In an era when elite programs play as many home games as possible to rack up victories, ticket revenue and concessions sales, North Carolina coach Roy Williams deserves credit for not being afraid to face lesser-known programs on the road.
In 2010, he brought the Tar Heels to Evansville to give Indiana native Tyler Zeller a homecoming game. In 2011, he returned to his hometown to christen UNC-Asheville's new arena. In 2012, he'll play at Big West favorite Long Beach State on the way to the Maui Invitational.
The latest team to entice Williams into a road game is UAB, which announced Tuesday it will visit Chapel Hill next season and in 2014-15 with the Tar Heels coming to Birmingham during the 2013-14 season. The series is a favor to new Blazers coach Jerod Haase, who spent the past 13 seasons on Williams' staff at Kansas and North Carolina.
"Coach Williams proves to me once again that he is the most loyal guy in the world and someone who truly cares about his former players and coaches," Haase said in a statement. "For him to do this for me and the UAB program certainly speaks volumes about the type of person he is.
"The challenge needless to say is a huge one. North Carolina is arguably the top program in the country. At the same time, this presents a huge opportunity for us in terms of exposure for our program. We will have a team that is growing and hopefully it will be a learning experience and a good experience for our team."
North Carolina's road games admittedly have not come against elite mid-major programs for the most part, but the Tar Heels are still showing more courage than most elite teams by playing in an opposing team's gym. After all, Williams' teams lost at Santa Clara to open the 2004-05 season and at College of Charleston during the disastrous 2009-10 campaign.
UAB, which fired Mike Davis after a 15-16 campaign last season, will have to rebuild in a hurry to be in position to challenge the Tar Heels in Birmingham in two years. Nonetheless, it's a coup for the program to host North Carolina and a nice gesture from Williams to allow it to happen.
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