In 1997, UNC men’s basketball coach Dean Smith called UNC a “women’s football school” and their basketball program was just trying to keep up with their success.
Since then, the school has excelled in winning a plethora of championships and producing professional talent in women’s sport at all levels.
GoHeels recently launched the 50 Years of Carolina Women’s Track and Field Project to celebrate the success of women’s athletic programs at UNC, as the campaign highlights the impressive accomplishments and milestones achieved over the years.
Reports and videos will be available on goheels.com/50years, as well as the GoHeels and Rams Club social media accounts. The initiative has already been incorporated into Tar Heel’s home football matches with a series of videos featuring various women’s teams on the jumbotron.
GoHeels also plans to host other events in partnership with the Rams Club throughout the year, according to Sarah Sessoms, director of special projects at Carolina Athletics.
“We are proud of the champions, legends and leaders who have contributed to the rich history of women’s sport at UNC,” said Sessoms. “We are thrilled to celebrate our rich history in many ways throughout the year, as recognition of this milestone is important to the Sports Department. “
The history of UNC women’s athletics began in 1971, when seven women’s sports programs were promoted to university status by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. A few years later, these programs were transferred from the physical education department to the athletics department at UNC.
Since these seven sports became varsity, UNC women’s programs have won 39 national championships, or about 70 percent of the total 55 UNC titles. North Carolina female athletes represented 40 individual champions, 50 National Player of the Year awards, and 54 college All-Americans, according to Sessoms.
The sports department used the FORevHER Tar Heels campaign, launched by the Rams Club in 2019, to raise funds for women’s sports programs at UNC. Jules Micchia, former athlete board member for FORevHER Tar Heels, said she believes the initiative may encourage other schools to make a similar investment.
“The investment they are putting into women’s athletics is something to be really proud of,” said Micchia. “They’re also showing other schools that it’s just as important to invest in their female athletes. “
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rams Club and the FORevHER Tar Heels campaign have raised more than $ 70 million of their goal of $ 100 million to support women’s athletics. Over the past year, the Rams Club has donated money to each women’s team to help them deal with the implications of COVID-19 and funding cuts on their programs.
“When I think of the history of women’s athletic programs at UNC, I think of success at every level,” said second-year women’s lacrosse midfielder Brooke Baker. “It certainly influenced my decision to go to college here. The women’s programs, the players and the coaches feel respected and represent what is best in women’s sport – past, present and future.
The 50 Years of Women’s Athletics Project seeks to educate and inspire those less familiar with the history of women’s sport in North Carolina, while showing people the different ways they can support women’s programs and teams. Micchia said the school takes responsibility for providing this education.
“We are starting to see a change,” said Micchia. “It is truly an honor to be in a school that not only invests in these female athletes, but a school where women dominate their sport.”
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