Rashad McCants Discusses Alleged Academic Fraud During Time at North Carolina

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2014

North Carolina's Rashad McCants cuts down part of the net during UNC's celebration following their 75-70 win over Illinois in the NCAA championship game Monday, April 4, 2005, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
ERIC GAY/Associated Press

Updates from Wednesday, July 9

McCants added more claims to his previous statements of fraud, according to Derek Rowles of ABC 11 in North Carolina: 

Former UNC basketball star Rashad McCants says he was exploited while at UNC Chapel Hill and will get paid millions.

In an interview Monday on Sirius/XM radio, McCants claimed both UNC and the NCAA are going to cut him checks, "The question is what are we talking about, honestly. I mean I have a check being written to me from the University of North Carolina for over $10 million due to the exploitation of me as a player and the lack of education that I received. The NCAA has a check for me for over $300 million to help me facilitate these sports education programs across the country. These are things that's in the works."

However, the university denied this claim, according to Rowles:

"We have no idea what Rashad McCants is referring to with regard to monetary compensation," a UNC athletic spokesperson told ABC11 on Tuesday. "We again encourage him to speak directly to Kenneth Wainstein regarding his academic experience at UNC."

Stacy Osborn of the NCAA's PR team issued a denial from the organization, as well:

Updates from Tuesday, June 10

NBC Sports' Rob Dauster provides a statement from North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham:

Since Friday, there have been conversations inside and outside the Carolina Community about Roy Williams and Carolina Basketball,” Cunningham said. “I am proud to see the outpouring of support from former players and the basketball community at large, which reinforces the respect, integrity and care of student-athletes that Coach Williams ahas shown throughout his career. Current and former players from across the country have told me that Coach Williams and his staff have always place a priority on self-accountability inside the classroom. I have witness this myself.”

“Everyone here at Carolina wants to know all we can about past academic and athletic anomalies. But speculation and innuendo should not replace the independent investigation currently being conducted by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein. We must allow his work to be complete and thorough.

Updates from Sunday, June 8

ESPN.com has the latest on McCants and North Carolina:

North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams told ESPN's Jay Bilas that he was in "shock" and "disbelief" when he learned former guard Rashad McCants had told "Outside the Lines" that tutors wrote his term papers, he rarely went to class for about half his time at UNC and he remained able to play largely because he took bogus 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 towards that all the time," Williams said. ...

... "First of all, how does anybody know what somebody else believes, but I know what I believe," Williams said, before discussing his understanding of what the so-called paper classes were. "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."

Original Text

The University of North Carolina's men's basketball team has been a perennial championship contender under head coach Roy Williams, but former Tar Heels star and NBA player Rashad McCants claims the school didn't play by the rules academically.

According to Steve Delsohn of ESPN.com, academic fraud helped keep McCants eligible and allowed him to be a huge part of North Carolina's national championship team in 2004-05. A 6'4" shooting guard, McCants averaged 16.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game that year.

He told Delsohn that he benefited from tutors writing papers for him and a "paper-class" system that didn't require students to attend classes within the African-American Studies program.

I thought it was a part of the college experience, just like watching it on a movie from 'He Got Game' or 'Blue Chips.' ... When you get to college, you don't go to class, you don't do nothing, you just show up and play. That's exactly how it was, you know, and I think that was the tradition of college basketball, or college, period, any sport. You're not there to get an education, though they tell you that. You're there to make revenue for the college. You're there to put fans in the seats. You're there to bring prestige to the university by winning games.

McCants also claims that Williams helped him swap a class from his summer session with one that he was failing in order to remain eligible. He also believes that Williams and the rest of the athletic department were "100 percent" aware of the fraud that occurred.

