Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

The life of a Technician sports writer or editor can get pretty hectic. But the vicious, satisfying cycle of running around campus covering games, writing recaps and forcing your eyes open to survive another 2 a.m. print night are all made worth it by being at the center of the NC State sports world. 

And at the very middle of that world is the tradition of covering the bitter, age-old rivalry between NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Don’t just take it from me, though. Three generations of Technician sports editors — all separated by 20 years each — will tell it to you firsthand. Writing for Technician, and chronicling the rivalry, changed their lives.

Tim Peeler, a NC State sports historian and aficionado, started his career as a Technician Sports writer and editor in the early and mid 1980s. Witness to the NC State men’s basketball’s exceptional run under head coach Jim Valvano, Peeler was thrown into the fire as a young Technician sports writer. 

“The best thing that Technician does, and is for everybody, is the greatest form of experiential education that any college student can have because it throws you in the middle of big and important things,” Peeler said. 

To some, there’s nothing bigger or more important than the rivalry between NC State and UNC.

“If you’re a newspaper reporter in the state of North Carolina in the ACC tournament and State and Carolina are playing, that’s the best story you could ask for,” Peeler said. “Duke and Carolina is good too, but going back home, everything centers around NC State-Carolina.”

It’s a rivalry that’s been spurred on by generations of bad blood between the two sets of die-hard fans. Many Technician sports writers, including Peeler, grew up watching and rooting for NC State at home before covering the Pack in person. 

Peeler said the memory of NC State men’s basketball suffering a last-second loss to the Tar Heels in 1979 still haunts him. But years later, that moment made covering the rivalry that much more special. 

“I was physically ill,” Peeler said. “I did not want to go to school the next day. And hearing stories of that game, which I remember when I was a 14-year-old kid, and then getting to know some of the reporters and some of the people who were covering that game, or at that game, or participating in that game was one of the really, truly great times of my writing career.”

About 20 years after Peeler’s tenure, Andrew Carter, a current News and Observer sports writer, began his storied writing career at Technician. Like Peeler, Carter grew up watching NC State — even at school, when his teacher would wheel in a TV so his class could watch ACC Tournament Fridays. 

“I went to State-Carolina games as a spectator when I was in school,” Carter said. “I have fond memories of being in the stands with my friends, and you get into it, and that’s one way to take it in. But then it really is kind of like an indescribable feeling to cover it as a student journalist.” 

As a Technician sports writer, you’re at the epicenter of the NC State-UNC rivalry — possibly more than anyone else besides the athletes themselves. Like most Technician sports writers, Carter’s goal was to do right by the classic rivalry. 

“As a journalist, but especially a journalist at that point, trying to come up, learn and establish yourself as much as you can back then, you want to do it justice,” Carter said. “And so I remember just feeling a responsibility to really try to do it justice.”

Fast forward another 20 years, and those sentiments were the exact same for sports writer and editor Nicholas Schnittker. Covering NC State sports in the late 2010s and early 2020s, Schnittker covered countless iterations of the matchup. 

Most notably though, Schnittker was there for NC State football’s miraculous 34-30 comeback win over the Heels in 2021. After years of suffering at the hands of Carolina — namely in men’s basketball — it’s a win that Wolfpack fans will remember for a long time. 

“I think I remember writing the first or second line of that story and it was like, ‘Sometimes NC State fans can have nice things,’” Schnittker said. “And that’s truly what it felt like. It kind of felt like one of those moments where we actually do get something nice for once after a lot of heartbreak against UNC.”

However, some of the best NC State-UNC moments from over the years didn’t come from the hardcourt or the gridiron. Shnittker’s favorite memory covering the rivalry came from NC State men’s soccer’s 1-0 win over No. 1 UNC in 2018. 

“The students stormed the field, and it was one of the first times as a college writer as I was working the game saw people storming the field, and it was such a cool experience to be able to cover that game,” Shnittker said. “Those are the games that you remember and that really make you want to keep doing this.”

In the end, Schnittker said the students, alumni and fans of the two schools, and all of their combined hatred, bitterness and rage, make the rivalry and the experience of writing for Technician.  

“You should hate your rival,” Schnittker said. “It’s what makes it fun. And I think that’s what always made it enjoyable to cover — there were always fans. There were plenty of games I covered for different sports where there weren’t a ton of people there — it is what it is — but those games, extra people always showed up to those ones and it was a lot of fun.”

Over the 40-year span between Peeler, Carter and Schnittker, one thing has remained the same: Technician sports’ passion for covering NC State athletics, especially the games against Carolina. They are the games that personify all the exhilarating highs, painstaking lows and unlimited passion that sports fans and Technician sports writers everywhere live for. 

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