ESPN's Outside the Line conducted an interview with former Tar Heel Rashad McCants who said he took the suspect AFAM classes in his time at UNC and even had papers written for him by tutors.
McCants told "Outside the Lines" that he could have been academically ineligible to play during the championship season had he not been provided the assistance. Further, he said head basketball coach Roy Williams knew about the "paper-class" system at UNC. The so-called paper classes didn't require students to go to class; rather, students were required to submit only one term paper to receive a grade.
McCants also told "Outside the Lines" that he even made the Dean's List in Spring 2005 despite not attending any of his four classes for which he received straight-A grades. He said advisers and tutors who worked with the basketball program steered him to take the paper classes within the African-American Studies program.
It should be noted upfront that McCants has long been an unhappy camper, even during his days at UNC. He famously once compared being in school to being "in jail" which according to McCants then included actually going to class. McCants has also been unhappy with Roy Williams, basically since day one and on many levels this is a disgruntled former athlete who has an axe to grind.
It also should be noted there is a lot of convenience to what McCants says as it pertains to narrative regarding UNC's academic fraud in the AFAM department. If you were going to make a checklist of what you needed from a former player to bolster the case against UNC and go after a championship banner, McCants covers it all in one fell swoop. We have participation in the AFAM classes, tutors writing papers and apparently Roy Williams knew. As Tom O' Brien once said, that's a triple play and a very nice boost for a narrative that had been struggling of late to stay relevant.
Speaking of Roy Williams knowing or not knowing, only he can answer that. What we do know about UNC basketball and AFAM is it appears players largely moved away the department(at least as a major) after the holdovers from the Matt Doherty era left the program. This was a thread taken up by the sports website The Big Lead two years ago which alleged team academic adviser Wayne Walden was behind UNC players taking AFAM classes. That theory was thoroughly debunked in a piece we did here. As we noted then, the peak of AFAM majors on the basketball team was in Roy Williams' first two seasons and among players who were already in Chapel Hill when Williams arrived from Kansas. Since then the players recruited by Williams have largely steered clear of AFAM except for taking a few random classes in the department. If Williams knew about the suspect classes, then it appears his move was to get his players away from them.
All of that being said, there is the possibility McCants is telling the truth, convenient as it may be for the Kane/Willingham/Jay Smith cabal. It is also too explosive of an allegation to simply brush off given it involves UNC basketball and unlike the aforementioned cabal actually offers up an NCAA violation. For the story McCants provided his unofficial transcript which shows a wide range of grades and the better of them coming in the AFAM classes.
A copy of McCants' university transcript, labeled "unofficial" and obtained by "Outside the Lines," shows that in his non-African-American Studies classes, McCants received six C's, one D and three F's. In his African-American Studies classes, 10 of his grades were A's, six B's, one a C, and one a D. The UNC registrar's office declined to send McCants an official, signed transcript because of a May 2005 hold on its release. According to the UNC Athletic Department, McCants had university property that had never been returned.
A second copy of his transcript obtained from a different source by "Outside the Lines" is identical to the first and is also not signed by the registrar but does not contain the label "unofficial."
McCants says he would not have been eligible had he not taken the AFAM classes which, again, is convenient to the narrative. They ongoing theory from Kane and Co. has been UNC kept players eligible with the AFAM classes and without them said players would have been unable to survive at UNC. Of course the problem with that theory is it ignores the possibility that other easy classes could have been substituted for AFAM ones.
UNC issued a statement to OTL via AD Bubba Cunningham who pointed to the investigation by Kenneth Wainstein.
"The university hired former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein in January to conduct an independent investigation into past academic and athletic irregularities. While these are the first allegations we have heard from Mr. McCants, I encourage him to speak with Mr. Wainstein. ...
"I have gotten to know some of Mr. McCants' teammates, and I know that claims about their academic experience have affected them deeply. They are adamant that they had a different experience at UNC-Chapel Hill than has been portrayed by Mr. McCants and others."
The only other response UNC can offer should probably come from McCants' teammates who say they had a different experience. There have also been features done recently on former Tar Heels describing their time in Chapel Hill, particularly their academic experience. This sort of thing is only effective to a point since no one in the media pays attention any story that doesn't serve the narrative.
Finally, if you are wondering if McCants' information will bring a fresh look from the NCAA, take a look at Doc Kennedy's excellent piece on what the NCAA may or may not do in light of this information.