Let’s get this one out of the way up top, front and center: No, Roy Williams, whose contract extension North Carolina announced Friday, was never in danger of losing his job.
He was never going to be fired. That was never a possibility.
Those who thought he might be fired – or should be – amid the NCAA investigation into the long-running scheme of bogus African studies paper classes at UNC probably fit into one of two categories:
▪ The under-informed who have made Williams the face of a broad, complex paper class scheme that went on for 18 years – a decade of which took place before he became UNC’s men’s basketball coach in 2003.
▪ Supporters of rival schools who’d simply love nothing more than to see Williams lose his job and watch his program go up in flames.
We can argue what Williams, whose contract now runs through 2020, should have known about those bogus courses, or what he actually knew. We can argue whether he should have done more – however you define that – once he became concerned with clustering in the African- and Afro-American Studies Department.
But what’s inarguable is this: The Wainstein report essentially cleared Williams and his staff of wrongdoing associated with the classes. And so, too, did the NCAA enforcement staff, which didn’t name Williams, or any member of his staff, in any of the violations it outlines in the Notice of Allegations it recently sent to UNC.
Given that, he was never going anywhere. He doesn’t stand a chance, either, of being sanctioned by the NCAA Committee on Infractions whenever this long-running infractions case reaches its conclusion.
But wait, some are saying as they read this: Men’s basketball was mentioned in the NOA. And yes, that’s true. And yes, Wayne Walden, the former academic counselor for the men’s basketball team who also worked with Williams at Kansas, is referenced more than a dozen times in the documentation supporting some of the allegations.
There is a distinction here, though, and it’s important to understand the difference between being referenced in the NOA and being charged with an actual violation. Williams is not charged. Neither is his program. Neither is Walden, for that matter, or anyone else associated with men’s basketball.
So if Wainstein’s conclusions didn’t make it clear that Williams’ future was secure at UNC, then the contents of the NOA should have. Yet, still, UNC’s critics have focused their ire on Williams, who became the Tar Heels’ head coach 11 years after the paper class scheme began.
To those critics, news of Williams’ extension was likely met with a variance of the same question: How could UNC extend Williams’ contact amid so many questions about his role in the scheme, and about his future?
That’s the thing, though: at UNC, there has never been any doubt about Williams’ future. It has never been in question.
In the statement announcing Williams’ extension, athletic director Bubba Cunningham said UNC was “fortunate” to have Williams and “proud” to extend his contract, which had been set to expire in 2018. Listen to what else Cunningham said:
“His results on the court over 27 years as a head coach are among the most accomplished in the history of the sport, but his love for the University of North Carolina and the way he cares for his students are truly unmatched. Roy is a man of character and integrity and I have great respect for the way he leads our basketball program.”
Fortunate. Proud. A man of character and integrity.
Does it sound to you like Williams’ position at UNC was ever in doubt? Of course it wasn’t.
It’s easy to connect the dots and assume the extension is a response to the scrutiny that Williams has endured. He has been forced during the past year to defend his integrity and his character. The deriding phrase “Roy knew” greeted him on signs more than once in opposing arenas last season.
In the statement UNC released on Friday, Williams referenced what he’s described in more casual settings as “junk.” There has been a lot of it surrounding him.
“I appreciate the confidence Chancellor (Carol) Folt and Bubba Cunningham have in my leadership of the basketball program,” Williams said. “They’ve demonstrated that with this contract extension, and with their support over the past several years, which have been a challenge for all who love Carolina as I do. I thank them on behalf of our basketball program and me personally.”
The “challenge” Williams referenced will go on. His extension answered speculation – however unfounded – about his future, but his program will remain in limbo until an NCAA Committee on Infractions ruling that is still a ways away.
Until then, it’s impossible to know what penalties UNC might face institutionally, or in individual sports. Williams can answer recruits’ questions about his future and about how long he might be around, but he can’t answer definitively what sanctions could be coming.
A postseason ban in men’s basketball seems highly unlikely, and the prospect of vacating victories – or championships – only a little more plausible. One thing is clear enough, though, if it wasn’t already: Williams isn’t going anywhere.
If Roy Williams coaches through the duration of his new deal, he would be 69 at the end of the 2019-20 season. He has said for years that he wants to coach six to 10 more seasons.
Numbers to know:
▪ Williams will be paid a base salary of $408,169 next season, and that will increase to $595,409 during the final season of the contract. His additional compensation will range from $1.55 million next year to $1.75 million during the final year of his deal.
There also are performance bonuses:
▪ $75,000 for APR score of 975 or higher.
▪ $250,000 for winning NCAA title.
▪ $200,000 for reaching Final Four.
▪ $200,000 for reaching Elite 8.
▪ $150,000 for reaching Sweet 16.
▪ $100,000 for making second round.
▪ $25,000 for making NCAA tournament.