Never let it be said that the NCAA doesn’t stick to its rules. This time, though, North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said he was “dumbfounded” by college sports' governing body.
The NCAA last week denied a waiver that would have allowed North Carolina and South Carolina to play a benefit exhibition basketball game with the proceeds going to Hurricane Florence relief, a decision that Williams admitted left him in disbelief.
“I was dumbfounded when the waiver was not granted,” Williams told reporters during the team’s media day in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The stumbling block is that the NCAA allows schools to play two exhibition games, one public and one “secret” (in a closed gym with no reporters, no acknowledgment by coaches and no stats listed). The NCAA had approved several hurricane relief games last season and approved a game between Clemson and North Carolina Wilmington this year. But South Carolina is already hosting Augusta University in an exhibition game later this month and will face Virginia Tech in its “closed scrimmage.” North Carolina plays Mount Olive in an exhibition next month and its secret scrimmage is later this month at Villanova. Neither school wanted to change its plans, which meant a waiver was needed for a third game.
That wasn’t the only charity game the NCAA put the kibosh on, for the same reason. It won’t allow Kentucky and Notre Dame to play a third game, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported. Kentucky already has two exhibitions scheduled. Last year, the NCAA granted Kentucky a waiver for a third charity exhibition game and the Kentucky Cares Classic against Morehead State raised nearly $450,000.
“Our state and South Carolina had a terrible tragedy, a horrific storm come through, whatever you want to call it,” Williams said (via the Observer). “And I called [Gamecocks Coach] Frank [Martin] to see if he would be interested in playing a game [in Charlotte].
“I called him and said, ‘Nobody’s been hurt as badly as we have, North Carolina and South Carolina, with Florence.’ And we asked for a waiver to see if we could play. I’m not trying to gain an advantage on anybody. I don’t think we can gain an advantage on anybody. But we were willing to play each other.
“I wanted to take it to Charlotte because it would be closer between the two schools, and play a game and give all the money — all the money — to [charity]."
Williams even had a pretty powerful and persuasive ace up his sleeve: potential involvement by Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets and former UNC star. “I was going to try to convince a guy that I know pretty well that owns the building in Charlotte to give us a great rate,” he said.
Now, coaches at all levels and in all sports have been known to look for any kind of competitive advantage, but Williams swears that wasn’t his motive.
"If you guys can convince me how that was going to help North Carolina’s basketball team or South Carolina’s basketball team over somebody else, then I’ll listen to it. But that was not the intent.
“When you see the scenes of people’s stuff out on the street, you want to do something. And that’s sadly what we saw. We saw so many situations, people losing everything they have. And we had what I thought was one of the few good ideas I’ve ever had.”
Fifty-one people lost their lives when Florence, a Category 1 storm, brought devastating floods to the region in mid-September. Residents in flooded neighborhoods are still struggling, and the area is expected to get more high winds and flooding from Hurricane Michael this week.
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