finale against N.C. State.

However, like basketball, another season ended on a low note.

Russell Wilson completed 20 of 27 passes for four touchdowns to lead N.C. State to a 28-27 upset. The Tar Heels then failed to win the Meineke Car Care Bowl again, this time falling to one of the best Pittsburgh teams since Dan Marino’s time with the Panthers. Pitt knocked off UNC, 19-17, behind 159 rushing yards from Dion Lewis to seal another 8-5 season for the Tar Heels football program.

Women’s soccer

Since its inception, the UNC women’s soccer team has been the definition of consistency. The 2009 season was no different, as the Tar Heels finished the season with a 23-3-1 record and a second straight national title.

North Carolina dominated the start of the season, outscoring its first seven opponents 22-2. But even in a championship season, the women’s soccer program wasn’t able to avoid a few conference play struggles.

All three of UNC’s losses came against ACC rivals on the road, and each was a one-goal game in which the Tar Heels conceded late goals to lose.

From there, North Carolina flipped a switch to storm through the remainder of the season.

UNC breezed through the ACC tournament without allowing a goal and outscored its opponents 13-2 in the NCAA tournament. Junior forward Jessica McDonald scored the game-winning goal in the third minute of North Carolina’s 1-0 victory over Stanford in the title match to secure the program’s 20th NCAA championship in the tournament’s 28-year history.

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