All eyes will be on the Final Four game between heated rivals Duke and North Carolina this Saturday night from New Orleans, as one of the most legendary and bitter rivalries in American sport is renewed for the very first time on college basketball’s biggest stage. Country music superstar Eric Church, a native of North Carolina and a self-proclaimed “Carolina basketball fan”, is even canceling his scheduled Saturday night tour date in San Antonio so that he can attend.
Church, 44, broke the news to spectators on Tuesday with a personalized message delivered via Ticketmaster. He called his decision “the most selfish thing” he had ever asked of his fans, but explained the reasons for the cancellation in a letter to the “Church Choir”.
Church’s message to his fans can be seen below:
“This Saturday, my family and I will come together to cheer on the Tar Heels as the team reaches the Final Four.
“As a lifelong Carolina basketball fan, I’ve seen Carolina and Duke fight over the years, but seeing them face off in the Final Four for the first time in NCAA tournament history is every sports fan’s dream.
“It’s also the most selfish thing I’ve ever asked the Choir to do: give up your Saturday night plans with us so that I can enjoy this moment with my family and my sports community. However, it is this same type of passion felt by the people occupying the seats at our concerts that makes us want to be part of a crowd at a game of this importance.
“Woody Durham always said, ‘Go where you go and do what you do,’ thank you for letting me go here and be with the Tar Heels.”
Church, born in Granite Falls, North Carolina, attended South Caldwell High School in Hudson, North Carolina, but never attended the University of North Carolina. He instead pursued a degree in marketing at Appalachian State University, but eventually moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and became one of country music’s biggest stars.
During a music career that began in 2005, Church has released seven studio albums, won multiple Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards, and been nominated for nine Grammys.
Another intriguing story surrounding Saturday’s Carolina/Duke showdown is the impending retirement of longtime Duke coach Mike Kryzewski at the end of the season. A number of casual fans will no doubt be backing Coach K to leapfrog UNC in the National Semifinals and end his storied career with a National Championship on Monday night, while Carolina fans would love nothing more than to send Coach K to retirement on Saturday night.
“I didn’t think about it at all”, North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said Sunday night after the Tar Heels’ victory in the Elite Eight gave them access to the Final Four. “The only thing on my mind is to celebrate with the rest of the players what just happened today. Next week will be next week. And we’ll deal with that next week. But right now I don’t want to. not thinking about next week and losing the moment of today. There is so much joy and there is so much happiness, gratitude and appreciation. I want to stay there. There is enough time to attend our match next week. I want to enjoy today.”
North Carolina (28-9) and Duke (32-6) are scheduled to call at 8:49 p.m. ET Saturday night from Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. The match will be televised by TBS.