Williams' Donations Help UNC Senior Athletes Get Extra Year

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The highest-paid public employee in North Carolina is using some of his wealth to keep student-athletes’ college careers alive.

The University of North Carolina athletic department announced Thursday that Roy Williams, UNC’s men’s basketball coach, and his wife, Wanda, donated more than $600,000 to fund scholarships of spring sports seniors. These types of fundraising efforts have been essential after the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding cancellation of all NCAA spring sports caused many senior student-athletes to miss out on a year of eligibility.

"Student-athletes have begun to come back to campus for voluntary and now team workouts, so it's an appropriate time for us to announce that our spring sport seniors will also be able to return for another year thanks to Roy's and Wanda's generosity," UNC director of athletics Bubba Cunningham said in the university’s press release. "Only a handful of people at the University knew what Roy and Wanda had done to support our students. He called me in March the day the NCAA canceled all spring championships. He didn't want those students to miss that experience and wanted to fund those scholarships for next year. I still get chills when I think about his phone call and the impact it would have for dozens of our students."

Related content: Schools Approach Funding Extra Eligibility Differently

The NCAA is allowing those athletes to recoup that year, although it is up to each university to determine how to accommodate the athletes that want to return. A March USA Today report suggested Power Five programs would potentially have to spend between $500,000 and $900,000 each to provide all spring student-athletes an extra year of eligibility.

Related content: Extra Eligibility Could be Costly for NCAA Programs

The Williams’ made that decision easier for Tar Heel athletes, with their May donation that will allow for athletes to remain on scholarship throughout the 2020-21 school year. This isn’t a first-time donation for the Williams family. Roy, a North Carolina native, was a UNC assistant coach from 1978 until 1988 before leading for the University of Kansas head job. He returned to Chapel Hill in 2003 to become UNC’s head coach.

"Roy and Wanda have donated millions of dollars to UNC, the athletic department, the Rams Club and individual sport programs over the years but have always chosen to do so without fanfare or publicity," Rams Club executive director John Montgomery said. "However, we felt this was the proper time to announce our appreciation for all they have done to support their alma mater's academic and athletic pursuits and student-athletes across all 28 of our sports programs, and thank them for an extraordinarily generous contribution to allow our seniors another opportunity at competing in the spring."

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