CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina will rename the football field at Kenan Stadium after announcing a multi-million dollar gift — the largest ever for UNC athletics and the Rams Club — from the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation.
The full amount of the donation was not disclosed, but a news release from the university labeled it “transformational” and the Rams Club’s “largest gift in history.” The club received $10 million gifts from Ken and Cheryl Williams in 2016 and Steve and Debbie Vetter in 2017.
The Smith gift is earmarked for the football program, intended specifically to fund assistant coaches’ salaries, improvements to the Kenan Football Center and the football operation endowment.
Carolina will rename the football field in honor of the Smith’s son, Chris, a 1987 UNC alumnus who is a member of the Rams Club’s executive board of directors.
Eddie Smith, a 1965 UNC alum, is the owner and CEO of Grady-White Boats in Greenville. He is a past member of the UNC board of trustees, a former chairman of the Rams Club, and has served on several boards including the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center.
“Our family believes in the positive impact the University of North Carolina and its athletic program can have on our communities,” Eddie Smith said in the news release. “Watching the Tar Heels play in Kenan Stadium has been a family affair for over 60 years, and it was important to us to support Coach Mack Brown and his vision for Carolina Football. To be able to honor my son Chris — someone who has shared my passion for Carolina and for promoting positive leadership qualities — is very special.”
Brown returned to Chapel Hill last season and led the Tar Heels to a winning record and a victory over Temple in the Military Bowl.
“Eddie and Chris are dear friends of Sally and me, as was Eddie’s wife and Chris’ mother Jo Allison. They share our vision for Carolina football,” Brown said in the release. “Eddie is a person who sees all the little things, but has a great sense of the big picture, which is very unusual. It is a trait that has served him well both in life and business.
“This gift helps give us the means to continue building a program representative of the excellence we see every day at UNC and to ensure that same excellence will remain into the future. We often talk about our Carolina Football Family, and the Smiths have been a major part of that for a long time. Family has always been important to them and we’re so glad they will remain associated with the program through this gift and field naming.”
Beyond sports, the Smiths have given money to the UNC School of Medicine, where the family has established professorships, fellowships and numerous clinical research funds. They have also supported student scholarships, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, the UNC College of Arts & Sciences and the University Libraries.