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Defiant Williams intends to coach UNC for 6-10 more years

UNC coach Roy Williams brushed aside a question from the media about the possibility of losing his job and told the Raleigh Sports Club Wednesday that he intends to remain the Tar Heels coach for years to come. “It is a thrill to be here,” Williams told the group. “It’s not a thrill to walk in and see the nice people in the media doing their job, and the first […]

UNC coach Roy Williams brushed aside a question from the media about the possibility of losing his job and told the Raleigh Sports Club Wednesday that he intends to remain the Tar Heels coach for years to come.

“It is a thrill to be here,” Williams told the group. “It’s not a thrill to walk in and see the nice people in the media doing their job, and the first question asked is ‘do you think you’re going to lose your job?’ That’s not the nicest thing that has ever happened to me but that’s the world we live in right now.”

Williams said that even after years in Kansas, he always knew he’d end up back in his home state of North Carolina. “Hopefully I’m going to last another six to 10 years regardless of what some people in the media say,” he said.

Roy Williams.

Roy Williams.

Williams has been on the hot seat from those who believe he knew about the academic transgressions involving his players, that he was in on it or that he suspected but didn’t want to find out.

While not admitting to any of those things, Williams conceded that mistakes were made at Carolina.

“We screwed it up,” he said, speaking in general terms about the University. “We made some mistakes, there’s no question about that. Things happened that are so sad and that hurt. It’s unbelievable.”

He said the school is taking actions to correct the errors.

“We’ve had over 20 people lose their jobs,” Williams said. “We’ve made more changes than you can ever imagine.”

He indicated that change isn’t easy. “Now when I decide where I’m going to take the team for a pre-game meal, I check with 12 different committees and all 12 disciples of the Lord,” Williams said. “But change is good sometimes too. We needed to make some changes.”

He said he’s proud of the University of North Carolina. “I’m not happy about what happened,” Williams said. “I’m very sad, very mad about what happened. But I have a wonderful degree from there, as do some of you. I worked for mine and most of our guys did.”

Williams cut out to get to practice and no doubt avoid media after WTVD's Tamara Gibbs "ambushed" him on the way in to speak to the Raleigh Sports Club.

Williams cut out to get to practice and no doubt avoid media after WTVD’s Tamara Gibbs “ambushed” him on the way in to speak to the Raleigh Sports Club.

He said he doesn’t know everything that went on but “we’re going to keep fighting.” A Western movie fan, Williams said he could have used John Wayne and Clint Eastwood fighting on his team over the last couple of months.

He related a scene from Rio Bravo where a character played by actor Jack Elam is being criticized by John Wayne in the middle of a gunfight for the weapon he’s using. “You know what Jack Elam said?” Williams asked. “He looked up at him and said, ‘don’t mind if I shoot do ya?’ That’s what the dickens I’m gonna do – if you don’t mind I’m gonna coach my butt off for a long time.”

While defiant, he admits to this being a very difficult time for him. On top of the academic revelations, his wife has had a couple of recent surgeries and a good friend is battling pancreatic cancer. Plus, with the criticisms aimed at his character, he felt the need to address the situation with his children.

“It’s been the most difficult time for me by far,” he said. “Until recently, I’ve never really had to talk to my children and tell them, ‘your dad is the same dad he’s always been. He’s got the same values he’s always had and that’s never going to change.’”

The Raleigh Sports Club meeting was packed to hear UNC coach Roy Williams.

The Raleigh Sports Club meeting was packed to hear UNC coach Roy Williams.

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It’s Duke-Carolina football week but on Thursday night

dukecarolinafootballJust five days after evening its record at 5-5 with an exciting come-from-behind victory over Pitt, North Carolina travels to Durham to face the Blue Devils, who suffered a heartbreaking loss to Virginia Tech.

The Thursday, Nov. 20 game will be televised by ESPN and will kickoff at 7:45 p.m. from Wallace Wade Stadium.

Blue Devils still control their own fate as they try to capture another Coastal Division title and a trip to the Dr Pepper ACC Championship game in Charlotte.

