A North Carolina team whose season was overshadowed by an NCAA investigation will meet a Tennessee squad in the midst of a rebuilding effort under a new coach in the Music City Bowl in Nashville on Dec. 30 at LP Field.
It’s also a game between teams that were scheduled to meet at North Carolina during the 2011 season and at Tennessee in 2012, until UT officials decided to pay a $750,000 buyout of the series contract — drawing complaints from Vols fans.
At the time, Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said he was looking to make the 2011 schedule a bit easier in light of the team’s rebuilding efforts and UNC officials declined his initial request to delay the series.
“When we talked about potential matchups, we actually let (Music City Bowl) know that Carolina would be our first choice to play,” Hamilton said. “We knew our fans wanted to play North Carolina.”
The Tar Heels (7-5) finished third in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division amid an ongoing NCAA investigation that initially focused on agent-related benefits for players but later expanded to include possible academic misconduct involving a tutor. North Carolina has had 14 players miss at least one game and seven who missed the entire season.
“I congratulate our team, and especially the 17 seniors, for the extraordinary job they’ve done in leading our program to a third consecutive bowl appearance,” North Carolina coach Butch Davis said. “Regardless of the situation, this team fought week after week to make our fans proud. We look forward to representing North Carolina against a talented Tennessee team.”
Tennessee leads the series with UNC 20-10-1, though the teams haven’t faced each other since 1961.
The Vols (6-6) finished third in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division in their first season under coach Derek Dooley, their third coach in as many seasons. This will be their 49th bowl appearance, which ties for third in the NCAA.
“I have a lot of respect for North Carolina, and I always have,” Dooley said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for our team to play somebody else from another conference, play another program and hopefully keep the momentum going.”
This will be both teams’ first appearance in the Music City Bowl.