UNC denies latest claims of 'paper classes'
Posted June 6, 2014
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Leaders in the University of North Carolina athletic department closed ranks Friday after the latest attack on their academic integrity.
Head basketball coach Roy Williams and others on the 2004-05 Tar Heel basketball team denied claims made by former North Carolina basketball player Rashad McCants, a member of the 2004-05 national championship team, that Williams knew about the “paper classes” players took that allowed them to forgo classroom time and simply submit a paper for their grade.
McCants told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" Friday that he took classes that required nothing more than a paper and that tutors wrote papers for student-athletes. McCants said he rarely went to class yet remained eligible to play.
"With respect to the comments made today, I strongly disagree with what Rashad (McCants) has said," Williams said in a statement Thursday. "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."
McCants' 16 teammates signed a statement that said, "With conviction, each one of us is proud to say that we attended class and did our own academic work."
McCants’ allegations are the first direct claim involving the Tar Heels basketball program and the 2005 National Championship team. The other UNC athletes on that team, and those who issued the statement were: Sean May, Jesse Holley, Melvin Scott, Raymond Felton, Charlie Everett, Reyshawn Terry, Jackie Manuel, Quentin Thomas, Jawad Williams, Wes Miller, Marvin Williams, Damion Grant, David Noel, C.J. Hooker and Bryon Sanders.
"Our personal academic experiences are not consistent with Rashad's claims," the statement continued. "We know that Coach Williams did not have any knowledge of any academic impropriety, and further that Coach Williams would not have tried to manipulate a player's schedule."
Athletic director Bubba Cunningham released a statement to WRAL News Thursday saying it's disappointing anytime a student isn't satisfied with his experience.
"The university hired former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein in January to conduct an independent investigation into past academic and athletic irregularities. While these are the first allegations we have heard from Mr. McCants, I encourage him to speak with Mr. Wainstein. We are confident Mr. Wainstein's inquiry will provide us with a full understanding of these issues," Cunningham stated.
"Our players have been deeply hurt over the last couple of years, and again today, by the comments and innuendo concerning their academic achievements," said Williams. "Obviously, we pride ourselves on being one of the top basketball programs in the country, but equally important, in helping our players grow academically and socially, as we promised their parents we would." McCants unites Triangle rivals
Former UNC head coach Matt Doherty, who recruited and coached McCants tweeted Thursday, "I did not see any problems while I was at UNC as a player or a coach. I feel sorry for Rashad...He has had a lot of ups and downs during his career. If there are any issues.. I trust that Bubba Cunningham and the university will get to the bottom of it."
The "paper class" system came to light when former UNC academic adviser Mary Willingham claimed the university put player eligibility above academic integrity.
McCants also told ESPN that advisers and tutors who worked with the basketball program steered him towards the African-American Studies program – the program that has been a focal point in the academic scandal. Willingham claimed that for more than two decades no-show classes were prevalent in the African and Afro-American Studies Department.
A 2012 investigation led by former Gov. Jim Martin found problems in that department dating back to the mid-90s. The investigation revealed hundreds of bogus classes, altered and forged grades but that the discrepancies did not only and directly benefit student athletes. Non-athletes also took the classes.
Investigations into academic misconduct at North Carolina began in 2009 after allegations of improper benefits within the football program. The NCAA sanctioned the football program for both improper benefits and academic misconduct involving a tutor, leading to a postseason ban and the loss of 16 scholarships.