Georgia Tech has finished their ACC campaign with a 6-2 conference record. If the Blue Devils win their next two games (North Carolina and Wake Forest) they will be the Coastal Division champions since they beat Tech in Atlanta in October.

It’s now time to put the Virginia Tech loss behind them and get ready for the job at hand.

At the end of the day, you have to get ready for North Carolina, especially on the short week,” said David Helton, Duke linebacker. “I think it might be a good thing that we have a game so soon, because it’s going to force us to really get our minds on our next game.”

Duke coach David Cutcliffe said he’s not sure how the team will respond. “It’s not just players, all of us as coaches will have the same challenge,” Cutcliffe said. “We’ve got to pick ourselves up and respond. We have no choice. We’re playing a North Carolina team that is a really good football team and we knew that before this game. Win or lose we knew that was the case. So we better just go get ourselves ready.”

The Tar Heels (5-5 overall, 3-3 ACC) are looking to end a two-game losing streak to Duke, which enters the game tied atop the ACC Coastal Division standings. The Tar Heels are one win away from bowl eligibility. UNC’s final two games come against its biggest rivals at Duke and home against NC State (Nov. 29).

Quarterback Marquise Williams leads the league’s third-highest scoring offense, which is averaging 35.9 points per game.
Williams ranks second in the league in total offense and is pushing for All-ACC honors.

Duke saw its four-game win streak come to a halt with a 17-16 loss at home to Virginia Tech last Saturday.

QUICK HITS
* With a win over Duke, Carolina will be bowl eligible for the second consecutive season and
sixth time in the last seven years.

*Carolina has won 11 of its last 12 games in Durham. The Tar Heels have won 21 of the last 24
against the Blue Devils, but have dropped the last two.

*QB Marquise Williams is second in the league in total offense, second in passing, fourth in scoring TDs and seventh in rushing.

*Carolina has scored 40 or more points in three of the last five games. The Tar Heels are third in
the ACC and 24th in the country averaging 35.9 points per game.

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Wolfpack, Tar Heels cross country teams qualify for national championships

crosscountry2The Atlantic Coast Conference will be well represented at this weekend’s NCAA Cross Country Championships, with eight women’s teams and four men’s teams participating. The championships are set for Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind.

Syracuse and Virginia earned automatic berths to the men’s championship after claiming regional titles while Florida State and North Carolina also earned berths in the 31-team field.

The Orange, led by top-10 finishers Martin Hehir (6th), Joel Hubbard (7th) and Dan Lennon (8th), captured the Northeast Regional by three points over Providence. The Cavaliers were paced by top-15 finishers Adam Visokay (6th), Kyle King (7th) and Zach Herriott (11th) en route to claiming the Southeast Regional title by a four-point margin over Furman.

NC State’s Sam Parsons qualified automatically as an individual based on his fourth place finish in the Southeast regional.

An NCAA-best eight ACC teams secured berths in the women’s championship following their regional performances. The Big Ten and the Pac-12 were tied for second with five teams each in the NCAA championship.

ACC teams qualifying for the women’s championship are Boston College, Florida State, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia and Virginia Tech. The Seminoles, led by individual champion Colleen Quigley, finished second at the South Regional while North Carolina, paced by individual champion Anne LeHardy, placed third at the Southeast Regional.

The NCAA Championships will be hosted by Indiana State on Nov. 23 at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind. The men’s race will begin at noon ET, followed by the women’s race at approximately 1:15 p.m.

2014 NCAA Championship Team Qualifiers

Women (8)

Boston College+
Florida State*
North Carolina+
NC State+
Notre Dame+
Syracuse+
Virginia*
Virginia Tech+

Men (4)

Florida State*
Syracuse*
Virginia*
North Carolina+

*Automatic Team Qualifiers
+At-Large Team Qualifiers

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UNC tailback Khris Francis out for the season

Khris Francis.

Khris Francis.

An MRI has confirmed that North Carolina sophomore tailback Khris Francis tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his right knee in the Tar Heels’ win over Pitt Saturday afternoon. Francis, a native of Durham, suffered the injury in the second quarter.

