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The Daily Tar Heel

A brief history of UNC's storied athletic programs and their national titles

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DTH Graphic. Photos by Ira Wilder, Angelina Katsanis, Laura Morton and Alex Kormann.

UNC is nicknamed the University of National Champions for a reason.

Since 1977, every four-year student that has attended North Carolina has seen the Tar Heels win at least one national championship, beginning with the 1981 men's lacrosse title. In total, UNC has won 46 NCAA team titles.

Carolina Athletics is probably best known for its six-time NCAA champion men's basketball team, which has seen iconic moments from Michael Jordan's game-winning shot in the 1982 title game to Chris Webber's ill-fated timeout in 1993.

But you may not have even heard of one of the team's greatest championship runs, which happened in 1957. Coaching legend Frank McGuire led the team to a perfect 32-0 season alongside ACC Player of the Year Lennie Rosenbluth. The team played in Woollen Gymnasium, which is now used as a student recreation facility.

The team then took out Yale, Canisius, Syracuse and Michigan State to face a Wilt Chamberlain-led Kansas team, which only had two losses, in the title game. In three overtimes, the Tar Heels were able to contain Chamberlain and won their first-ever national championship 54-53.

The football team has never won a national championship, but it has produced its fair share of stars. Players like Lawrence Taylor, Julius Peppers, Dré Bly, Mitch Trubisky and many others all played in Kenan Memorial Stadium wearing Carolina blue. The team is on the rise once again, guided by Hall of Fame coach Mack Brown and junior quarterback Sam Howell, who is primed for a run at the Heisman Trophy that eluded former Tar Heel Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice in 1948 and 1949.

However, the men's basketball and football teams are far from the most decorated sports programs that North Carolina has to offer. The talent that has stepped foot on campus doesn’t just stop at names like Vince Carter and Giovani Bernard.

One of the most dominant teams featured at UNC is women’s soccer. The program has won 22 national championships with many of its players going on to star on the international level. Five of the 23 players on the United States women's national team are former UNC players.

From 1986-1994, current women’s soccer head coach Anson Dorrance and the Tar Heels dominated the NCAA, winning nine straight championships and only losing one game across that span.

During those nine years, Dorrance coached legendary players such as Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm and Tisha Venturini, all of whom won the Hermann Trophy, awarded annually to the best player in college soccer.

Recently, the field hockey team has put the country on notice, winning three straight titles. Rising senior forward Erin Matson is one of the best athletes to ever come through Chapel Hill. This past year, she won her third ACC Player of the Year award in three years with the team. Matson is just three goals away from becoming the program's all-time leader, and with at least one more year in a Tar Heel uniform its more than likely she will smash that record this upcoming season.

Another team to look out for is women’s lacrosse. This past season, head coach Jenny Levy and her team wreaked havoc on whoever they played. Behind two national player of the year finalists in attacker Jamie Ortega and goalkeeper Taylor Moreno, the team won twenty straight games and an ACC Championship and made it to the NCAA Tournament semifinals.

Levy won two national titles in 2013 and 2016 with the Tar Heels, and with many of their stars returning, they are primed for another run next year.

Like the women’s lacrosse team, the men’s lacrosse team reached the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament this past season while also sharing a piece of the ACC title with the team 8 miles up the road. Head coach Joe Breschi has had a part in the last two championships for men’s lacrosse, winning as an assistant coach in 1991 and as head coach in 2016.

So when you come to campus, make sure to keep your eyes on all corners of Carolina Athletics, because the University of National Champions is still adding to the trophy case.


@DTHsports |

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