Chapel Hill, N.C. North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams, with 11 of his Tar Heel players in attendance, conducted a 35-minute on-camera interview with ESPN on Saturday, a day after former Tar Heel Rashad McCants alleged academic impropriety at UNC.
Williams told ESPN’s Jay Bilas he was in “shock and disbelief” when he learned McCants said tutors wrote McCants’ term papers, he rarely went to class and remained able to play largely because he took classes designed to keep athletes academically eligible.
“Every one of those players that are sitting over there, and every player I’ve had, make me feel like they did their work, and we emphasize that and we push them toward that all the time,” Williams, who coached for 15 years at Kansas before heading to his alma mater, told ESPN.
Williams, in an article at http://ljw.bz/1q93JHe, did not directly answer a question about McCants’ allegation that he believed Williams knew “100 percent” about the paper-class system at UNC.
“First of all, how does anybody know what somebody else believes, but I know what I believe,” Williams said. “I thought that meant that a class was on paper, but it didn’t really exist, and then come to find out people are using that terminology ‘paper classes’ to signify independent-study courses that you do papers. ... I’ve been told by people that some of those are really, really good. 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.”
Williams denied Saturday that he ever discussed swapping any classes with McCants to keep him eligible. He said he did not recall such a meeting “at all.”
“I don’t have any idea what swapping out would be,” Williams said. “That’s not in my vocabulary. You can’t take a course and get another one thrown out at the college level. All of your courses count. So I know I would not have that kind of conversation. I don’t know what swapping out means, and I have never suggested that anybody take any course.”
Williams added: “We have a very defined system here at the University of North Carolina. I have somewhat control over the basketball program. I don’t have control over the academic side. But the academic side and our athletic director and our president want me to emphasize that academic side every single day, and they want our players to understand that. ... They want us to be concerned and to emphasize it but they don’t want us to step over to the academic side. They don’t want that to happen.”
Williams, who got emotional at one point in the ESPN interview, said the past two years have “been the hardest time” of his career.
“Your integrity has been questioned,” he said. “Some things have happened that shouldn’t have happened. I tell the kids all the time, ‘You’re accountable, you’re responsible.’ ... I feel like that my university, my basketball program, my school has had a tough time and in some ways has been attacked, and that’s not easy.”