Roy Williams concerned about rep

ByDana O'Neil ESPN logo
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CHARLOTTE -- North Carolinacoach Roy Williams said Wednesday that he is "worried sick" about the pending NCAA investigation into the school's academic scandal, and included in his worries are concerns about his own reputation.

An investigation led by former U.S. Department of Justice official Kenneth Wainstein found that more than 3,100 students -- 48 percent of them athletes -- took "paper classes" in the Afro-American studies department.

Wainstein exonerated Williams in the report, saying his actions were "inconsistent with being complicit with or really trying to promote the scheme," but the coach knows that will not clear his name in the court of public opinion.

"I'm very angry about that," Williams said in an exclusive interview with "I try to keep away from the anger part of it. I know what we've done and what we didn't do, and I'm proud of what I've done and I'm proud of what I didn't do. I'm 64, so I'm not close to being ready to quit, but you also think, 'God, I don't want this to be what people remember about me.'"

Though NCAA investigators have begun conducting interviews, Williams said he has not yet been contacted.

"I assume they will," he said.

Williams insisted in an afternoon session with print media that he stands behind his ethics, and while he might be branded as naive, he doesn't think "you can go past that."

He also took issue when asked if, in retrospect he could have done more.

"You can say I'm too short, too ugly, too much gray hair, that I have a bad golf swing, but there's not one fricking person in the world that can say that I never emphasize the academic side of it," Williams said. "If they say that, they're lying or whatever.

"I'm as proud of my ethics as I could possibly be. I'm not going to do anything like that. if they fire me, it's going to be because I didn't win games. It's not going to be because I knowingly did something like that. I don't move my ball on the green when nobody is watching.

"I don't worry one second about my ethics or what can be done there. I've never knowingly done anything that would even violate an intent of the rule. I drive 70 mph in a 60 mph zone. I have no problem saying that. ... but I'm not involving young people where I'm supposed to be somewhat of an example and basketball."

Earlier in the day, a combative Williams sat down for an interview on "SportsCenter," saying, "You want to talk basketball, we'll talk basketball. But I'm not going to rehash all that other crap."

But later, when asked about the personal side of the investigation, he was far more reflective.

Now in his 12th year at North Carolina, the Hall of Fame coach said this is far more personal because he is a graduate of the university as well as its men's basketball coach.

"It hurts," he said. "I'm extremely disappointed and extremely sad because this is my school. This is dominating my time, my life and my thoughts."

Williams reiterated that he did not know about the paper classes, but when he noticed a preponderance of athletes in the same major, he talked to assistant coach Joe Holladay about it.

"I don't think any place wants the basketball coach running the academic side. What could I have done?" Williams said when asked if he should have been more involved in his players' academics.

"I think people would have been offended if I said, 'How are you teaching this course?' That's not my job. Maybe you could say I was naive, but it was at the University of North Carolina where I went to school. I did the work. I worked for every grade."

Williams also defended the decision to bring Wayne Walden, his academic adviser at Kansas, with him to North Carolina in 2003.The report claimed Walden "steered players into these paper classes."

"That's very easy," Williams said of hiring Walden. "The academic adviser at North Carolina had been just starting when I left [to become head coach at Kansas]. She was a nice lady, and at the end of her career, she was mothering the players to death. I wanted some toughness.

"Wayne Walden is the most ethical person I know. ... You can look and say, 'Why did he bring his guy?' Well, we had no problems. Some of the things he did have been paraphrased ... and it's made him look bad. I hate that for him. His pride in his own morality is as high as anyone I've been around."

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