A new sign is up along Interstate 40 in Wake County honoring a college sports team, and this time the team is from right here in Raleigh.
Last week, state Department of Transportation workers erected a sign marking the 2017 NCAA Division II championship for the St. Augustine’s University men’s outdoor track and field team. The green sign with white letters stands along eastbound I-40 near the Rock Quarry Road exit.
The sign was the second approved by the state Board of Transportation under a new program that allows colleges and universities to pay for official state highway signs to honor their championship sports teams. Schools pay $2,000 a piece for the signs, which must come down within two years.
The first set of signs approved by the board commemorated the UNC-Chapel Hill men’s basketball national championship in 2017. UNC paid for eight signs along interstate highways, including two along I-40 in Wake County — one on the westbound side near the Durham County line and the other on the eastbound side near the North Harrison Avenue interchange in Cary.
Vandals soon took down the Harrison Avenue sign, apparently because they considered it too close to PNC Arena, home of UNC rival N.C. State University. It was put back up last summer near Aviation Parkway, two miles farther west of the arena, and has remained untouched.
None of the UNC-Chapel Hill signs are in Orange County; there are four on I-85 and I-95 at the Virginia and South Carolina state lines and one each along I-40 at the Tennessee line and on southbound I-85 near I-77 in Charlotte. The signs in Wake were ostensibly to greet visitors arriving at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
For St. Aug’s, the 2017 national championship was the fifth in a row for the men’s outdoor track and field team, but the first since NCDOT began erecting highway signs for sports team. The university has consistently fielded champion track teams under longtime coach George Williams, a St. Aug’s graduate who has won 39 NCAA Division II track and field titles in his career.