Roy Williams: Academic case 'a pain'

ByCL Brown ESPN logo
Saturday, October 25, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The specter of another NCAA probe has taken its toll on North Carolina coach Roy Williams.

"If this were my first 16 months of coaching, you wouldn't see a 17th month," Williams said. "It's been a pain in the rear end, but I believe in this university. Nobody knows what's going to happen with the NCAA, but I feel strongly, strongly that we did things the right way."

Williams anticipates hearing from the NCAA for a second straight season. Last year, it was an eligibility issue due to players Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston accepting impermissible benefits. This year, it could involve much more, following the release Wednesday of former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein's report on an academic fraud scandal that spanned from 1993 to 2011.

The investigation discovered more than 3,100 students -- 48 percent of whom were athletes -- benefited from "paper classes" in the African and Afro-American Studies department. Some athletes, including basketball players, were steered toward fake independent study classes to help boost their grade-point averages, which in some cases kept them eligible.

Williams spoke about the investigation for the first time since its release after the Tar Heels' 111-58 exhibition win over Fayetteville State on Friday night at the Dean Smith Center. Asked whether he was concerned that any wins would be vacated or banners taken down, he said, "Who knows?"

"I personally don't see anything there with men's basketball that somebody can immediately look at and say, 'This is going to happen or this is not going to happen,' so they have to make those decisions," Williams said.

Junior guard Marcus Paige said the report cast a different kind of cloud than the eligibility issues did last season. The result of the NCAA's probe into the matter won't affect the Tar Heels personnel on the court this time around.

Paige also said it bothered him the way Williams has been portrayed.

"I've read different things that have come out of the report that have called him out or taken shots at him; it's not entirely fair to him," Paige said. "He's had it just as probably rough as anyone because when you are the face of the basketball team of North Carolina, regardless of what goes on, you're going to get a lot of backlash when something negative arises and it's on him. I think our team provides him some joy and he uses us as a release for some of the negative things that have been going on."

Wainstein exonerated Williams, stating that his actions were "inconsistent with being complicit or really trying to promote that scheme." He said Williams moved to limit his players from independent study classes in favor of lecture classes that required discipline and that Williams didn't like what appeared to be the clustering of players in the same AFAM major.

Williams said he made the change his second year at Carolina.

"I talked to coach [Joe] Holladay about this, to make sure we don't push anybody in any direction, just make sure that we allow kids to choose their own major," Williams said. "I didn't like the fact that we had so many guys in the same major."

Wayne Walden, who came to North Carolina from Kansas when Williams was hired in 2003, was named as a counselor who "steered players into these paper classes" and called Deborah Crowder, the principle figure in the scheme, to arrange classes for players. Walden was the associate director of the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes (APSPA) and handled several sports, including men's basketball.

The report also said that once instructed, Walden later played a role in moving basketball players away from the classes.

Williams said he didn't agree with everything in the report, adding that Walden was "one of the most ethical guys I've known in my life."

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