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Should UNC, N.C. State play more in-state teams? NC House bill would mandate it

North Carolina State's Jakia Brown-Turner (11) drives the ball into North Carolina's Anya Poole (31) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Raleigh, N.C.
Karl B. DeBlaker
/
AP
North Carolina State's Jakia Brown-Turner (11) drives the ball into North Carolina's Anya Poole (31) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Raleigh, N.C.

State lawmakers want to require North Carolina's public universities to play against each other in sports more often.

Under a bill that passed its first House committee on Tuesday, UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State would have to play each other at least once every season in men's and women's basketball and in football.

And the two big universities would have to schedule at least one game against another UNC System school that has a Division I FBS football team. Those include East Carolina, Appalachian State and UNC-Charlotte. UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State would have to schedule games against each of those teams at least twice every six years — once as a home game, once as an away game. A tweak to the bill Tuesday would allow the home game to be moved to a "neutral" site, such as Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Rep. David Willis, R-Union, is the bill's sponsor. He is a graduate of App State.

An Appalachian State football helmet rests on the sidelines as the App State Mountaineers played against James Madison in Harrisonburg, Virginia, on Nov. 18, 2023.
Mitchell Northam
/
WUNC
An Appalachian State football helmet rests on the sidelines as the App State Mountaineers played against James Madison in Harrisonburg, Virginia, on Nov. 18, 2023.

"It's an economic development issue for North Carolina," he said. "Whenever someone travels to Greenville, or Boone or Charlotte, you know, one of these big teams adds a significant amount of economic dollars to the area. And so, I think we have to take into consideration what's best for the state."

To Willis' point, when the North Carolina Tar Heels played against App State in Boone's Kidd Brewer Stadium in 2022, a record-setting crowd of 40,168 fans came to see UNC beat the Mountaineers 63-61 in a thrilling, high-scoring contest. Similarly, a record crowd of 51,711 fans packed into Greenville's Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 2022 to see the N.C. State Wolfpack beat the ECU Pirates, 21-20.

Willis says the mandate is needed as sports conferences shift and include more distant teams. A mandate like this would ensure that UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State continue to play each other even if one or both leaves the Atlantic Coast Conference in the coming years. The ACC is currently battling against two other member schools, Clemson and Florida State, in court.

Earlier this year, the UNC System Board of Governors gave itself power in athletic conference realignment, making it so North Carolina’s public universities obtain permission before they can join a different conference.

"We've got a lack of leadership between the NCAA and our institutions, and our conferences across the board," Willis said. "No one's really standing up and taking leadership on this issue."

No one spoke out against the proposal Tuesday, and Willis said he hasn't heard any concerns from UNC-Chapel Hill or N.C. State leaders.

"The fans want to see these games, the players want to play these games," Willis said. "The coaches may have a little trepidation from time to time, but I think the business case is there."

The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee. If it becomes law, the mandate will take effect for the 2025-2026 school year.


WUNC Digital Producer Mitchell Northam contributed to this report.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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