UNC Sports: The Curse of Atlanta


I was at the Mother’s Day game in Atlanta when the Diamond Heels blew a 7-1 lead (8-5 in the final inning) to lose in 11 innings. After taking a day to reflect on the meltdown, I realized this fits the narrative: the curse of UNC in Atlanta.

The Carolina baseball team is 45-6 on the season (20-5 in conference). Two of those losses came this past weekend to the Yellow Jackets, a team that was 4-6 in the previous 10 games. The two losses, on Friday and Sunday, were both walk off victories for Georgia Tech. The batter who hit the game winning homer on Friday had only hit one homerun in the season.

Carolina baseball is unquestionably a better team than Georgia Tech, but some sort of mojo worked against them in Atlanta. Sound familiar? It should.

The UNC football team last won at Georgia Tech in 1997, a season in which the Heels finished 11-1. Carolina came into the game ranked #5 in the nation and still only managed to eek out a 16-13 win over the unranked Yellow Jackets. Throw in the heartbreaking loss to LSU in the 2010 Chic-fil-a Kickoff game, and it seems that Carolina football suffers the Atlanta curse.

December 29, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; George Mason Patriots head coach Paul Hewitt reacts against the South Florida Bulls during the first half at the Sun Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Football might struggle, but Carolina is generally considered a basketball school, which makes the Atlanta struggles arguably more frustrating. Paul Hewitt coached Georgia Tech for 11 years before being fired following the 2010-11 season. Hewitt coached the Jackets to a 72-104 conference record, but they seemed to always have the Heels’ number.

In the time Paul Hewitt was at Georgia Tech, his team’s were 6-1 vs. North Carolina at home, including 4-1 against Roy Williams coached teams. The one win was a 83-82 win in 2008, when UNC was the top ranked team in the country. The lowest point for the Heels might have been the final game Hewitt coached against them in Atlanta, and Larry Drew II’s last start, as the Jackets beat the Heels 78-58. Georgia Tech finished the season 13-18, only 5-11 in conference.

To put this in a different perspective: in all other ACC games, Paul Hewitt won roughly 39.1% of the time. When the Heels visited Atlanta, he won 85.7% of the time. Yes, one could argue it is a small sample size, but these were mostly good Carolina teams.

The “Curse of Atlanta” can be incredibly frustrating for Tar Heel fans, but I’m sure some other teams would say their respective “curse” is worse. As many Carolina fans know, Clemson basketball is 0-56 all time in Chapel Hill. Even worse than that, the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series since William Howard Taft won the presidency.

You know who else might be tempted to trade? Georgia Tech fans. Despite the dominance in Atlanta, UNC makes more national impact.

Football is the sport Georgia Tech fans could argue more success. Since that 1997 season, the Yellow Jackets are 6-10 in bowl games compared to 4-4 for Carolina. In basketball, it isn’t close. In the time since Paul Hewitt was at Georgia Tech, UNC has won two national championships, six ACC regular season titles, and two conference tournaments. Georgia Tech made it to one national championship game and didn’t win a single conference title. In baseball, both schools appeared in the 2006 College World Series. Since then, the Heels have returned to Omaha four times while the Yellow Jackets haven’t once.

UNC will likely lose some more games in Atlanta. Fans may hope it isn’t as frequent, but even if it is, Carolina fans should take solace in the fact that, just about everywhere else, the Heels win. And win a lot.