Oct 9, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA;  North Carolina Tar Heels head coach  Mack Brown looks on from with quarterback Sam Howell (7) the sidelines against the Florida State Seminoles at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Five-star Zach Rice, top OT in 2022, commits to UNC

Zach Rice, the top-ranked offensive tackle in the high school Class of 2022, committed to North Carolina on Thursday.

The five-star player from Lynchburg, Va., chose coach Mack Brown and the Tar Heels out of a top five featuring Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Virginia.

“The difference was obviously I want to play for a Hall of Fame head coach. Mack Brown is amazing,” Rice said during his announcement at an event at Liberty Christian Academy in Virginia. “We’re on the come up right now, I really believe that, and the only thing I can do is get better.”

Rice’s commitment makes North Carolina the only program in the country with commitments from two of the top 10 prospects in the 247Sports Composite rankings. Rice is rated the No. 9 overall prospect, and five-star defensive lineman Travis Shaw is No. 4 overall.

Rice is listed at 6-foot-6, 282 pounds.

“I will be a program-changer,” Rice said.

–Field Level Media

Sept 12, 2020, Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina head coach Mack Brown watches his team warm up for the Tar Heels' game against Syracuse on Saturday, September 12, 2020 in Chapel Hill, N.C.. Mandatory credit: Robert Willett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina extends Mack Brown through 2025

Sep 22, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; General overall view of  FirstEnergy Stadium before an NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cleveland Browns. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina extended football coach Mack Brown’s contract through 2025 on Monday.

The extension maintains the terms of the original deal and keeps the contract length at five years.

Brown, who turns 70 in August, earns $3.5 million per season on the deal he signed in November 2018 to come out of retirement and return to Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Tar Heels finished 8-4 and ranked No. 18 in the final Top 25 poll last season, losing to Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl. They went 7-6 and won the Military Bowl in his first year back in 2019.

“We’re proud of what our football program has accomplished over the last two seasons. Carolina Football is on a great trajectory, and much of that can be credited to our coaches,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham said in a news release. “We’ve worked hard to build continuity with this staff, and we’re seeing the benefits of that on the field, in recruiting, and in the community. We are excited to watch this talented coaching staff continue to lead this program forward.”

In 31 seasons as a head coach, Brown has a 253-127-1 record with 23 bowl appearances (14-9 record) at Tulane (1985-87), North Carolina (1988-97, 2019-20) and Texas (1998-2013).

He guided the Longhorns to a BCS National Championship in 2005 was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

“I want to express my gratitude to the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, Bubba and the Athletics Department for understanding the importance of having stability within our coaching staff,” Brown said in the release. “We said, because Sally and I love UNC and Chapel Hill so much, this is the only place we’ll coach, and we plan on doing that as long has we’re having fun, impacting the young men in our program, and giving Carolina football the best chance to win.”

The school also extended all 10 of the Tar Heels’ full-time assistant coaches to three-year deals. In addition, wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway was promoted to assistant head coach and Larry Porter was named the assistant special teams coordinator and running backs coach.

–Field Level Media

Oct 26, 2019; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown disputes a call as his team plays the Duke Blue Devils in the second half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The North Carolina Tar Heels won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

UNC’s Mack Brown: Delaying season to gather facts is sensible

North Carolina head coach Mack Brown said Tuesday it makes sense for the ACC to play defense and gather facts related to the coronavirus before players take the field this season.

Brown said he is hopeful the 2020 season can be played but admitted the conference would be in a pickle if multiple other leagues opt to shift the season to later in the fall or next spring.

“I don’t see leagues playing by themselves. If you see three or four saying, ‘We don’t think it’s healthy,’ then why would we do it?” Brown said Tuesday in a Zoom call with reporters.

However, the chair of the ACC’s medical advisory team told Sports Business Daily that a season could be played safely.

“We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe,” Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke infectious disease specialist, told SBD. “Can we safely have two teams meet on the field? I would say yes. Will it be tough? Yes. Will it be expensive and hard and lots of work? For sure. But I do believe you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of bringing COVID onto the football field or into the training room at a level that’s no different than living as a student on campus.”

Big Ten officials are reportedly contemplating postponing the season until the spring and the Pac-12 is expected to follow suit. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Monday he wouldn’t rush to make any decision with the start of the 2020 regular season already delayed.

Brown said all options, including pushing the start of the season back again, should be considered equally.

“One thing the players have probably done is by saying, ‘We want to play,’ then what people might do is slow down because we’re learning more about the virus every day, and let’s wait and look at every possible option since they want to play,” Brown said. “I think that’s what everybody is looking at right now; let’s take a deep breath, let’s make sure they’re safe and then let’s look at options. Is it safe to start when we want to? Do we move it back a little bit, or do we move to spring? We’re so splintered; it seems to me we’d all be better if we were on the same page, but hopefully we’re getting there.”

North Carolina has not had a positive COVID-19 test in more than a month, a number that supports the sentiment of high-profile coaches Jim Harbaugh (Michigan) and Ryan Day (Ohio State) who are arguing that players are safer on campus.

Of recent myocarditis (swelling of the heart) concerns related to COVID-19 cases, Brown noted any positive coronavirus tests result in players being sent for a complete EKG and heart checkup after quarantine before they can be cleared to practice.

Wolfe told SBD that the ACC — or any conference — would need to accept a level of risk.

“You have to feel some level of comfortable playing in a non-zero risk environment,” Wolfe told SBD. “You can’t tell me that running onto a football field is supposed to be a zero-risk environment. Look at all of the regular sporting injuries that we accept as a certain level of risk as part and parcel of football. Now the reality is that we have to accept a little bit of COVID risk to be a part of that.”

–Field Level Media