Carolina Traditions

There is nothing like a Carolina tradition. Here are some of the most iconic.

University History

Where did the "Tar Heels" nickname come from?

The term “tar heel” dates back to North Carolina’s early history, when the state was a leading producer of supplies for the naval industry. Workers who distilled turpentine from the sticky sap of pine trees and burned pine boughs to produce tar and pitch often went barefoot during hot summer months and undoubtedly collected tar on their heels. To call someone a “rosin heel” or “tar heel” was to imply that they worked in a lowly trade.

During the Civil War, North Carolina soldiers flipped the meaning and called themselves “tar heels” as an expression of state pride. Others adopted the term, and North Carolina became widely known as the “Tar Heel State.”

University Colors

As symbols of unity among Carolina students, alumni and fans, the school colors of light blue and white were first used around 1800 to distinguish between members of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Literary Societies. The Di’s color was light blue and the Phi’s was white. When the University fielded its first intercollegiate athletic teams in 1888, the question of what colors to wear had already been answered. Light blue and white had come to symbolize membership in the University, not in a single society. Light blue and white have been considered the University’s colors for more than a century.

Why a ram for a mascot?

In 1924 Vic Huggins, UNC’s head cheerleader, decided that Carolina needed a mascot like N.C. State’s wolf and Georgia’s bulldog. At the time, Jack Merrit, known to his fans as the “Battering Ram,” was a popular member of UNC’s football team. Making use of this nickname, Huggins hit upon the idea of a ram as the Carolina mascot. The cheerleader went to Charles T. Woollen, the University’s business manager, and asked him to find twenty-five dollars to purchase a ram. They ordered UNC’s first mascot from Texas.The 1924 team had been in a slump and Carolina fans were looking for something to break the jinx. The Tar Heel sports staff joined the campus with the hope that the new mascot would bring much-needed luck. The mascot, who was named Rameses, arrived in time for the UNC-VMI game on Nov. 8, 1924. Carolina fans credited the first Rameses’ appearance for pulling Carolina past VMI, and giving birth to the long line of rams who have witnessed Tar Heel games.

Sounds of Carolina

Hark the Sound (Alma Mater)

Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices,
Ringing clear and true.
Singing Carolina’s praises,
Shouting N-C-U!
Hail to the brightest star of all,
Clear its radiance shine.
Carolina priceless gem,
Receive all praises thine!

I'm a Tar Heel Born (Fight Song)

I’m a Tar Heel born
I’m a Tar Heel bred
And when I die
I’m a Tar Heel dead.
So it’s Rah, Rah, Car’lina-lina
Rah, Rah, Car’lina-lina
Rah, Rah, Car’lina
Rah! Rah! Rah!

Here Comes Carolina

Here comes Carolina-lina
Here comes Carolina-lina
We hail from NCU
We’ve got the team to win it
We’ve got the spirit in it
We wear the colors white and blue
So it’s fight, fight, fight for Carolina
As Davie did in days of old
As we rally round the Well
Cheer that Tar Heel team like Hell
For the glory of NCU

About Order of the Bell Tower

Order of the Bell Tower (OBT), UNC’s official student ambassadors and tradition keepers, was chartered in 1980 as an honorary service organization under the auspices of the UNC General Alumni Association (GAA). In 1982, OBT members were named by the chancellor to serve as the official student ambassadors for the University. In 2008, with the publication of True Blue, OBT ambassadors were recognized as the official tradition keepers of the University.

Cornerstone OBT activities include:

• Hosting University events including Chancellor’s Box and Commencement
• True Blue traditions events
• Shadow Day for high school students
• Bell Tower Relighting
• Care package program
• University Day celebration event

Learn more at