I do realize that we came into this new year of sports, I wrote one column, and then vanished. For that, we can thank my laptop, which decided to erase its own hard drive. Four weeks later, we’re back, but we somehow managed to slightly up our historical matchup resources, so that’s a pretty solid tradeoff. In the first historical column of the year, we’re on the way to ditching the shackles of our old format, picking up a new backronym, but still taking a look at Tech’s fourth opponent, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
North Carolina Tar Heels
- Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference (1953 - present)
- Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- All-time Record: 708-553-54 (.559)
- Home Stadium: Keenan Memorial Stadium (Capacity: 50,500)
- National Championships: N/A
- College Football Playoff Appearances: N/A
- New Year’s Six Bowl Games: 9
Sugar: 2, 1947, 1949
Cotton: 1, 1950
Peach: 5, 1970, 1976, 1983, 1993, 2001
Orange: 1, 2020
- Conference Championships: 10
Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association: 1895
Southern: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1949
ACC: 1963, 1971, 1972, 1977, 1980
- Division Championships: 1 — 2015
- 2020 Season Record: 8 - 4 (7 - 3 ACC)
- Team Head-to-Head Record: 30-22-3 (.573)
- Coach Head-to-Head Record: 0-1-0 (.000)
- Tech’s record in venue: 0-1 (.000)
Tech vs. North Carolina Historic Results
Observations, Ramblings, and Musings:
As noted above, between being generally unsatisfied with my previous compilation of matchup history data and the fact that the document itself was unceremoniously deleted by laptop deciding to not continue existing, I have, by necessity, been spending a lot of time lately with my nose deep in the football media guide, my bookshelf, Wikipedia, and Winsipedia. In doing that, one comes across a lot of weird asides. Sure, many know about the famous 222-0 drubbing of a hapless Cumberland band of young men that could only generously be called a football team, but much fewer know that famous game was actually the third time the Engineers had played the boys from Tennessee. In 1904 and 1905, a much better Cumberland squad played a pair of games against Tech, losing both 18-0, after Heisman was introduced to them a year before as his Clemson Tigers, SIAA Champions, battled Cumberland to an 11-11 tie.
“Why do I mention any of this? Isn’t this a column about the history of North Carolina football?” you may ask. My response, of course, is that I haven’t had the free time to write a decent history column in nigh two years and I promise all of this has something of a point in the end.
The inaugural 1904 edition of the Georgia Tech-Cumberland series, which fell on Thanksgiving Day, a marquee event, is notable in this case because, like every game before 1905 season, it was not played at what is now the site of Bobby Dodd Stadium. It seems, really, that Tech spent a good deal of their time following the Atlanta Crackers minor league team around the greater Atlanta area. Though Tech played contests in exotic Atlanta locales like Central Park, Athletic Park, and Brisbane Park, the one with the most staying power was Piedmont Park. On that day, November 24, 1904, the largest crowd in Georgia Tech football history up to that point gathered in the middle of a park.
Though Tech would play a few years on today’s stadium site, they would hit the road once more once Ponce de Leon Park was completed, playing five years off campus again as tenants of the local baseball team. Tech played well in their half decade a mile and a half down the street, going 20-13-1 in home games before they returned to the Flats.
For six decades after they settled down on campus for good, Tech didn’t play contests at any other metro Atlanta sites. Though they faced Oglethorpe 9 times in the first few decades of the 20th century, they didn’t play any games against Atlanta opponents in the regular season at all until this year’s Kennesaw State matchup, thus limiting their prospects of playing a true road game in the city. Similarly, the advent of the Peach Bowl was not until after the end of the Bobby Dodd era, though it was interestingly hosted at Grant Field itself for the first three years of existence. Though Tech was invited to an early Peach Bowl, they missed a home bowl game by one season, being invited to play in the contest in its first year at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1971, when they were easily handled by no. 17 Ole Miss, 41-18. The losing team in the Peach Bowl at Grant Field? That would be North Carolina, who lost to Arizona State in 1970.
