Why Did it Take So Long for Rashad McCants to Speak Out on UNC Academic Scandal?

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2014

ST. LOUIS - APRIL 04:  Rashad McCants #32 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates by cutting down the nets after defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 75-70 to win the NCAA Men's National Championship game at the Edward Jones Dome on April 4, 2005 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Rashad McCants played for North Carolina nearly a decade ago, helping the Tar Heels win the 2005 NCAA title in his final season in college.

A former first-round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves, McCants started just 39 games over four seasons from 2005-2009 before falling out of the NBA and drifting between off-the-beaten-path leagues in Brazil, the Philippines and elsewhere.

In other words, he was just another very good college player who was quickly forgotten.

Until now. Now all anyone will remember about McCants will have nothing to do with basketball.

McCants was the centerpiece of an ESPN "Outside the Lines" story on June 6 regarding allegations of academic fraud within Carolina's athletic department. According to the report, McCants would have been ineligible during his junior year in 2004-2005, the year the Heels won the title, if not for what he called "paper classes"—classes that he allegedly didn't have to attend and only had to write one paper for, if that—that helped him get onto the Dean's List.

The specifics of his allegations can be seen in the video below:

While there are many questions that arise from McCants' claims, some of which could have far-reaching ramifications for Carolina if they're ever found to be true, there's one query that hasn't been posed but holds as much weight as all the others.

Why now?

McCants' claims date back to 2005. Other allegations related to academics and athletes at Carolina have surfaced since then, including suspicious classes within the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. Yet McCants never went public in 2012, when those claims arose, or other times when it would have been more timely. His claims would have held more weight when combined with the claims of others.

McCants didn't do that, though. For whatever reason, he kept quiet for nine years. Asked about the timing on ESPN on Wednesday, he told Andy Katz his reason for coming forward now wasn't so much about him but about today's student-athletes:

“Right now, it’s about thinking as a 17-year-old at University of North Carolina, how I had no idea about that this was a part of the exploitation of student-athletes,” McCants said. “It’s not about the University of North Carolina’s basketball program, it’s not about me, it’s about the future generations of all student-athletes.”

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/06/11/4969934/back-on-espn-mccants-responds.html#.U5lUcy-VHk0#storylink=cpy

And wouldn't you know it, as Yahoo! Sports legal analyst Rand Getlin notes, this news broke just before the start of the potentially landmark anti-trust trial between the NCAA and former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon.

UNC coach Roy Williams has emphatically denied McCants' claims, saying that he had a conversation with McCants regarding his eligibility and how to fix the problem. Former players have backed Williams in this fight, to this point, though McCants has called on ex-Tar Heels to "show your transcripts" that would reveal questionable classes. 

What will come of this?

Who knows? For now, it seems more about stirring the pot than actually trying to fix anything, as McCants is claiming. Having it happen around the time of a trial that could radically change how college athletes are treated (and potentially remunerated) adds a lot of spice to the story, but an argument could be made that this would have helped flavor the recipe just as well had it come out long ago.