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What is a tar heel and why does North Carolina get the nickname?

Today, before Duke and UNC duel in the Final Four, we explain the meaning of tar heels and why North Carolina is nicknamed tar heels.

The Final Four of this year’s NCAA tournament is almost here and there are some delicious matchups to be had. Division 1 basketball’s two titans, Duke and UNC, meet for the first time in NCAA history to say a final goodbye to Coach K before his retirement.

There’s a lot of history between the two programs, but ahead of the game, fans are wondering what the meaning of a tar heel is and how it relates to UNC.

Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Tar heel meaning explained

Tar Heel is also the nickname of the University of North Carolina teams, students and fans and is also often applied to the state. You often see it referred to as the Tar Heel State.

But what is the meaning of tar heel? Well, the term is deeply embedded in North Carolina’s early history when it was a leading producer of supplies for the marine industry.

During the colonial era, tar was one of North Carolina’s main products. It came from the workers walking through the forest collecting the tar on their shoes or feet. Initially, To refer to someone as a “rosin heel” or “tar heel” was intended to imply that they worked in a menial trade.

Why are UNC known as Tar Heels?

After the Civil War, however, the term “tar heel” was flipped and used as an epithet and something more positive. North Carolina people wore the term like a badge of honor or something to be proud of.

It eventually grew in popularity until North Carolina became known as the “Tar Heel State.”

Then, in the 1880s, when UNC started competing in intercollegiate sports, they needed a nickname. It was fairly obvious from the start that ‘Tar Heels’ was the most appropriate and representative moniker, embodying the spirit and heritage of the area.

Since then, North Carolina has been so well known.

Photo by Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

North Carolina’s Road to the Final Four

Duke vs. North Carolina is the greatest rivalry in collegiate sports. North Carolina will be led by Hubert Davis after replacing Roy Williams, while Duke will be led by the legendary Mike Krzyzewski.

UNC entered the tournament as No. 8 but picked up a big win over the Blue Devils in Coach K’s final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In this year’s tournament, they have beaten #1 Baylor, #4 UCLA, and #15 St. Peter.

https://www.hitc.com/en-gb/2022/04/02/what-is-a-tar-heel-and-why-are-north-carolina-nicknamed-it/ What is a tar heel and why does North Carolina get the nickname?

Brian Ashcraft

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