A message from the chancellor: Tonight’s Sweet 16 games

Ahead of tonight's Sweet 16 games for both of Carolina's basketball teams, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz discusses the importance of sports and shows his support for our Tar Heels.

Two basketball players jump for a basketball.
(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Carolina Community,

There are two Carolina basketball games tonight, a pair of sweet-sixteen showdowns as both our men’s and women’s teams vie for NCAA titles. The amount of hard work and preparation that goes into this moment can’t be underestimated. It’s a gift to watch our student-athletes in action and a reminder of everything I love about our 28 sports teams.

First, sports build community. I have no idea how many strangers I’ve high-fived over the years after watching a ridiculous dunk, a brilliant goal, a long touchdown pass, a lead-off double, or a blazing tennis serve. At that moment, those people aren’t strangers anymore because we’ve found a way to connect. That matters when you want to bring together a diverse community like ours. It matters for keeping alumni all over the world connected to Chapel Hill. It matters that the people of North Carolina feel a sense of belonging and investment in their University.

Second, sports build character. I know it’s a cliche, but being on a team or spending years training for high-level competition is all about discipline, focus, investing in long-range goals and having the humility to know your role and collaborate with your teammates. Every one of those skills applies to the world beyond college, whether you’re starting a company or a family. Just like our world-class faculty, our amazing coaches bring out the best in us and shape our lives for the better.

Finally, sports teach us how to compete without malice. You put your heart and soul into beating the other team, then you shake hands with genuine respect for a well-played game. You greet your Duke colleagues with some tasteful gloating about the last game, then you get to work on your shared research project.

My own career as a researcher has been devoted to sport science, making it safer for athletes on the field and giving coaches and doctors better guidance on how to prevent injuries. I was drawn to it not just because of the obvious benefits of safer competition, but because I believe in the power of sports to uplift, to unite, to teach and bring joy.

I’ll be thinking about all of that tonight — but mostly cheering at the top of my lungs and looking for people to high-five. Go Heels!


Kevin M. Guskiewicz