The state Department of Transportation is consulting N.C. State University as well as UNC-Chapel Hill to determine where it should place a new sign commemorating the Tar Heels 2017 national championship in men's basketball.
This winter, NCDOT erected eight signs along highways across the state to celebrate UNC's win, under a new program that lets universities pay for roadside signs celebrating national sports championships. Only two of the signs were in the Triangle, and one of them — along eastbound Interstate 40 at the North Harrison Avenue exit in Cary — did not last long.
The sign, erected about three miles from the PNC Arena, home to UNC rival the N.C. State Wolfpack, disappeared in less than a week. It was later found in the brush nearby with some graffiti sprayed in red and white, the Wolfpack colors.
The state Board of Transportation had approved the locations of the signs, but won't have to endorse where NCDOT decides to put the one that got vandalized. On Thursday, the board approved changes to the signs policy that empowers NCDOT staff to make those decisions with this caveat: "Sensitivity and consideration should be given as to the location and proximity of other schools and/or championship signs."
Board chairman Michael Fox said the department is consulting UNC and NCSU to find a location that fans of both universities can live with.
The board met by phone in November to approve UNC's request to erect the signs in eight places: Four on I-85 and I-95 at the Virginia and South Carolina state lines; one along I-40 at the Tennessee line; one on southbound I-85 near I-77 in Charlotte; and two along I-40 in Wake — one at North Harrison Avenue and the other on westbound I-40 near the Durham County line.
The two signs in Wake were ostensibly located where they would catch the eyes of visitors from Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Fox said the compromise location for the restored sign will almost certainly be closer to the airport and farther from NCSU.
Among other changes to the signs policy approved Thursday is one that allows historically black colleges and universities to erect signs celebrating their national titles, too; the policy has specified only NCAA championships. In either case, the schools must pay for the signs, at $2,000 apiece, and they have to come down within two years.
A second school has asked for a sign under the new policy: St. Augustine's University would like to mark the Division II national title that its men's track and field team won last May. Instead of eight signs across the state, St. Aug.'s will ask for only one, somewhere near its campus in Raleigh.