I have been a University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heel since 2010. I am also an Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) Rebel, since 1974. The Heels are a storied basketball blueblood with six National Championships. The Rebels have 0 National Championships, 0 Final Fours, and are most famous in basketball for their iconic NCAA Tournament loss at the hands of the Bryce Drew’ buzzer beater. Yet, as of this writing, Ole Miss seems to be the program on the rise and the Tar Heels have become a reeling disaster of pompous proportions. Ole Miss has the basketball world buzzing with dazzling new facilities and their recent hire of Chris Beard. Meanwhile, UNC, housed in the archaic constraints of Dean Dome, is coming off a season that saw them go from pre-season #1 to shockingly turning down an invitation to participate in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
Let’s step aside from the potential ascension of Ole Miss basketball and focus on some of my frustration with UNC. College athletes can now receive compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL). With this groundbreaking change, some college athletes have begun to make immense amounts of money. According to on3, the Tar Heels had a 2022-2023 lineup loaded with money-making talent with Armando Bacot, Leaky Black, Caleb Love, Puff Johnson, and R.J. Davis. Even the maligned Pete Nance recently inked a deal with Oreo for a new lemon cookie! Who’s hungry? Besides the Oreos, the Triangle region is loaded with Tar Heels at local establishments. There’s the Leaky Lock Down Tenders and Fries. Then there is the Mondo Burger. Maybe you are up for a Puff Johnson burger at Al’s. You can head over to Outback Steakhouse for a Caleb Love deal.
Food is just the tip of the iceberg. We won’t get into the cars, the television commercials, the radio ads, the television shows, and more. There is honestly too much to even keep track of. Let’s just say that UNC’s basketball stars are certainly making the most of the NIL, and they certainly should. However, there might be a misunderstanding. Despite the barrage of burger deals, there are a lot of hungry people out there, and there might be 5 or 6 people who aren’t hungry at all.
Despite all the burger deals, the UNC fans are still starving. Starving for wins. Hungry for post-season play. Starving for shots to go. Hungry for hustle on the basketball court. They’re also tired. Tired of seeing historically poor performances in effort, game plan, and skill on their home floor. Tired of watching teams with rosters full of players who are making zero banks from the NIL soundly defeat a group of players raking in millions.
Are the Tar Heel players hungry? They’re not hurting for any meal of the day, but I am not sure they are hungry for basketball success. I think there was something to be said for players that lived on school cafeteria food. Maybe they were a bit on the hungry side. The players of lore didn’t have photo shoots to prep for or commercials to practice. Instead, they could be found in the gym…. putting up shots, getting buckets, and putting in work. Work on their crafts that brought in packed houses of screaming fans. Work that would give them a competitive advantage in historic games that will live on forever.
There needs to be an understanding at colleges where NIL deals are proliferating beyond control. You can go out there and hustle for NIL deals as much as you want, but you better be in the gym and the classroom hustling too. You can practice lines for radio and television ads however much you need to, but you better be practicing these shots that will make you kings of this home court. You can ink all the food deals you want, but you better bring a hunger for success when you lace up those shoes and run out of that tunnel. It is time to translate NIL potential into success on the court. Now, who is hungry?