In 1997, North Carolina’s football squad, coached by Mack Brown, was heading into the season ranked No. 1 — and a Football News Magazine reporter asked basketball coach Dean Smith what he thought of having a UNC team other than hoops take the top spot.
Smith’s response was recalled on social media after the Tar Heels beat Gonzaga 71-65 to win their sixth NCAA basketball championship on Monday night.
“This is a women’s soccer school,” Smith told the reporter. “We’re just trying to keep up with them.”
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Smith’s reply was his way of tipping his cap to coach Anson Dorrance, who has led the women’s soccer squad to 22 national championships since the team was created in 1979.
Monday’s NCAA title was UNC’s third under coach Roy Williams. Smith led the Tar Heels to two championships during his coaching career, which spanned 36 seasons and 879 victories.
With Dorrance at the helm of the women’s soccer team, the squad has won nearly four times as many national championships as the basketball team.
When UNC won its 21st overall national title and its 20th NCAA crown in 2009, Dorrance became the first coach in NCAA history to win 20 championships coaching a single sport.
Dorrance’s record —719 wins, 39 losses and 24 draws — makes him the winningest coach in women’s soccer history. He also coached the U.S. women’s national soccer team and led it to a World Cup victory in 1991.