Its a nice win, after things going so disastrously wrong for the more-famous women's team, who lost at home to UVA this year*, lost three games in a row at one point* and in the 2nd round (of 6) of the NCAAs.
Nice work by the Heels, who were ranked number one and were in their fifth straight Final Four without a title. In the semifinals, they dominated UCLA while avoiding the dangers of One-Of-Those-Games - despite much greater possession, more aggression and more shots on goal, UNC trailed 1-0 and 2-1 before foricng overtime and winning on penalty kicks. Against Charlotte, it was essentially the reverse: UNC scored the only goal with a long, slightly flukie shot and then somehow hung on against an enraged Charlotte's 14 shots on goal (!), particularly in the last 10 minutes, which included a 30 second span of four point-blank shots (check 1:20 into the vid below for the barrage).
Anyhow, following on the heels of the Nate Silver-inspired post below, it got me wondering: at the Division I-level you just don't see national titles played between same-system state schools (and here's the part where we decide that such meetings need an arbitrary name - in honor of Charlotte's near miss, let's call them "49er Games"). Same state, sure. But inevitably when its two schools from the same state playing for a title, one of those schools is Stanford or Duke or Miami or Hopkins or Notre Dame or Rice or even lousy Pepperdine. (OK, its never Rice)
Afterall, even when Rutgers and Princeton invented college football in 1643 (I might be off on the date), Trenton only picked up half the bill.
Its not hard to, explain, of course: most states aren't interested in funding one dominant, say. men's volleyball team, let alone two, and even where two state schools crack the top 20, that's still 18 other schools they need to get through before arriving at a showdown.
As rare as a 49er Game is, there have been a series of close calls:
- Arizona and Arizona State collectively won three straight College World Series, for example, but have never met in the finals (though technically at the CWS, there's no 'final' just a winner and runner-up. UA and ASU never did that, either).
- In the Big Sports, UNC and NCstate won back to back titles in basketball in the 80s, and Alabama and Auburn just did it in FB (UPDATE: and Alabama again!!!)
- Four state-school teams from Michigan won five hockey titles between 1986 and 1996, and three of them won three in row in the 1960s - but in all eight of those championship games they never faced each other.
In fact, I revisted most of the sports I listed in the Lucky 13 article to see how often you might see a 49er Game, with one set of tax payers on both sides of a national title game.
6: 49ers Games since 1991, in nationally-popular sports - three times in soccer, including today, once each in men's and women's volleyball and once - with an asterick - in football. And that's it. The asterick, of course, is that it was the BCS and not some real form of competition that forced Florida State to play Florida in the 1997 Sugar Bowl for the second time that year. They'd beat Florida earlier, of course, but lost the rematch in the "National Championship" Game. Here are the others:
- Men's Soccer: 2011 - UNC over UNC-C, 2006 - UCLA over UCSB
- Women's Soccer: 1993 - UNC over NC St.
- Women's Volleyball: 1991 - UCLA over Long Beach State (hey! They're the 49ers! What a serendipitous nickname!).
- Men's Volleyball: 1993 - UCLA over CSUN (I like to think of that not so much as a victory for UCLA, but crass Bruin exploitation of the Northridge earthquake, catching CSUN in shock).
- M Volleyball: 1970-1975 - entirely UCLA over UCSB, SDSU and our 49ers of the LBC, with a loss to SDSU in there)
- Mens Tennis: 1953- UCLA over Cal
- Hockey: 1956 - Michigan over Michigan Tech(still a real school today!!)
- No team from outside of California has ever won the NCAA WP title.
- No team from outside of California has ever lOST the NCAA WP title.
(The Math: 42 national titles split between 7 teams (throwing out the 1-hitters, which is statistically a wash) - that's 12 trips to the finals each (6 titles, 6 RUs), which means that, if all the teams were about equal, Stanford and USC would likely appear no more than 22 times combined even if they never played each other in the Final. To follow the math to the end, they should have met twice in the finals (games which, all things being evenly distributed, they would have split), meaning either or both team would be in 20 finals - just under half of the 42 contested)
Yet astoundingly, the last 49er Game in the Water Polo finals - which is to say, the last time neither Stanford nor USC was in it - was 2000, when UCLA beat UCSD. Prior to that, 1991, when Cal beat UCLA. So in twenty years, when it should have happened 10 or 11 times, it happened twice. Of course, as the next post tracks, water polo is one of the least equitable sports in all of the NCAA.