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Friday, May 24, 2024

NC trend: Scoring biscuits at ball games

A beloved tradition endures, filling up hungry sports fans.

College basketball season means promotion time for serious hoops fans, which is why one of the biggest cheers of the year came near the end of a blowout game between the UNC Chapel Hill men’s team and The Citadel in mid-December. It was the same reason that the remaining fans in the Dean E. Smith Center had begun chanting, “We want biscuits,” during a timeout.

When Jackson Watkins, a seldom-used Tar Heel senior guard, swished a 3-point shot with 10.3 seconds left to make the score 100-67, fans in the Dean Dome knew it was Bo time. 

The “Bojangles 100-Point Special” is a long-standing promotional partnership between UNC and the Charlotte-based fast-food chain’s local franchisee. When the Tar Heels score more than 100 points during a home game, fans who mention the promo the next day can score two sausage biscuits for $1 at participating locations. Many still think it’s free biscuits, which was how the promotion began in 2003-04, former coach Roy Williams’ first season. 

“As I caught the ball in the backcourt, I didn’t even consider dribbling the clock out. Wrong or right, there was business to be done,” said Watkins, a Phi Beta Kappa student from Richmond, Virginia. He was featured on ESPN later that evening. 

A year earlier, a Watkins free throw had sealed the Tar Heels’ 100-80 win over N.C. State. So his Citadel points made him one of only eight Tar Heels to sink the “biscuit basket” multiple times. “Very rarely do I dribble away and shoot a deep fading three,” he said. “But I am the Biscuit King. I knew it was nothing but net the moment it left my hand.” 

The partnership between Carolina and the iconic fast-food brand, which recently celebrated its 45th birthday, makes a lot of sense, says Tommy Haddock, president of franchisee Tri-Arc Food Systems. The Raleigh-based company operates about 50 stores in the Triangle and southern Virginia. “Two very recognized brands within this market and the state — it was bound to be a success.”

“We were just trying to come up with something that was a little different than your usual sponsorship opportunities,” says Michael Beale, a UNC assistant athletic director for marketing who was involved in the promotion’s creation. “I don’t think at the time anyone had any idea it would get to where it is.”  

Biscuit coupons may seem quaint amid the proliferation of name, image, likeness contracts that have proliferated between athletes and brands. For example, Bojangles struck a substantial NIL deal with former Tar Heel quarterback Sam Howell, a famous eater of chicken tenders, when he was leading the team. (He’s now with the NFL’s Washington Commanders.) This year, all-ACC junior basketball guard Caleb Love carries the Bojangles banner, while preseason first-team All-American Armando Bacot is a spokesperson for the Jimmy’s Famous Seafood chain.

Over at N.C. State University’s PNC Arena, Wolfpack fans can take advantage of the “Chick-fil-A Fowl Shot” promotion, which has a more mischievous nature. If an opposing player misses two consecutive free throws in the last eight minutes of the second half, fans in the greater Triangle area are rewarded with a free chicken sandwich on the fast-food chain’s app the next day.  

Not to be outdone by their rivals, the Dean Dome crowd went crazy again during a recent game when a Wake Forest player missed consecutive free throws at the 15:34 mark of the second half in North Carolina’s 88-79 victory. Those miscues set off widespread joy because of a promotion with Kellogg’s Pringles brand: If an opposing player misses two consecutive free throws in the second half, 5,000 fans receive a can of chips.

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