Less than a month remains before North Carolina begins the season against South Carolina in Charlotte in the Belk College Kickoff, and if the game’s organizers and UNC coach Larry Fedora have their way the Tar Heels and Gamecocks will be back in years to come.
The schools are discussing a possible rematch in Charlotte at the start of the 2019 season, the Charlotte Observer reported recently, and Fedora said on Wednesday that playing South Carolina in Charlotte “is good for our program.”
“(And) probably good for their program, I guess, I don’t know,” Fedora said during a teleconference hosted by the organizers of Belk College Kickoff. “I think it has to match upscheduling-wise, and if it does I think it’s good. I like playing that game in Charlotte.”
Fedora has embraced high-profile season-openers. UNC began the 2013 season with a 27-10 loss at South Carolina in a nationally televised game. And in addition to the game on Sept. 3 in Charlotte against the Gamecocks, UNC will begin the 2016 season against Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff.
Unlike some ACC schools, the Tar Heels lack a regular non-conference rival. UNC and South Carolina played 10 times between 1974 and 1991 – and annually before then when the Gamecocks were still in the ACC – but they’ve played just twice since 1991.
Fedora said UNC isn’t hurt by its lack of a nonconference rival, the kind Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech have with their in-state counterparts in the SEC.
“I haven’t ever looked at it that way,” Fedora said. “We’ve got enough rivals in our conference. So we’ve got enough work to do. But I think you’ve got sort of a regional rivalry (with South Carolina).
“I don’t know if you’d call it a rivalry because they’ve got their own rivalries. But you’ve got the battle of the Carolinas, and that makes it pretty cool.”
If a game in 2019 comes together between UNC and South Carolina, it would be the schools’ third against each other in seven seasons. Asked if he’d be interested in playing more often against UNC, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier instead raised the possibility of playing against Duke.
Spurrier, who coached the Blue Devils from 1987 through 1989, said he’d “heard” that the Gamecocks would be interested in playing the Blue Devils.
“I love Duke University and I tell people all the time whatever kind of coach I became, I learned most of it at Duke University, whatever I’ve learned,” Spurrier said. “So I owe a lot to Duke. … So if (a game) were to happen, and it would be good for Duke also, I’d like to do that.”
Belk College Kickoff
North Carolina vs. South Carolina
Sept. 3, 6 p.m.