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How NC State became the 'Cardiac Pack'

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Dane Huffman is now the executive web producer at WNCN. He shares how a headline from 1983 tagged the N.C. State Wolfpack with a memorable nickname.

 

Thirty years have passed and we're still talking about N.C. State's amazing run to the NCAA title in 1983, a story that was beautifully told on ESPN in a special report Sunday night.

I had a small part in that story back in 1983, as a part-timer in The News & Observer's Sports department. I grew up a State fan (my father went to State) and was a student at North Carolina at the time, driving to Raleigh several times a week to work for The N&O my senior year.

N.C. State had a stunning run through the ACC Tournament. Then came an even more remarkable overtime win over Pepperdine in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

In the second round, State upset UNLV 71-70 on a Sunday. At that point, you had a sense something special was happening. Everyone in the area -- no one called it "the Triangle" back then -- was enamored with Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano, and even Carolina students were pulling for State.

I came into The N&O that day after the UNLV game to help put out the paper. We used to kick around ideas for headlines, and I said we had to come up with a nickname for that State team.

Back in the 1975, the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL had an amazing season in which they won a bunch of close games, and the media started calling the team "the Cardiac Cards."

Somehow, I had that in the back of my head, and so I suggested "Cardiac Pack."

It immediately had a ring to it. Del Ossino was in charge of The N&O Sports desk that night and he liked the idea. We used that in the headline across the top of the sports page on Monday morning. And sure enough, the nickname exploded. You'd see "Cardiac Pack" on T-shirts and bumper stickers and eventually Coke bottles as State went on to win the national title.

Three decades later, we're still talking about that amazing run. And it's cool to remember how two words in a headline captured that team so perfectly.

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