A surgery date has not yet been been determined.

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UNC’s Williams to speak and answer questions at Raleigh Sports Club

Roy Williams.

Roy Williams.

UNC basketball coach Roy Williams, embattled over academic violations involving some of his former players at North Carolina, will speak at the Raleigh Sports Club Wednesday, Nov. 19, and will be available to answer questions.

The club meets at Bradley Hall in Highland United Methodist Church at 1901 Ridge Road. Buffet lines open at 11:30 a.m. and the meeting is from noon until 1 p.m. Attendance fee for members is $15 while guest fee is $25.       

David Reynolds, a basketball player at Ravenscroft School, will be honored as the RSC’s Student Athlete of the Week.

The annual membership fee is $70, which helps to fund the club’s scholarship fund. Each week from late August to early April meetings include a Southern buffet, door prizes, pick sheets and introduction to a deserving Student Athlete as well as hearing from a prominent sports figure as our guest speaker.
Raleigh Sports Club Membership Form

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Heels open season with a bland win

Brice Johnson.

Brice Johnson.

After all the non-basketball talk, UNC must at least be happy to talk about on-the-court problems now.

North Carolina jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the season opener and used balanced scoring in an overall uninspiring 76-60 over NC Central in Chapel Hill.

“It’s a ‘W,’” UNC coach Roy Williams said blandly. “Not the prettiest thing in the world but Coach (Levelle) Moton’s bunch did some good things.”

NCCU went to the zone and bottled up UNC guard Marcus Paige, who was chosen by ACC media as the preseason player of the year, with a box in one. Paige finished with just eight points on a 2 for 8 performance from the field.

The Tar Heels, who led by as many as 14 points in the first half, had their lead cut to nine at 28-19 at the half.

Carolina started hot in the second half, extending the lead to 36-20 on a pair of old-fashioned three-point plays by freshman starter Justin Jackson and Isiah Hicks, along with a baseline jumper by JP Tokoto.

For more, please click here.

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Fedora says Tar Heels anxious to get back on the field

Larry Fedora.

Larry Fedora.

The North Carolina football team had a bye week to think about the loss to big loss to Miami. It was big on the scoreboard and big because it ended any reasonable hopes of a title.

“I think that they’re anxious to get back out on the field and play, I really do,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “I think they were disappointed with what happened. We got all of that out of our system this past week and I think they’re anxious to get back out on the field and play football.”

He said the team had good practices during the open week and that everybody is fresh. “Everybody is as healthy as we’re going to get at this point and we’re just raring to go into this next game,” he said.

Fedora said it will be a tough homecoming game Saturday against Pitt (12:30, ACC Network).

“They are totally committed to running the football and being physical up front and hitting you with the play action pass when you commit everybody,” he said point out that Pitt has the leading rusher in the country in James Conner.

“He’s a big 6’2, 250 pound bruising guy that can go,” Fedora said. “They lead him with a 270 pound fullback. They are really big up front on the offensive line. Their quarterback is doing a nice job, I think he’s the second leading rusher on their team and you have the Boyd kid who makes all kinds of plays out at wide receiver for them. So we have our work cut out for us to get ready for this game, we haven’t looked on ahead I assure you.”

The Tar Heels finish the regular season at Duke and hosting NC State. “We’ve got to put all of our focus on Pitt,” Fedora said.

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State celebrates Military Appreciation Day Saturday

ncsumilitarySaturday’s game against Wake Forest will be NC State’s annual Military Appreciation Day at Carter-Finley Stadium. Throughout the day, festivities will honor those who protect our freedom. Wolfpack fans have donated tickets to the contest, which have been distributed to military members and veterans through the National Guard, Fort Bragg, USO and other military bases and entities.

Here are some of the other events that will take place on Saturday:

Adopt-A-Serviceperson: Wolfpack Club members will be hosting troops at their pregame tailgates. The Athletics Department is providing complimentary game tickets for these special guests.

