UNC’s McCants: ‘Just Show Up, Play’

Steve Delsohn, ESPN, June 6, 2014

Rashad McCants, the second-leading scorer on the North Carolina basketball team that won the 2004-05 national title, told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that tutors wrote his term papers, he rarely went to class for about half his time at UNC, and he remained able to play largely because he took bogus classes designed to keep athletes academically eligible.

McCants told “Outside the Lines” that he could have been academically ineligible to play during the championship season had he not been provided the assistance. Further, he said head basketball coach Roy Williams knew about the “paper-class” system at UNC. The so-called paper classes didn’t require students to go to class; rather, students were required to submit only one term paper to receive a grade.

McCants also told “Outside the Lines” that he even made the Dean’s List in Spring 2005 despite not attending any of his four classes for which he received straight-A grades. He said advisers and tutors who worked with the basketball program steered him to take the paper classes within the African-American Studies program.

McCants’ allegations mirror and amplify many of those first made public in 2011, when the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer began to report about widespread academic fraud at UNC. The scandal has centered on the African-American Studies classes that many athletes took in order to remain eligible. The newspaper reported in December 2012 that basketball players on the national championship team accounted for 15 enrollments in the classes. A UNC internal investigation found that 54 classes in the department of African and Afro-American Studies were either “aberrant” or “irregularly” taught from summer 2007 to summer 2011. That investigation only went back to 2007, according to the school’s review, because the two senior associate deans who conducted the probe were told by Karen Gil, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to focus on that time frame.

The NCAA sanctioned the football program for improper benefits and academic misconduct involving a tutor, but the athletic department’s sports programs largely emerged from the academic scandal penalty-free.


Williams also issued a statement, saying: “With respect to the comments made today, I strongly disagree with what Rashad (McCants) has said. 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. 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.”

A copy of McCants’ university transcript, labeled “unofficial” and obtained by “Outside the Lines,” shows that in his non-African-American Studies classes, McCants received six C’s, one D and three F’s. In his African-American Studies classes, 10 of his grades were A’s, six B’s, one a C, and one a D. {snip}.


McCants, who said it was common for basketball players to major in African-American Studies, said he assumed tutors writing papers for athletes was to be expected and he didn’t question it while he attended UNC.

“I thought it was a part of the college experience, just like watching it on a movie from ‘He Got Game’ or ‘Blue Chips,'” McCants said. “. . . when you get to college, you don’t go to class, you don’t do nothing, you just show up and play. That’s exactly how it was, you know, and I think that was the tradition of college basketball, or college, period, any sport. You’re not there to get an education, though they tell you that.

“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 said his first year he did go to class and took several legitimate, core-curriculum courses. But overall, his transcript shows he ended up with more than 50 percent of his courses being AFAM classes.

McCants said he was headed toward ineligibility during the championship season because he had failed algebra and psychology, which accounted for half of his credits, in the fall of 2004. He had two A’s in AFAM classes in addition to the F’s. He said coach Roy Williams informed him of his academic troubles during a meeting ahead of the spring semester.

“There was a slight panic on my part . . . [he] said, you know, we’re going to be able to figure out how to make it happen, but you need to buckle down on your academics.”

He said Williams told him “we’re going to be able to change a class from, you know, your summer session class and swap it out with the class that you failed, just so the GPA could reflect that you are in good standing.”

McCants ended up in four AFAM classes in the following semester, earning straight A’s. He said he didn’t know what Williams was getting at with the summer school class replacement reference, and he never talked with Williams about it again. The transcripts show he had received one A in an AFAM class in the summer of 2004.

“I remained eligible to finish out and win the championship, his first championship, and everything was peaches and cream,” McCants said.

He said he is sure Williams and the athletic department as a whole knew “100 percent” about the paper-class system.


Mary Willingham, a former UNC learning specialist who is often described as a whistleblower about the UNC academic fraud scandal, said she believes McCants’ allegations.

“What he is saying absolutely lines up with what I have found: tutors writing papers for players, and advisers and tutors steering players to AFAM,” she said. “I think the coaches knew about the paper-class system. Of course they did.

“The system will only change when our athletes have a voice and begin to step forward, and that’s what Rashad is doing. It was the adults who failed the athletes.”


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