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The North Carolina Tar Heels football team represents the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the sport of American football. The Tar Heels compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
In Carolina's first 121 seasons of football competition, the Tar Heels have compiled a record of 646–488–54, a winning percentage of .566. Carolina has played in 29 bowl games in its history and won three Southern Conference championships and five Atlantic Coast Conference titles. Thirty Tar Heel players have been honored as first-team All-Americas on 38 occasions. Carolina had 32 All-Southern Conference selections when it played in that league until 1952 and since joining the ACC in 1953, has had 174 first-team All-ACC choices. The team's most recent bowl appearance came in the 2011 Independence Bowl with a loss to Missouri Tigers; the final score was 41-24. Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953, the team has won five conference championships, with the most recent title coming in 1980.
One very important contribution to the game of football by North Carolina is the modern use of the forward pass; they were the first college team to use the play in 1895. Bob Quincy notes in his 1973 book They Made the Bell Tower Chime: "John Heisman, a noted historian, wrote 30 years later that, indeed, the Tar Heels had given birth to the forward pass against the Bulldogs (UGA). It was conceived to break a scoreless deadlock and give UNC a 6–0 win. The Carolinians were in a punting situation and a Georgia rush seemed destined to block the ball. The punter, with an impromptu dash to his right, tossed the ball and it was caught by George Stephens, who ran 70 yards for a touchdown.”
While not a consistent football powerhouse, the North Carolina football program has had intermittent success and has featured a number of great players, many of whom have gone on to prominence in the National Football League, including Lawrence Taylor, Charlie Justice, Chris Hanburger, Ken Willard, Don McCauley, Jeff Saturday, Alge Crumpler, Willie Parker, Greg Ellis, Dré Bly, Julius Peppers, and Hakeem
Hector Cowan was North Carolina's first head football coach. He posted a 1-1 record as the head coach in the Tar Heels' inaugural season.
William A. Reynolds coached the Tar Heels for four seasons. From 1897-1900, he posted a 27-7-4 record before departing the Tar Heels to coach Georgia.
Herman Olcott was the head coach for the Tar Heels for two seasons, 1902 and 1903. He compiled an 11-4-3 record.
In 1895 and from 1913-1915, the Tar Heels were coached by Thomas Trenchard, who posted a 26-9-2 record in those four seasons. His best season was a 10-1 1914 season.
Brothers Bob and Bill Fetzer served as co-head coaches for the Tar Heels from 1921-1925, posting a 30-12-4 overall record. Bob would go on to serve as North Carolina's first athletics director from 1923-1952.