CEDAR PARK, TX - APRIL 2: Rashad McCants #21 of the Texas Legends drives around Aubrey Coleman #6 of the Austin Toros on April 2, 2011 at the Cedar Park Center in Cedar Park, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Chris Covatta/Getty Images

"I mean, you have to know about the education of your players and ... who's eligible, who's not and ... who goes to this class and missing that class," McCants said. "We had to run sprints for missing classes if we got caught, so you know, they were very aware of what was going on."

According to Luke DeCock of the News & Observer, Williams' potential involvement in the situation takes it to an entirely different level:

Williams responded to McCants' statements, per Mark Armstrong of ABC 11 in Raleigh:

Sixteen former Tar Heels, including Raymond Felton and Sean May, responded to McCants in a statement, refuting his allegations (via USAToday.com):

"We are proud of our accomplishments both on and off the floor at UNC. With conviction, each one of us is proud to say that we attended class and did our own academic work. We want to thank our advisers and counselors who supported us, while also maintaining the integrity of the institution. We also want to make it clear that Coach Williams and his staff operated with the highest level of ethics and integrity within their respective roles. We are forever grateful for the lessons we learned on the court, in the classroom and during our time in Chapel Hill.

"In light of the comments made by Rashad on ESPN Outside the Lines, we want to state that our personal academic experiences are not consistent with Rashad's claims. 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. Rashad will always be our teammate and we wish him well on all of his future endeavors."

Despite the denial, Mary Willingham, who tutored athletes,  told Dan Kane of NewsObserver.com that McCants was not the only member of the 2005 Tar Heels to take part in the academic fraud:

Willingham said she obtained the data from student enrollment records she had access to as an adviser. She did not provide names to match to the grades and classes.

She said she became aware of the heavy use of the no-show classes while working as a learning specialist for the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes from 2003 to 2010.

“Not only did we have a paper class system...but we used that system as a model for eligibility,” Willingham said Friday. “Those were the classes that helped their GPAs so they would stay academically eligible and NCAA eligible.”

The alleged issue runs even deeper than McCants simply keeping his eligibility. Per Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via Delsohn, McCants was honored for his academic accomplishments despite not attending class:

Even with McCants' jarring and specific accusations against UNC, the university's athletic director, Bubba Cunningham, views McCants' claims as an outlier compared to other student-athletes, per Delsohn.

MINNEAPOLIS - DECEMBER 27:  Rashad McCants #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves takes the ball to the basket against the Orlando Magic during the game on December 27, 2008 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Magic won 118-94. NOTE TO USER: Use
David Sherman/Getty Images

"I have gotten to know some of Mr. McCants' teammates, and I know that claims about their academic experience have affected them deeply," Cunningham said. "They are adamant that they had a different experience at UNC-Chapel Hill than has been portrayed by Mr. McCants and others."

Although McCants is aware that his claims could alienate him from North Carolina and its fans, he believes that coming forward is important in terms of forcing change.

If there are Carolina fans that don't like what's I'm saying and don't like what's happening right now, they need to look in the mirror, see that it's a bigger picture. ... I'm putting my life on the line for the younger generation right now, and I know that nobody else wants to step up and speak out because everybody's afraid, fear, submission, especially the black athletes. ... College was a great experience, but looking back at it, now it's almost a tragedy because I spent a lot of my time in a class I didn't do anything in.

This is far from the first academic fraud accusation to be levied against a top collegiate athletic program, but it isn't often that a legitimate star like McCants comes forward. He was a dynamic scorer with the Tar Heels and was drafted with the No. 14 overall selection by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2005 NBA draft.

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 25:  Rashad McCants #32 of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks for a call from the referee during their regional semi-final game against the Villanova Wildcats on March 25, 2005 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Jam
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

McCants has since gone on to play overseas after playing in the NBA for four seasons (Uberlandia Tenis Clube in Brazil for 2014), but he is still an influential name within the North Carolina basketball community.

Not only could McCants' accusations shake the UNC basketball program to its core currently, but it could potentially lead to the school having to forfeit its 2005 national championship over Illinois if any type of hard evidence of fraud is discovered by the NCAA.

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