Though they received invitations in 1978, 2000, and 2008, as well, Tech has yet to win their first Peach Bowl, losing to Purdue in the former and LSU in the latter pair. Until the 2017 Chick-fil-A Kickoff against Tennessee, that would be Tech’s periodic exposure to the professional sports stadiums of Atlanta. Whole columns have been filled on that game, including several on this very site, but for those who weren’t around, the short story is our defense both bent and broke, and despite having a two score fourth quarter lead, a quarterback who ran for 249 yards alone, and a rushing attack that went for 535, Tech lost when it was attempting a two point conversion for the win on the goal line.
That game was notable also for being the opening weekend for the state-of-the-art Mercedes Benz Stadium. You might be able to get ahead of me here, but who was the losing team in the last Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome? Once again, that would be the Tar Heels.
That’s the interesting thing about college sports, or, sports in general, really. There’s all sorts of random and uncorrelated things that can happen on a field, much less when one starts to zoom out and take a look at the bigger picture. Did North Carolina losing the last Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome trigger some cosmic conspiracy that caused us to lose to Tennessee a year later in the new stadium? The logical answer is to say, of course not, that’s not how sports work. Then again, I was the kid who thought that smacking my baseball glove a certain amount of times when I played third base affected whether the kid on the mound through a strike, so perhaps I’m not the right person to ask.
Zooming out, there’s obviously plenty more that could be said about both teams, and both institutions, for that matter. North Carolina is the antebellum state university of the privileged aristocratic class, not unlike a certain school up the road in Athens, while Tech is an industrial engineering school. For all intents and purposes, the University of North Carolina is a slightly different version of that university in Athens, albeit painted blue and girded with argyle. The strange assonance between the history and traditions of North Carolina and Georgia Tech don’t seem to ever have reached the point of rivalry, though, which is interesting. Despite having played 56 times on the gridiron, including every year since 1980, save for the odd COVID year, to call it even a rivalry would probably be generous. I think it really begs the question of what really makes a rivalry.
Tech and Carolina:
- Have shared a conference for 42 seasons
- Have shared a division for its entire existence
- Are both competitive with each other as prominent public institutions, yet have intrinsically different academic focus
- Are in neighboring states, within a day’s drive, and both have readily accessible airports
- Compete regularly in baseball, though often are at different stations in football and basketball, which are the primary sports that draw more casual fan interest and national conversation
- Lack for truly legendary finishes in football in particular, save for the glaring exception of 1990
- Have other longstanding fixtures that take up the mental and emotional real estate, so to speak
I could go on, but I think this is a good starting spot for consideration. One would think that almost all of the necessary ingredients for a good, spirited passion to be fomented would be there, but it’s plainly not. Is competing at the same times for ACC and Coastal titles what matters? Can they respectively just never get past the mental blocks of Virginia and Duke, or Clemson and the school in Athens? I, for one, am somewhat stumped.
I’m not here to use this as an excuse rail against folks who hold on to the memory of playing Tennessee, Auburn, Tulane, Alabama, or Vanderbilt. Those series live on in our collective consciousness as a fanbase for a reason. There was a palpable excitement to the Tennessee game in 2017 for a reason, and, up to the point that Tennessee and Auburn fell off the regular schedule in 1987, they were important and storied annual games. One should not to pretend that Tech is uniquely culpable in this phenomenon, either. Obviously there are longstanding and indelible links between the Tar Heels and Virginia or Tobacco Road, it’s not like North Carolina is getting busy firing up the emotional rollercoaster when Pittsburgh rolls into town.
In the past these historical matchup columns have been a general overview of opponent history, or an attempt to get you, dear reader, riled up about the opponent du jour, but I think there are legitimate, high level questions that can get at the same means. There’s only so many times one can say Mack Brown left, Mack Brown came back, and somehow Athens and Chapel Hill wound up with nearly identical original stadium designs, hedges, and alma maters.
In the world of rivalry theory, if that’s even a thing, one would think Tech and Chapel Hill would be at a mature stage in their longstanding series. But, up to this point, much like can be seen in looking at the Peach Bowl and Kickoff Game, the two teams have been a whole lot more like two ships passing in the night.
Saturday night at Mercedes Benz Stadium, Georgia Tech and North Carolina will face off in the inaugural Mayhem in Mercedes Benz contest. Tune in here at From the Rumble Seat tomorrow for coverage through the gameday thread and the postgame recap, along with live updates via @FTRSBlog on Twitter.