This is Carolina's 27th all-time bowl game, third bowl game in Charlotte and second straight trip to the Meineke Car Care Bowl. In each of UNC's last two appearances in Charlotte (2004 & 2008), Carolina sold out of its bowl ticket allotment weeks before the game. The Tar Heels are making back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1997 (Gator) and 1998 (Las Vegas).
"Our program is excited for the opportunity to play in back-to-back bowl games and make a return trip to Charlotte," said head coach Butch Davis. "Will Webb and the staff of the Meineke Car Care Bowl do an outstanding job with the game and the activities leading up to the bowl. Our players are excited to continue their season and play so close to home. We had tremendous fan support at the game in 2008 and we will need that again this year against an outstanding Pittsburgh team."
"I'm excited for our players, coaches and fans for the opportunity to continue the football season," said Athletic Director Dick Baddour. "Our program continues to gain momentum under the leadership of Coach Davis and I congratulate our student-athletes for their hard work and determination this year. North Carolina has had fantastic fan support in each of our three previous bowl appearances in Charlotte and this will be another outstanding opportunity for our fans to follow the team in the postseason."
North Carolina finished the regular season 8-4 by winning four of its last five games, including wins at No. 14 Virginia Tech and vs. No. 12 Miami. The Tar Heels defeated five bowl teams – Connecticut, East Carolina, Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College – and have won five straight over ranked teams dating back to last season.
Pittsburgh enters the Meineke Car Care Bowl ranked No. 17 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll. The Panthers finished 9-3 overall, 5-2 and tied for second in the Big East standings. Pitt is led by freshman running back Dion Lewis who ranks third in the nation in rushing.
Carolina has the ACC's top defense and ranks sixth in the country, allowing just 267.8 yards per game. The Tar Heels are also No. 9 in run defense, No. 13 in pass efficiency defense and No. 13 in scoring defense. Four defensive standouts were named to this year's All-ACC first-team: defensive end Robert Quinn, linebacker Quan Sturdivant, cornerback Kendric Burney and safety Deunta Williams.
"We are very happy to welcome the University of North Carolina back to the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl," said Will Webb, Executive Director. "The Tar Heels have proven to be a very tough and determined team this season, and we feel that the matchup of North Carolina against Pittsburgh will be a very exciting and competitive game. The fan response has been tremendous already, as there are only a limited number of lower level seats still available. It is also a great benefit for fans from both schools to be in close proximity to Charlotte and be able to travel to the game easily The 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl will have a great atmosphere for the teams and the fans alike."
The Meineke Car Care Bowl has averaged over 62,000 fans during its first seven years, with three sellouts. It has reached over 18 million television households. In 2003, it was named one of the five-best start-ups in sports over the past five years by the Sports Business Journal, behind only the NFL Houston Texans and ESPN the Magazine.