Back Home Box Collection: Items for boxes and letters will be collected at each gate and at the Wolfpack Club Tent in the Fan Zone. For a ‘wish list’ of items, click here.

Pregame Tailgate: Coca-Cola and NC State Athletics are hosting a pregame tailgate party for 400 military personnel, including the Wounded Warriors, ROTC Cadets/Midshipmen and Student Veterans

Wounded Warriors Walk of Champions: Escorted by the Patriot Guard motorcycles, fans are asked to join the band, cheerleaders and dance team at the Walk of Champions at 12:15 p.m. as the Wounded Warriors arrive to the stadium prior to the football team. NC State ROTC midshipmen and cadets will line the Walk of Champions for the Wounded Warriors.

Coin Toss: Honored Military Members from each branch will be represented at the coin toss

During the Game:
- A veteran from the following eras will be recognized during the first quarter (WWII, Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War and Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom)

- Military tug of war contest: The Army ROTC will take on last year’s champion the Air Force ROTC

Halftime Ceremony:
Will include a special military tribute by the NC State Marching Band, a full-field sized flag and the All-Veteran parachute team jumping into the stadium.

Military ‘shout-outs’ on the video board: If you have a photo of you serving and showing your pride for the Wolfpack, send your photos to athleticsmarketing@ncsu.edu to be displayed during the game.

Pushups: Each NC State ROTC branch and student veterans will be perform the in-game push-ups for the push-up board.

- News release

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Duke, Virginia Tech football going in opposite directions

dukefootballhelmetDuke is battling for a second straight ACC Coastal Division Championship, while Virginia Tech is languishing at the bottom of the division.

That doesn’t mean the Blue Devils expect an easy game Saturday when the Hokies travel to Wallace Wade Stadium. The Duke players and coaches still remember nine years of frustration in dealing with Virginia Tech – a losing streak that was only snapped by a narrow 13-10 margin a year ago in Blacksburg, Va.

Plus, for all their problems in ACC play, the Hokies did travel to Ohio State earlier this season and hand the Buckeyes their only defeat of the season.

“Virginia Tech has been open and, I’m sure, has gotten a little healthier,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “That’s an issue they’ve had to deal with all season as they’ve had a rash of critical injuries. It’s been tough on them. I expect to see a healthier team – a team that’s going to be highly motivated.”

Indeed, the Hokies need two wins in their final three games to become bowl eligible for the 22nd consecutive season.

Duke, which became bowl eligible for the third straight season by beating Virginia on Oct. 18, has its sights set on the division title. With three ACC games left to play, the Blue Devils are the only team in the division with just one loss.

In fact, it’s possible that Duke could clinch at least a tie for the division crown this Saturday, depending on the outcome of three games. First, Duke would have to beat Virginia Tech to get to 5-1 in ACC play. Then, Clemson would have to hand Georgia Tech its third ACC loss that afternoon in Atlanta. And, finally, unbeaten Florida State would need to hand Miami its third ACC loss that night in Miami, Fla.

But that’s not something the Blue Devils are focused on at the moment.

“It’s in the back of our minds,” senior Dezmond Johnson said when asked about the division race. “But it’s not something we think about. We can only win one game Saturday. That’s our focus right now.”

And the Duke veterans know enough to understand the issues Virginia Tech presents.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” quarterback Anthony Boone said, emphasizing the problems presented by legendary Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster.

“Bud Foster’s defense is a Bud Foster defense,” Boone said. “It’s pretty confusing. When it comes to coverages, they are not conventional. A lot of guys in different places. It’s kind of hard to track who’re safeties, who’re corners, who’re linebackers. He deals in confusion a little bit.

“He brings pressure. He puts those guys in good man-to-man coverage. They’re a great defense.”

Cutcliffe noted one other aspect of Virginia Tech’s team.

“This is a physical football team,” he said. “It’s been a physical war any time we play them. We have to step up to match them physically.”

A year ago, Virginia Tech limited Duke to a season low 198 total yards and forced four Blue Devil turnovers.

BEAMERBALL OR CUTCLIFFE-BALL

Virginia Tech is justly famous for their special teams excellence over the years – so much so that commentators have come up with a word to describe it: Beamerball.

