Ex-UNC star McCants: Williams in loop about academic fraud
During the 2005 spring semester, Rashad McCants received straight A-minuses in his four African and Afro-American Studies classes while helping lead North Carolina to the NCAA men’s basketball national championship.
But McCants now says he was far from a model student-athlete.
In an interview released Friday, McCants told ESPN he never went to class that semester, that his papers were written by his tutors — and that coach Roy Williams knew all about it.
The widespread fraud in the AFAM Department has been well documented. Internal reviews found problems with more than 50 courses from 2007-11 — investigators decided not to go back any further — and the former chairman of the department, Julius Nyang’oro, was indicted in Orange County for being paid to teach a class that never met.
But McCants added a newer allegation Friday, saying that his Hall of Fame coach was aware that bogus AFAM classes were used to keep him eligible.
“I think he knew 100 percent,” McCants said. “Because it’s hard for anybody not to know. … I mean, you have to know about the education of your players and ... who’s eligible, who’s not and who goes to this class and missing that class.”
In a statement, Williams “strongly disagreed” with McCants’s allegations.
“In no way did I know about or do anything close to what he says and I think the players whom I have coached over the years will agree with me,” Williams said. “I have spent 63 years on this earth trying to do things the right way and the picture he portrays is not fair to the University or me.”
Sixteen players from the 2005 NCAA championship team released a statement later Friday saying that their personal academic experiences were inconsistent with McCants’s claims, and that Williams did not have any knowledge of academic impropriety.
“Each one of us is proud to say that we attended class and did our own academic work,” the statement said.
McCants, who tattooed “Born To Be Hated” on one arm and “Dying To Be Loved” on the other arm, had a turbulent relationship with his coaches at UNC. Originally recruited by former coach Matt Doherty, he later accused the Tar Heels staff of stunting his professional career by telling NBA team officials that McCants had a bad attitude. On Friday, many former Tar Heels discounted McCants’s allegations.
Still, McCants’ transcript, which was obtained by ESPN, backs up his assertions that he relied on AFAM courses to remain eligible. McCants obtained 16 A’s or B’s in his 18 AFAM courses, while receiving six C’s, one D and three F’s in all other classes.
The shooting guard said he worried about being ineligible after failing algebra and psychology during the 2004 fall semester, but that Williams told him that he would “swap out” a class he failed with a summer session class so he could stay in good academic standing. McCants then took AFAM courses exclusively during the spring on the advice of his tutors in the basketball program and was the second-leading scorer for Williams’ first NCAA championship team.
“You’re not there to get an education, though they tell you that,” McCants said. “You’re there to make revenue for the college. You’re there to put fans in the seats. You’re there to bring prestige to the university by winning games.”
The Asheville native left school after winning the title during his junior year and was selected No. 14 overall in the 2005 NBA Draft. He lasted four seasons in the NBA and has been playing overseas since then.
Former UNC reading specialist Mary Willingham has also said that the “no-show” classes were used to help athletes stay eligible, though the university has said that there’s no evidence that the athletic department pushed players to those courses for that purpose.
UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement that McCants was encouraged to speak with former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein, who is conducting another investigation into the academic scandal centered on the AFAM Department.