Rashad McCants’ comments, released Friday, about the UNC athletic scandal were less revelation than affirmation. In an interview on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” the former UNC basketball star who helped Carolina win the 2005 national championship said he rarely went to class for about half his time at UNC, that tutors wrote his term papers, and that he remained able to play largely because he took bogus classes designed to keep athletes academically eligible.
McCants’ allegations echo issues uncovered and first made public in 2011 by the (Raleigh) News & Observer about fraudulent Afro- and African-American Studies courses at UNC that never met, resulted in high grades and had a high percentage of athletes. They also buttress claims by former UNC learning specialist and whistleblower Mary Willingham.
Willingham exposed the no-show, so-called “paper-class” system at UNC for athletes, and earlier this year, she told CNN that her research showed low literacy levels among UNC football and basketball players. Of McCants, she said “what he is saying absolutely lines up with what I found.”
She also agrees with McCants that the coaches knew about the paper-class system. “Of course, they did,” she says.
McCants said UNC basketball coach Roy Williams helped him retain his playing eligibility through a swap of a class he’d failed with a summer AFAM class. And he said he was “100 percent” sure Williams and the athletic department knew about the paper-class system.
That is conjecture. But what Williams and the athletic department knew and did in this matter needs to be fully explored by Kenneth Wainstein, the former federal prosecutor UNC hired in January to conduct an independent probe. Previous investigations have been disappointing in their scope and rigor. Wainstein’s needs to be wide-ranging and take particular note of athletes’ grades, eligibility and any links to bogus classes.
On Thursday in response to McCants, UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham sounded like the manager of a fast-food restaurant answering complaints from a customer upset about not getting the burger he ordered at the drive-through.
“It is disappointing any time a student is dissatisfied with his or her experience,” Cunningham said in a statement. “I welcome the opportunity to speak with Rashad McCants about returning to UNC to continue his academic career.”
What we’d welcome is UNC aggressively putting in place meaningful athletic and academic reform while fully investigating and exposing its past problems. The bogus courses and paper-class system cheated students of a legitimate education.
McCants, who played in the NBA and overseas, had a troubled time at UNC. So some question his motives.
Still, he was right in saying this: “It’s time for everybody to really just be accountable.”
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