NCAA grants UNC's travel waiver, after all

The NCAA has granted North Carolina a travel waiver to leave early for its basketball trip to the Long Beach State and the Maui Invitational next month, after all.

Last week, UNC coach Roy Williams told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz that the NCAA had twice denied a waiver request that would allow the Tar Heels to leave for the LBSU game on the last commercial flight out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Nov. 14, at 5 p.m.

NCAA rules usually prevent teams from traveling to a road game more than 48 hours before tipoff, and since UNC plays LBSU on Nov. 16 at 11 p.m. ET, the Tar Heels would not have been allowed to leave RDU prior to 11 p.m. on Nov. 14 without a waiver. Williams was concerned that would mean spending $120,000 on a charter flight if the team wanted to leave late Wednesday night.

But UNC associate athletics director Clint Gwaltney, who now is in charge of the team’s scheduling, said the Tar Heels were actually granted the NCAA waiver last week, before Williams’ comments. The school and Williams had not received word that the early departure had been OK’d before he talked about the issue, Gwaltney said.

So the team will leave on a commercial flight for LBSU after classes on Wednesday, Nov. 14. After that game, the Tar Heels head to Hawaii to play in the Maui Invitational on Nov. 19, 20 and 21.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.