North Carolina state senators ask NCAA to allow UNC-USC Hurricane Florence charity basketball game

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Two North Carolina state senators are calling on the NCAA to reverse its decision not to allow UNC and South Carolina to host a preseason game that would benefit victims of Hurricane Florence, which flooded and displaced families on North and South Carolina’s coasts.

Senators Rick Gunn of Alamance County and John Alexander of Wake County wrote a joint letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert asking him to reconsider accepting a waiver to allow a third preseason game., despite rules limiting schools to two such games.

“We can’t fathom a better reason to waive your rules than to raise money for families whose lives have been turned upside down by historic flooding,” the two senators wrote. “If you’re worried about setting a national precedent, what better precedent to set than a willingness to waive hard and fast rules for a 1,000-year storm?”

Last week, UNC basketball coach Roy Williams said he came up with a plan to help victims of the hurricane. He called up USC coach Frank Martin and asked him to participate in the charity basketball game. The game would be played at the Spectrum Center, where the Hornets play in Charlotte.

Two weeks ago, UNC contacted the NCAA to apply for a waiver., but the NCAA denied the request. The NCAA’s Committee on Basketball Oversight decided in June that waivers would not be accepted for a third preseason game. The only way UNC and USC would have been able to play the game was if they canceled another preseason game.

Neither UNC, nor USC wanted to do that. UNC typically plays one preseason game against a smaller in-state school to help a program financially, and a secret game, which this year, is reportedly against Villanova.

Williams said he was shocked the NCAA would not allow it.

“Guys, if you 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,” Williams said last week. “But that was not the intent.”

A spokesperson for the NCAA could not immediately be reached for comment.

Senators Gunn and Alexander are UNC and N.C. State alums respectively.

“We hope that you’ll recognize that the benefit to those struggling to rebuild far outweighs the cost of waiving a rule to allow another preseason basketball game,” they wrote.

Alexander, 919-829-4822; @jonmalexander