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Monday, July 18, 2005

Commentary: Williams’ wrongdoing at KU minor

Read the report closely, and one can conclude this is mere 'ding' in life of North Carolina mentor

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— Seeing the words "Roy Williams" and "NCAA violations" in the same sentence is shocking.

But it has happened in newspapers and on TV-screen crawls all over the country the past couple days, as the involvement of the current North Carolina basketball coach with a couple of minor NCAA rules violations at Kansas University made big news.

Williams' impeccable reputation was dinged Friday with the revelation that, while at Kansas, he approved graduation gifts worth several hundred dollars for Jayhawk basketball players who had used up their eligibility.

The feeling Tar Heels fans have now undoubtedly is the same one they had when a new car they coveted for years - then finally owned - got its first scratch.

A grimace. A nod. And, ultimately, not much more.

"I am deeply saddened to say there was evidently a mistake," Williams said in a statement Saturday. The statement said a lot more than that, too, and you could hear the hurt in Williams' voice when you read it.

Although this is a ding for Williams, it is not a permanent stain.

Williams said Kansas officials told him the violations would be secondary.

Once you read the reports of this investigation closely, it's apparent Williams' name is creating buzz more because of who the coach is than for what he did.

In fact, there were far more serious violations at Kansas - improper academic assistance to football players and some in women's basketball recruiting.

That said, it's also true that Williams 1) definitely should have known better; or 2) needed a better NCAA compliance department at Kansas.

Yes, the NCAA rulebook is thicker than "War and Peace" and the language can be more difficult than Tolstoy. Nevertheless, it is the Bible of college athletics.

Folks at Kansas - including Williams - should have known a booster giving cash gifts to players who were about to graduate just wasn't a great idea.

The rule, it turns out, is "once a student-athlete, always a student-athlete." So you can't provide unusual benefits to a basketball player, even after he finishes school.

The thinking is that could ultimately turn into "Hey, come to our school and we'll provide you a $100,000 dream job as soon as you graduate."

Nothing like that is alleged to have happened at Kansas under Williams' 15-year watch as head coach, of course. This sounds like a small slip.

If you were going to systematically try to cheat the NCAA system, this would be one of the dumbest ways. Can you imagine trying to lure a recruit by telling him that you couldn't do anything for him now, but once he graduates in four or five years, you could almost guarantee the boosters would give him $400?

The coach is in pain at the moment for a number of reasons, some self-inflicted.

But he will learn from this. In a few weeks, this ding will just be a small part of the long life story of Roy Williams.

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