The CIAA and Winston-Salem State have yet to release their basketball schedules for next season, but WSSU will be playing North Carolina in an exhibition game on Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
George Knox, the interim athletics director at WSSU, confirmed that the Rams and the Tar Heels will play, but he didn’t want any part of predicting a point spread.
“I’ll let Vegas handle that,” Knox said with a laugh on Tuesday night.
Coach Cleo Hill Jr., who will be in his second season at WSSU, tried to get the game played last season but couldn’t work it out. Hill’s wife, Regina, works at North Carolina as the director of development for the UNC Institute for the Environment.
“I don’t know if she helped in getting this game, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt,” Knox said. “I also know that Cleo has a relationship with Coach (Roy) Williams of the Tar Heels and some of their assistants, so we’re just happy it’s worked out.”
Hill said that the contract was signed and sent to North Carolina, and he’s looking forward to the game.
“It’s a big deal for us, obviously,” Hill said. “I mean, you are talking about one of the top programs in the country, and Coach Williams is one of the top coaches of all-time in this game. So we are happy about it.”
Knox said that the Rams will be getting $25,000 to come to Chapel Hill. It won’t be the first time the program has played in the Dean Dome.
The Rams and Tar Heels played an exhibition game in the 2004-05 season, with the Tar Heels winning 113-53.
Williams and UNC honored the legendary Big House Gaines and his wife, Clara, before the game. Both were on hand for the game and the crowd gave Big House, who won 828 games in his 47-year coaching career at WSSU, and his wife a standing ovation.
“I didn’t know that Winston-Salem State had played there before. But that’s great to hear that they honored Coach Gaines like that,” Hill said of Gaines, who died in April of 2005.
Hill said that he was going to reach out to his players and let them know about the game. “They’ll be excited,” Hill said.
Hill said that he and Williams had been talking about a possible exhibition game since March.
“He was on the road recruiting and I was on the road recruiting so we never got back in touch for a while. But over the last couple of weeks it worked out with both of our schedules,” Hill said.
As for the rest of the WSSU’s schedule, that’s still being worked on.
Knox said it should be out by early July with a 22-game CIAA schedule and four nonconference games, plus the exhibition against the Tar Heels.
Hill said it’s a big shot in the arm to play such a high-profile basketball program.
“It really does a lot for our recruiting and just for exposure for a Division II program like ours,” Hill said.