Note: This post has been updated with new information. Scroll to the bottom to read the ridiculous reasoning the NCAA has used to reach this decision.
Welp. The NCAA is at it again.
Yesterday, David Cloninger of The Charleston Post and Courier reported that North Carolina and South Carolina had reached an agreement for a pre-season exhibition. Similar to last year’s four-team Jamboree, the game would be done in the name of charity in order to benefit the victims from Hurricane Florence. The Carolinas were hammered by massive rains and flooding, causing up to an estimated $22 billion in damage.
As I mentioned when I laid out the case for an annual charity game in Carmichael, the NCAA amended the rules that seemingly would make it easier to schedule charity games against Division-I opponents. As long as a school does not have two or more exhibition games scheduled, they could be allowed to schedule an additional exhibition against Division-I competition if the game would help raise funds for a charity that specializes in catastrophic events — such as hurricanes.
Both the Gamecocks and Tar Heels only had one scheduled exhibition game. The Heels will host Mt. Olive, and South Carolina will host Augusta University. It appeared to be a perfect situation to make the most of terrible circumstances.
As Cloninger reports, both head coaches had agreed on a game. Though they wouldn't meet at Carmichael, the two teams reached an agreement with Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets to use the Spectrum Center. As has become customary for recent football contests between the two schools, Charlotte is a great neutral site for an exhibition meant to help the two states heal.
However, as with anything involving the NCAA, final approval authority resides in Indianapolis. The article doesn’t give a reason why the game was nixed. One can infer that the NCAA decided that the two teams were simply trying to find an easy way to schedule an additional game instead of trying to host a legitimate charity benefit.
In other words, the two largest state schools, from two states that were directly affected by a catastrophic event, can’t play in a 20,000 seat, neutral court arena to raise money for the citizens of those states, because....they’re trying to game the system? Unless more information is provided, that’s about the only conclusion I can reach from Cloninger’s article.
Yet, last year Kansas and Missouri, two of the most landlocked states in the United States, raised over $2 million in response to Hurricane Irma. Quick geography lesson — Irma impacted Florida, and both universities are located over 900 miles away from the Florida panhandle. But sure, charity was the sole benefit of that game. Reigniting their old “Border War” probably didn't have any impact on that decision.
This year, Penn State and West Virginia were approved to add a charity game against each other. While Pennsylvania touches the Atlantic Ocean, both it and West Virginia are at least two states removed from the state of North Carolina. A state, by the way, that had approximately one-third of it’s land underwater in the days following Florence’s landfall.
Besides, the states and citizens of Pennsylvania and West Virginia don’t have any sort of historical animosity that can be considered a “rivalry” that could add to the attraction of such a game. Do they?
Narrator’s Voice: The two states definitely have a history of being rivals.
Oh. At least that rivalry has historically been confined to the football field and therefore couldn’t possibly bleed over to the basketball court, right? If one buys that argument, then it’s fair to say that North Carolina and South Carolina have a very similar relationship.
They’ve only played each other five times since South Carolina departed the ACC, and just once this century. I’m sure there would have been a lack of interest, low-turnout, and minimal funds raised. Clearly, the only reason for such a game would be so both teams could get a free scrimmage against top competition.
But don't worry. That national powerhouses that are Clemson and UNC-Wilmington were approved to face off in the 5,000 seat Trask Arena. That should fire up both fanbases. The NCAA does have a heart and it grew three sizes with that decision.
All sarcasm aside, there may be a very legit reason this event was derailed. It wouldn’t be the first handshake agreement between coaches that fell through. Dates may not have worked out. A decision-maker at either school may have been uncomfortable. Maybe they couldn’t agree on charities or the amount of proceeds that should be donated. Perhaps the NCAA thought “UNC” and “USC” were really University of Northern Colorado and University of Southern California. The possibilities are endless.
Or, maybe the correct answer is the most obvious.
The NCAA ruins everything it touches.
Update: Cloninger updated his original article with new information. The NCAA claims a “secret” scrimmage counts as an exhibition. Both UNC and USC have scheduled a “secret” scrimmage with other schools, in addition to their exhibitions against Mt. Olive and Augusta. These scrimmages are “secret” in that they are closed to the public and media. Many times they don’t even replicate a full game. They may or may not have Division I referees.
Here is our explanation of these arrangements from last season’s “scrimmage” against Memphis. For the NCAA to consider these an “exhibition” in the strictest sense of the word isn’t just laughable. It’s disingenuous, tone deaf, and asinine. Maybe the schools should’ve offered to give a percentage of proceeds to the NCAA in exchange for some common sense.
If more information becomes available, we'll continue to update this post.