You’ll have to pardon the North Carolina football program if it’s feeling pretty good about itself.
As we’ve previously noted, North Carolina currently holds the No. 2 football recruiting class in the country. In March, the university announced a $15 million donation that “will be used to support a new football initiative for student-athletes’ life-long success.” Part of that initiative includes a new practice complex.
That donation was the largest ever for the program. The key word there. though, is “was.”
Monday morning, North Carolina announced what it described as a “[t]ransformational gift to support the Tar Heel football program.” The amount of the gift wasn’t disclosed. The school did acknowledge it as the largest gift in the history of The Rams Club.
From the school’s release:
The gift was made by The Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation. The foundation is headed by longtime Carolina leader and benefactor Eddie Smith Jr. ’65 of Greenville, North Carolina, and was cofounded with his late wife Jo Allison Smith. This historic commitment will honor their son Chris Smith ’87 by naming the field at Kenan Memorial Stadium the Chris Smith Field. Chris is involved in University and Athletics leadership roles and serves as a member of The Rams Club’s Executive Board of Directors.
“Our family believes in the positive impact the University of North Carolina and its athletic program can have on our communities,” said Eddie Smith. “Watching the Tar Heels play in Kenan Stadium has been a family affair for over 60 years, and it was important to us to support Coach Mack Brown and his vision for Carolina Football. To be able to honor my son Chris – someone who has shared my passion for Carolina and for promoting positive leadership qualities – is very special. It’s a blessing for us to be able to provide a lasting legacy for Carolina and its football program.”
The gift will support staffing needs, fund facility improvements and help build an endowment to cover future operating costs. It comes at a time of great momentum for Carolina Football. Last season, the Tar Heels finished with a winning record in Mack Brown’s first season back in Chapel Hill and captured the program’s first bowl victory since 2013.
“Eddie and Chris are dear friends of Sally and me, as was Eddie’s wife and Chris’ mother Jo Allison. They share our vision for Carolina football,” said Brown. “Eddie is a person who sees all the little things, but has a great sense of the big picture, which is very unusual. It is a trait that has served him well both in life and business. This gift helps give us the means to continue building a program representative of the excellence we see every day at UNC and to ensure that same excellence will remain into the future. We often talk about our Carolina Football Family, and the Smiths have been a major part of that for a long time. Family has always been important to them and we’re so glad they will remain associated with the program through this gift and field naming. We’re honored to share in their legacy and thankful for their continued support of our program. We have asked everyone in our program to ‘Be The One’ and the Smith family is doing that. They are the best.