But the fact is that over the last few years – especially this season – Duke has been the superior special teams team. In fact, the difference in last year’s game basically came down to the fact that Duke placekicker Ross Martin was 2-of-2 on field goals, connecting from 51 and 53 yards, while Virginia Tech placekicker Cody Journell missed 2-of-3 field goal tries.

So far this season, Martin has been perfect – 13-of-13 field goals and 38-of-38 extra points. He’s the only kicker in the ACC – and one of just three nationally – who hasn’t missed a kick this season.

And it’s not just Martin. DeVon Edwards leads the ACC in kickoff returns as Duke ranks second nationally in that category. Jamison Crowder just returned a punt for a touchdown to turn the Syracuse game around. Punter Will Monday currently has the seventh best career punting average in ACC history.

“We know we’re a unique team in that we’ve got a very experienced snapper and an outstanding one and an outstanding placekicker and an outstanding punter, an outstanding kickoff man and two REALLY outstanding return men with a lot of experience,” Cutcliffe said. “As we look at it, that’s probably one of the greatest strengths that this team has.

“It may be one of the greatest strengths I’ve been around in 39 years of coaching. That unit is as good as I been around.”

The ACC stats show that Duke is superior – and often far superior – to Virginia Tech in almost every category involving the kicking game. But Cutcliffe doesn’t put a lot of stock in those numbers.

“I don’t pay attention to statistical rankings,” he said. “I look at Virginia Tech and I know the athletes they have in their return game and I know the athletes they have on their punt team. I’m looking at big, physical fast people and the way they fly down the field.”

SIXTH YEAR FOR BROWN AND DEAVER

The Duke program got some very good news earlier this week, when the NCAA granted Kelby Brown and Braxton Deaver each a sixth year of eligibility.

“When I told our squad, the applause was incredibly loud,” Cutcliffe said. “That’s the commentary. [If you ask me] what it means to have them come back, you should have heard the squad.”

Both Brown and Deaver were preseason all-star candidates when they were hurt and sidelined for the season during preseason practice. It was particularly tragic since both players were sidelined during the 2012 season with season-long injuries.

Brown came back to earn first team All-ACC honor at linebacker in 2013. He was a preseason candidate for both the Butkus and the Bednarik awards. Deaver was the third-team All-ACC tight end in 2013, when he caught 46 passes for 600 yards and four TDs. He was a preseason candidate for the Mackey Award and was listed as the nation’s fourth best tight end by one publication.

Their return should add a lot to the 2015 Blue Devils.

“I don’t know if it’s hit me yet because I’m dealing with this team,” Cutcliffe said. “Both of them have been outstanding players and outstanding leaders.”

He said the process for getting a sixth-year waiver is far from automatic. He said that at Ole Miss and Tennessee, he had several prospects who applied and were turned down.

“We went through the process with conversation with both of them to decide what they wanted to do,” the Duke coach said. “It was a joyous decision to even apply for it and an even more joyous occasion when the decision came in.”

Cutcliffe said that neither player would participate in spring practice.

SECONDARY SUCCESS

Duke currently leads the ACC in pass defense efficiency.

The Blue Devils are giving up an average of 197.0 passing yards a game, which ranks sixth in the ACC. But Duke has allowed an ACC low five touchdown passes (the next best number in the ACC is nine) and are second in the league in opponents’ completion percentage (52.0 percent).

And Duke is doing it with a secondary that starts five second year players – three true sophomores, one redshirt sophomore and a redshirt junior transfer in his second year at Duke.

“We’ve got good people – everything starts with that,” Cutcliffe said. “We’ve got good coaches. Jim Knowles schematically does a great job of giving people a lot to deal with. They’re well-coached.

“I also think our linebackers come into that. We’ve done better job of hurrying people – we’d like to have more sacks.”

Sophomore cornerback Breon Borders came up with two pass interceptions last Saturday – one easy one on a bad throw and one ridiculously difficult one along the sideline.

