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We are the Champions

By Bill Haas, 05/09/13, 11:06AM EDT



Lennie Rosenbluth starred on the Tar Heel team that won the 1957 national title.

Memories are made of this … On March 23, 1957, folks in North Carolina huddled around their radios, listening intently as the University of North Carolina Tar Heels played the Kansas Jayhawks for the NCAA basketball championship.

Listeners collapsed from the tension, then celebrated. The Tar Heels had completed a 32-0 season, cementing the sport as the most popular in the state and giving it a national championship.

It wasn’t the first for our state – the Wake Forest baseball team accomplished that in 1955 – but it was the most important because it burst the dam for a wave of national championships that continue to this day.

The state of North Carolina has produced 144 national championship college teams (there may be some that were overlooked in research). They run the gamut from 15 in basketball to men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s golf, lacrosse, field hockey, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and women’s tennis.

And they aren’t confined to major colleges. North Carolina’s athletic teams have won titles on the NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS), Division II and Division III levels. Several championships were won in NAIA and AIAW (women’s sports) competition.

Professionally, the Carolina Hurricanes brought the Stanley Cup to the state in 2006. And in NASCAR, which rivals college hoops in popularity, Richard Petty (Level Cross) and Dale Earnhardt (Kannapolis) won seven titles each. Yes, the drivers made it happen, but it was the teams and pit crews that got the cars ready.

Wake Forest’s 1975 national championship golf team featured a collection of future PGA Tour stars.

It’s impossible to list them all, but memories are made of this in basketball …

David Thompson and Tommy Burleson leading N.C. State to the championship in 1974 … Michael Jordan’s game-winner to give Tar Heel coach Dean Smith his first of two titles in 1982 … coach Jim Valvano of State’s “Cardiac Pack” racing around the court, looking for someone to hug after Lorenzo Charles’ dunk beat Houston in 1983 … Duke winning back-to-back titles in 1991-92, the first two for coach Mike Krzyzewski, who repeated in 2001 and 2010 … Roy Williams coaching North Carolina to titles in 2005 and 2009.

For smaller schools, memories are made of this ... Guilford winning five games in six days to capture the 1973 NAIA basketball championship … the incomparable Earl Monroe leading Winston-Salem State and coach Bighouse Gaines to a Division II title in 1967 … Anthony Atkinson scoring 10 points in the final 37 seconds to complete a rally that gave Barton College a Division II championship … Appalachian winning three straight IAA football crowns under coach Jerry Moore from 2005-07… Elon winning back-to-back NAIA football titles in 1980-81 … and Guilford coach Jack Jensen winning NCAA Division III golf championships in 2002 and 2005 to go with his 1973 NAIA basketball title.

Anson Dorrance

And for dominance, memories are made of this … North Carolina winning 21 of the first 31 NCAA women’s soccer titles, all under coach Anson Dorrance (he also won an AIAW title) … the remarkable record of coach George Williams at St. Augustine’s, whose teams have won 32 championships in Division II men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track … the Methodist women’s golf team winning all 13 Division II tournaments that have been played, and the men’s team winning nine golf titles in 10 years.

George Williams

That’s not to mention memories of three men’s golf titles for Wake Forest, five women’s golf championships for Duke, four lacrosse championships for North Carolina and one for Duke, six field hockey titles for North Carolina and three for Wake, UNC Greensboro’s three straight Division III men’s soccer crowns from 1985-87, a 2009 women’s tennis title for Duke, a women’s Division I basketball championship for North Carolina and a Division II title for Shaw, two Division III baseball crowns for North Carolina Wesleyan and an NAIA football championship for Lenoir-Rhyne.

And the state shows no signs of slowing down. Whenever they play for national championships in the future, more memories are going to be made by teams from the state of North Carolina.

Mike Krzyzewski

The winningest coach in Division I history, Mike Krzyzewski has led Duke to four national titles since arriving in Durham in 1980.

Bill Hass

Bill Hass


Bill Hass worked in the sports department for the newspapers in Greensboro for 37 years. His coverage ran the gamut from community and youth sports to high schools, colleges and the pros. He is retired but still writes for the Greensboro Grasshoppers and for the ACC.