[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] of North Carolina's approach to athletics. It happened in the Big Four basketball tournament in 1976. UNC was trailing Wake Forest, 97-94, in the final and with one second left, Dean Smith called timeout.

After time was in, the Tar Heels thew a length of the court pass which resulted in a layup as the buzzer sounded. As the ball dropped through the basket, Smith was three feet onto the court trying to signal for another timeout.

One of Smith's ACC coaching rivals pointed at him and said: "That's why they win so many close games. They never believe they're going to lose. Neither do their opponents. They're always thinking, 'Carolina's going to find a way to win.' And they do."

There are some myths about the University of North Carolina that should be put to rest.

The school does not have more money than the U.S. Mint, as has been speculated by rivals upon viewing its facilities, which are as good as any in the country.

Dean Smith is not related by blood or marriage to all, or even any, of the ACC's basketball officials.

The Tar Heels do not win the Carmichael Cup, symbolic of overall supremacy in ACC sports, every year. They've only won the last four years and seven out of the last 10.

Not every woman on the campus is a 10. There are at least half a dozen nines.

It does rain in Chapel Hill. But not on game days.

"Success breeds success," said Ferebee Taylor, the school's chancellor from 1971 until this January. "We have a lot of things going for us as a university. I think we've done a lot of things right and worked very hard. But the winning has certainly helped."

It is foolish to label any college athletic program as utopian because they all have flaws.

The people at UNC talk proudly of the combination of academics and athletics at the school. But Carolina bent its academic standards in the 1970s to ensure continued success on the field. Each year it admits 25 athletes, 12 of them football players, who do not meet the normal minimum requirements for admission.

"We took the middle road," says Athletic Director Johnny D. Swofford. "When the ACC eliminated the 1.6 (minimum requiement for admission) rule we could have thrown out minimums completely. Or we could have been rigid and watched a lot of athletes go to other schools and come back here and beat us. This was our compromise."

UNC is not Harvard. And it is not utopian. Some of its athletes have been arrested, have flunked out and have transferred to other schools like in any other intercollegiate athletic program.

But if there has been a dominant force ACC athletics over the years. this is it. It is one of the top athletic programs in the country.

"Sometimes I laugh because our competitors seem to think we don't have any problems," said Swofford. "We've got them, though, same as everyone else."

Not quite. While Maryland Athletic Director Jim Kehoe is trying desperately to make up a $400,000 deficit without eliminating any of the 23 sports that are financed through a $3.5 million annual budget. Swofford is thinking of ways to improve those sports that aren't winning among his 26-sport program that has a budget of $5.8 million annually.

While Kehoe loses sleep trying to figure ways to lure fans to Byrd Stadium, Swofford's entire football schedue was sold out before the season started.

While most colleges are trying figure out how to keep their facilities up to date, Swofford has just embarked on an 18-month program designed to raise $30 million, the price tag on the 22,000 seat student activities center scheduled to open in 1984.

In many ways Swofford personifies the Carolina image. At 31, he is one of the nation's youngest athletic directors. Like so many in the UNC athletic department, he is an overachiever.

"We've had a lot of things going for us over the years, no question about that," former chancellor Taylor said. But the people factor is crucial. We've had good people here for a lot of years."

There are a number of people who have shaped UNC's athletic program over the years. In the early 1950s, after the glory days of Charlie (Choo-Choo) Justice in the late '40s the powers that be at the school decided that athletics were nor a worthwhile investment.

From 1950-56, the football team was hammered, compiling a 20-44-4 record. That changed some minds and in '56 Jim Tatum was hired away from Maryland to put the piece back together.

He took over a program that was giving 18 football scholarships a year. He demanded 40 and got them. Tatum put-together back-to-back 6-4 seasons before dying suddenly in 1958 after contracting Rocky Mountain spotted fever. b

"If Jim Tatum had lived there's no doubt in my mind that he would have made Carolina one of the great football programs in the country during the 1960s," said Dick Crum, the current football coach. "It was all here. Jim had proven he was a winner."

In the eight seasons after Tatum's death UNC had one winning season. It was during that period that the basketball team established itself as a national power (winning the NCAA title in 1957) first under Frank McGuire, the under Smith.

"I think it's fair to say that the basketball team carried the program in the mid-'60s before football took off," Smith said. "Our making the final Four the first time (1967) helped the Educational Foundation an awful lot."

The Educational Foundation -- better known as the Ram Club -- has been a cornerstone for UNC's success for many years. Founded in 1938, it pays the entire scholarship bill for Carolina's athletes; it took in about $2.5 million last year and it will play a major role in raising the money to build the new coliseum.

Ernie Williamson, executive director of the foundation, and a former UNC football player, sees the foundation's success as a result of the same things that have made the overall program a success.

"We start off here with a lot of advantages," Williamson said. "Most of the doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, whatever, in this state went to Carolina. Kids are exposed to Carolina, Carolina Carolina from the time they're 5 to 6 years old.

"Kids grow up in this state dreaming about wearing Carolina blue. There are no pro teams here so people put all their loyalty into Carolina. We've got a lot of alumni and they're unbelievably loyal. They're loyal to the point of almost being obnoxious at times."

The number of alumni who live instate is certainly a major factor. In explaning their failures, officials at Duke like to point out that there are more Carolina alumni in the state than there are Duke alumni in the world.

Carolina has a gorgeous campus and Chapel Hill is the epitome of what a college town should be. The facilities are superb. The alumni is generous with its money. It takes $9,500 in contributions for a Ram Club member to earn the right to buy two tickets to the ACC basketball tournament.

"Our alumni are loyal," Smith said. "But we would be deceiving ourselves if we didn't realize that those contributions keep rolling in because they want tickets."

They want tickets because Smith has had 10 straight 20-victory seasons. And because the football team has been to seven bowl games in 10 years.

"There's no reason not to do well here," Crum said. "I think if a coach wants to work at a school where academics and athletics both count, there's no better job in the country than this one, football or basketball."

Finally, there is the "Smith factor." Because he is entering his 20th year as coach, because his teams have won so consistently and because Smith, 49, has built his reputation as much by graduating basketball players as recruiting them, he is often thought of as the symbol of UNC athletics. That is a symbol the school cherishes.

"When I was chancellor I always tried to see to it that out athletic program looked at the athletes as human being first, students second and athletes third," Taylor said. "Dean Smith has lived up to that to the letter. He is exactly what a coach should be. His players get an education. And they win games."

Or, as UCLA Coach Larry Brown, who played for Smith, put it: "When I grow up I want to be like Dean Smith."

March 6, 1975: The ACC tournament, first round. Wake Forest is about to upset North Carolina. One more basket will clinch the victory. Jerry Schellenberg throws a length-of-the-court pass to Skip Brown. Layup. Game over. But no. Referee Fred Hikel signals that the ball tipped the overhanging scoreboard. No basket, Carolina ball.

A second later the Tar Heels tie the game. They win in overtime and go on to win the tournament. As he walks from the court, Schellenberg glares up at the scoreboard. "Damn Tar Heel," he mutters. "It could only happen against Carolina. They never lose."

It just seems that way.