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Campus Connections

By Johnny Moore, 05/09/13, 11:30AM EDT



This Anthony Atkinson layup capped a furious last-minute rally that provided Barton College with a 77-75 victory over Winona State and the 2007 Division II national championship. Under Karen Shelton, the North Carolina women’s field hockey program has bec

College athletics has long been the backbone of sports in the state of North Carolina. Names such as Everett Case, Wallace Wade, Dean Smith, Jesse Haddock, and Clarence Gaines are all pillars in the collegiate sports world, and they are all members of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

From the first college basketball game in the state in 1906 between Trinity College (later renamed Duke University) and Wake Forest College to the University of North Carolina’s 1957 NCAA basketball championship triple overtime win over Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas, to N.C. State’s miracle championship in 1983 to the 1942 Rose Bowl being played in Durham, college athletics have found their way into the heart of all North Carolinians.

There are currently 40 institutions of higher learning that play athletics in North Carolina. A mere 30-minute drive in any direction in the state will place you at the doorstep of one of the many colleges and universities. Seventeen of those institutions play at the highest level of college athletics – NCAA Division I.

And success in college athletics has been synonymous with all of the colleges and universities no matter the level of their completion.

Since the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953, the conference's North Carolina member schools have excelled in conference play, especially the game of basketball. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State University are all located within 25 miles of one another, creating fierce rivalries. Wake Forest University, another ACC member, is located less than 100 miles to the west of these schools in Winston-Salem. The Tar Heels have won five NCAA national championships in men’s basketball (1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, and 2009) and had arguably the best basketball player of all time play for them in Michael Jordan, a native of Wilmington. The Tar Heels’ women’s team, coached by Sylvia Hatchell, won a national championship of its own in 1994. The Blue Devils have won four NCAA championships (1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010) and possess the winningest coach in Division I basketball history in Mike Krzyzewski. The Wolfpack has two titles (1974 and 1983) and covets one of the top players of all-time in David Thompson, a native of Shelby. In addition to Everett Case, N.C. State also has among its coaching lineage the remarkable Kay Yow, who helped grow women’s college basketball not only in our state but also throughout the nation.

In addition to the ACC schools, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte went to the NCAA's Final Four in 1977, and Davidson College went to the NCAA's "Elite Eight" in 1968, 1969, and 2008.

North Carolina schools have also won multiple NCAA Division II basketball national championships. In 1967, Winston-Salem State University, led by future NBA star Earl Monroe and coached by the legendary Clarence "Big House" Gaines, was the first school in the state to win the Division II championship. In 1989, North Carolina Central University brought the title to the state a second time, winning the championship game by 27 points – the largest margin of victory in Division II title game history. And in 2007, Barton College in Wilson returned the title to the state a third time. And in 1974, Guilford College, behind the play of Wallace native M.L. Carr, captured the NAIA National Championship.

Under Karen Shelton, the North Carolina women’s field hockey program has become a national power

Although basketball remains the dominant college sport in North Carolina, several schools have also enjoyed success in football and other sports. Wake Forest has enjoyed substantial success in football; in 2007 the Demon Deacons won the ACC football championship and participated in that season’s Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. It marked the first major bowl berth for a North Carolina–based ACC team since Duke defeated Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl Classic.

N.C. State has seven ACC Championship trophies while playing in nine bowl games in the last 12 years. The University of North Carolina has five ACC championships and has played in 29 bowl games. Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, a member of the Hall, was one of the finest running backs in the history of college football. East Carolina University also has enjoyed much success in football. The Pirates won both the 2008 and 2009 Conference USA Football Championship, have been to numerous bowls in its rich history and is known for having a large, passionate fan base.

Elsewhere in the state, Elon University made four trips to the NAIA National Championship in football, winning back-to-back championships in 1980 and 1981. LenoirRhyne University won the 1960 NAIA National Championship in football. Appalachian State University, Elon University, Western Carolina University and North Carolina A&T State University have all made trips to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision championship playoffs. Western Carolina University has made one trip to this championship game, while Appalachian State University became the first school to win the championship three years in a row from 2005-07, a remarkable run.

College soccer has a rich history in our state. The North Carolina Tar Heels have dominated women's college soccer on a national level, laying claim to an amazing 21 Division I national championships in the sport. The Heels have also been successful in men's soccer, winning national and conference champions. Duke and Wake Forest have also won national soccer championships. In 2011, UNC topped Charlotte in an all-North Carolina affair to claim the men's national championship. And the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has won five NCAA Division III soccer national championships: 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986 and 1987.

Lacrosse has found a strong home in our state with North Carolina taking home NCAA titles under the leadership of Willie Scroggs in 1981, 1982 and 1986, then adding another title in 1991. Duke captured its lone national championship in 2010. In field hockey, there is a decided light blue hue in place as the Tar Heel women’s team of coach Karen Shelton has captured six national titles.

Outstanding golf at the collegiate level has always been a strength in our state. Arnold Palmer was a star at Wake Forest and head coach Jesse Haddock captured three NCAA titles with the Deacons in 1974, 1975 and 1986 with greats like Lanny Wadkins, Curtis Strange, Jay Haas and Scott Hoch. Duke captured five NCAA women’s titles behind head coach Dan Brooks. Collegiate stars with ties to our state, like Davis Love, Jr., Raymond Floyd, Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson, have enjoyed highly successful careers on the PGA Tour.

And tennis has been in the spotlight as well: Tom Parham had an amazingly successful run for four decades at Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) and Elon University. His Barton teams won NAIA titles in 1979 and 1984, and in 1990, it was Elon’s turn to enjoy the perch at the top of the NAIA ranks.

Johnny  Moore

Johnny Moore


Johnny Moore has spent 39 years working within the college scene as a publicist at Guilford College and Duke University and as a producer of radio and television programs for the Blue Devils for more than three decades. He was inducted into the Guilford College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004.