“I kind of had to work for one,” Borders said. “The other one? Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time.”

Borders has been in the right place a lot in his brief career at Duke. Through 23 games, he has six interceptions and 12 pass breakups. Two of his picks came against 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston in the ACC title game.

Cutcliffe expects to see more from his young corner.

“Breon has a knack – I’m surprised he doesn’t have more [interceptions] at this point,” he said. “He’s got great, great ball skills. He’s just touching the tip of what he can do.”

THE BLIND SIDE

Virginia Tech has one of the best pass rushes in the ACC, recording 31 sacks in nine games – second only to Clemson.

On the other hand, Duke has allowed just four sacks this season – the lowest number in college football. The Blue Devils’ offensive line hasn’t allowed a sack since the Miami game in September.

A lot of the credit has to go to senior left tackle Tacoby Cofield, who protects Anthony Boone’s blind side. But the 310-poind veteran suggests that Duke’s low sack total is a product of many players performing at a high level.

“It’s not really just us as an offensive line,” Cofield said. “It’s the entire offense – the backs picking up blitzes; Boone knowing what’s coming and knowing the coverages; the receivers running the right routes.”

Still, Cofield understands the pivotal role he plays at left tackle.

“It’s a big responsibility,” he said. “I have a great relationship with Boone. We kind of laugh about it sometimes, but I told him, ‘If something’s going wrong, I’ll yell your name so be ready to run or get rid of the ball.’”

That hasn’t happened often this season.

“It’s great to know we’re protecting the quarterback so well,” Cofield said. “It’s something we’ve taken a lot of pride in.”

- Duke Sports Information news release

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UNC teammates capture weekly swimming/diving awards

Jack Nyquist.

Jack Nyquist.

North Carolina sophomore Jack Nyquist and teammate Elissa Dawson helped the Tar Heels capture two ACC Swimming and Diving weekly awards, as each turned in solid performances against Louisville this past weekend. Also earning weekly honors were Florida State’s Connor Knight and Louisville’s Tanja Kylliainen after strong performances of their own.

Florida State’s Knight, who earned ACC Male Swimmer of the Week honors, continued to show off his dominance in the fly races while helping the Seminole relays to four season best times. In the 200 fly, Knight recorded an NCAA B-cut, turning in a season best time of 1:45.04. The senior’s time is the fifth best mark in the country this season and the second fastest in the ACC. In the second portion of the meet, Knight clocked a 47.23 in the 100 fly, marking the fastest swim in the NCAA this season in the event.

North Carolina’s Nyquist took home the ACC Male Diver of the Week after he swept the diving events in the Tar Heels dual meet against Louisville. The Alpharetta, Georgia, native edged out teammate Sean Burston in the 1-meter diving, prevailing by 1.43 points. In the 3-meter competition, Nyquist was dominant as he scored 423.82 points, a score nearly 59 points ahead of second-place Sean Piner of Louisville. His 3-meter score was the highest of the season and just shy of his collegiate career-best of 436.58 set against Texas as a freshman.

Louisville’s Kylliainen grabbed ACC Female Swimmer of the Week after a strong showing against the Tar Heels. The senior finished the meet with NCAA B-cut times in four different races. In the first event of day two, Kylliainen swam a 25.71 split as a member of the 200-medley relay team which edged their Tar Heel counterparts by 0.84 seconds. The Towson, Maryland, native won the 200 IM with an NCAA B-cut time of 1:58.48 and the 200-fly with another B-cut time of 1:56.37. Kylliainen also won the women’s 100 backstroke with an NCAA B-cut time of 54.29 and dominated the 400 IM with a B-cut time of 4:14.04.

North Carolina’s Dawson was named ACC Female Diver of the Week after winning both diving events to help lead the Tar Heels edge the Cardinals. Dawson won the 1-meter with a season-high score of 323.48, nearly 27 points ahead of second place. On the 3-meter board, Dawson set a new school record score of 384.08, breaking her own record score of 355.13 set earlier this year against Georgia. The freshman has won five of eight events to date in North Carolina’s four dual meets.