It was, Chris Weiler said, the kick heard around the world. On Oct. 1, 2016, with four seconds remaining on the clock and Carolina down by one in Tallahassee, his son Nick nailed a 54-yard field goal to beat Florida State 37-35. “People came out of the woodwork that I haven’t heard from in decades,” Chris said about the aftermath of the game.

Nick Weiler earned his degree, left Chapel Hill and is now pursuing opportunities in the NFL, but his parents, Chris and Victoria, still follow and support the Heels. They recently made a major gift to help build head coach Larry Fedora’s top priority, the indoor football practice facility. It’s the anchor of the Football Practice Complex taking shape near the heart of the campus.

The indoor facility will boast a 120-yard synthetic turf field, enabling game preparation for Fedora’s squads in all conditions. Outdoor grass and synthetic practice fields, spaces for strength and conditioning, facilities for sports medicine and connections to the new Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium round out the project. A new walkway through the complex will provide a much-needed pedestrian thoroughfare between central and southeast campus. Construction started last spring and the project is due to open in mid-August.

“The new indoor practice facility makes a clear statement to recruits and their families that we are committed to providing the best experience possible within the Carolina football program,” Fedora said. “With the indoor facility and the two new practice fields, we will have first-class facilities that will improve our ability to attract and develop first-class student-athletes.”

The Weiler family knows what it takes to attract and develop first-class student-athletes, and they understand the need for first-class facilities.

Chris played football for the U.S. Naval Academy, then coached high school football for 12 years. As a high school coach he learned what it was like to compete against schools with better facilities. He also learned about college recruiting by hosting the college coaches who came to see his players. Victoria, a standout high school athlete, was a football team manager at UVA. Their daughter Katherine captained the soccer team at Pitt, and their son Matthew played soccer at Kentucky and Virginia. Youngest son Nick was with the Heels from the 2013 through the 2016 seasons, playing in 41 games, posting 273 points and making the Academic All-ACC Honor roll.

The Weilers love everything about Chapel Hill – town, gown and Tar Heel athletics – and when they wanted to make a significant gift to the Rams Club they asked Nick how they could have the greatest impact. “Nick said with the weather and the field conditions between November and March, the quality of what they were able to do was nowhere near what it could have been,” Victoria said. “If you really want to develop and be the best football player, you have to have quality practices through most of the year. Kids are not able to work if the field conditions are substandard.”

“In order to go toe to toe with your competition, you have to be able to practice in inclement weather,” Chris said. “Most people don’t realize that this is where those kids spend every waking minute out of the classroom. This is where they live, and once they’re in the program this is how you get them to compete at the highest levels.”

He and Victoria agree that building the facility is essential if Carolina is going to compete at the Power 5 level. “This is the table stakes – the ante – if you want to play the game,” he said. “You have to have this at a minimum.”

The Weilers like the location of the practice facility, near the center of the campus, and the pedestrian throughway it offers for students and faculty crossing that section of campus. “We love the University of Pittsburgh,” Chris said, “but their football team goes off campus, across the river, to practice. It’s completely disconnected from student life and university life, and certainly some kids will never go there because they have to take a bus to practice every day.”

On the other hand, UNC’s central practice location maintains a daily and visible presence for athletics on campus, further integrating sports programs into the life of the UNC community. “It keeps the students and the student-athletes together,” Victoria said. “They see each other walking by, every day.”

“Carolina did such a beautiful, masterful job,” Chris said. “They built it into the fabric of the campus, which is fantastic.”

The Weilers committed $500,000 to the project. They made a $75,000 cash gift and gave the remainder by transferring highly appreciated stock, resulting in a tax deduction and eliminating taxes on the capital gains.

“We love giving back,” Chris said. “We are super proud of the program, we love the University and the people are just fantastic. We are blessed to be able to give back, and for us it was an easy decision.”

Victoria said they invested in Carolina football because quality and excellence are the expectation in Chapel Hill. “You have a top-notch university, an amazingly beautiful campus, a town with great restaurants, great entertainment, great Olympic sports and a top basketball program. It doesn’t seem right to not have an equally top football program,” she said. “We have to help them compete for the top recruits, and not be dismissed by them out of hand because the facilities aren’t there.”

Chris, a wide receiver for Navy, said he envisions quarterbacks and wideouts running their routes in the indoor facility on an otherwise foul January day. The new facility will make that kind of consistent, focused work possible every day, he said, and daily effort is critical to the program’s success. “You just can’t move the needle without an indoor facility,” he said.

UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said success in recruiting and on game day is made possible by donors such as the Weilers. “Recruiting talented students is the lifeblood of all of our athletic programs,” he said. “With this renewed commitment to expanding and improving our facilities, including the construction of the new indoor practice facility for our football program, the Rams Club is helping to ensure that we can recruit and compete at the highest level possible.”

This story appeared in the June 2018 edition of Born & Bred