Williams being pummeled in the press but some believe him

williamsinterviewIt seems that, in general, the media is believing Rashad McCants’ version of the grades/class scandal rocking the University of North Carolina, and Ole Roy – Coach Roy Williams – is being pummeled in the press.

McCants claims he was anything but a student athlete at Carolina, where he took no-show classes in African American studies to remain eligible during the team’s run to the National Championship in 2005.

“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.”

McCants claims that Coach Williams knew that he was taking bogus classes and that the coach even directed him to the courses to keep him academically eligible.

For his part, Coach Roy Williams says, in an interview with ESPN’s Jay Bilas, that he thought no-show classes meant independent study.

“I’ve been told by people that some of those (courses) are really, really good,” Coach Williams said. “It shows a lot of discipline because you’re self-directed. If my players took independent study courses that were offered by this university for a reason that the university thought they were valuable, my players, if they took those courses, did the work, and I’m proud of that part of it.”

He also denies directing McCants to any classes. Bilas, a former Duke basketball player, believes Williams.

“I find him to be credible, and I believed what he was saying,” Bilas said of Williams.

“McCants declared to go pro in the middle of that (junior) semester and was gone by the time his grades came out,” Bilas added. “So, to expect the coaching staff, somehow, to have their antenna up for that in 2005, I think, is asking a little too much, and I think the context of that time period is very important.”

The News & Observer newspaper, on the other hand, finds Williams’ comments to be “porous.” In an editorial, the N&O wrote of Williams’ comments to Bilas, “That’s a response, but not a defense. On the issue of revising the transcript, it will remain a case of conflicting accounts until new information, if any, surfaces. On the issue of sham classes, Williams would seem to be at fault if he didn’t know or if he did.”

The panelists on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters also believe McCants’ version.

“The NCAA will prosecute you for taking a cab ride or buying a kid a dinner. Where are they on this story?,” said Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News. “When you look at this whole story, where is the institutional control at the University of North Carolina? And when Roy Williams says he doesn’t remember McCants coming to him when he was failing a couple of classes and that ‘swapping out classes’ isn’t in his vocabulary, you have to take a step back and think there’s got to be an investigation at this school.”

Reporter Jackie MacMillan, getting in a leftist dig, even compared the situation to the old Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy of gays in the military. “Don’t tell me what my students are doing,” she said. “I don’t want to know about their classroom. I just want their transcripts at the end of the year so I can check it off and say yes I checked and they are eligible.”

She said it’s pretty obvious something is going on at Carolina but that it’s not limited to that school.

Lupica asked, “What’s in this for Rashad McCants to make these accusations?” Well, McCants, who often brooded when he was on the bench and who was known to feud with Williams, doesn’t have a stellar reputation. Perhaps he likes the attention. Perhaps he thinks he can be a hero to a lot of people. Perhaps he has an axe to grind with Williams. Perhaps he has made himself a victim and believes these things.

Former basketball players Wes Miller, Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough, Damion Grant, Marvin Williams, Wayne Ellington, Byron Sanders, Jackie Manuel and Bobby Frasor said after the Williams interview that McCants was “a loner” on and off the court and that his allegations that they got together for study sessions and went by car to pick up papers written for them by tutors were untrue.

Who knows? The truth may lie somewhere in between the two versions.

On ESPN’s The Sports Reporters, journalist Howard Bryant said, “I am as shocked as I am that gambling is going on in this establishment,” quoting a line from the movie Casablanca.

That’s the problem. Crip classes have been around forever. Athletes are steered toward easy classes, easy majors and high-scoring professors. Even non-students go around to see posted grades to determine which classes and professors give out better grades.

The difference here is that apparently some of these African American studies classes didn’t even really exist.

Did Coach Roy Williams know? I don’t know. It seems out of character for a guy who was raised on the Carolina system and Coach Dean Smith who valued education. Bilas goes further, “I’ve known Roy Williams for a long time. I have known him not only to be a coach but a man of the highest integrity.”

John Saunders, host of The Sports Reporters, said, “I certainly have seen situations where coaches do not necessarily know what’s going on. They can’t know every minute of every day. I’m not saying it’s the right thing not to know. I’m just saying I have seen this many, many times in the past.”

Should Coach Roy Williams have known? Yes. The coaching staff needs to be closely monitoring players’ academics.

Years ago, I saw football coaches escorting players (almost by the ears) into class. Tutors worked hard with student athletes to keep them eligible. But presumably the players actually did the work.

No, we shouldn’t be surprised if it has come to this considering the dollars involved plus the natural evolution from old timey crip classes.

But the elephant in the room – and everyone is afraid to say it because it touches on the sensitive race issue – is that the very people who are complaining loudest that these athletes – who apparently are all African Americans – are not getting a proper education are the ones who would be complaining loudest if these athletes were not let into school because of their low high school grades, SATs and projected ability to do college work.

There are some students who don’t belong in college – particularly at major universities – whether they are athletes or not. Do we simply pay college athletes to play a year or two while they do their best to stay eligible or do we return to true student-athletes who can do college work? I say the latter but, if we do, expect to hear the same people yelling about racism – and the lack of opportunities for minorities.