Explosive allegations from a member of North Carolina's 2004-05 national championship team destroyed any remaining insulation the Tar Heels' tradition-rich basketball program had from accusations of academic fraud that have rocked the school.
Former North Carolina guard Rashad McCants told ESPN's Outside the Lines that his academic advisers steered him to take sham classes in the school's African-American Studies department in order to ensure that he remained eligible. Fifty percent of McCants' classes at North Carolina were in the African-American studies department, and the former third-team All-American said he even made the Dean's list one semester despite not bothering to attend any of the four classes in which he received straight A's.
Even in the real classes he took, McCants' allegations are troubling. He alleged that tutors wrote some of his term papers and he still only seldom showed up.
McCants said he believes North Carolina coach Roy Williams knew "100 percent" about the bogus classes used to keep athletes eligible and was a willing participant in the system. As proof, McCants cited what happened when he was in jeopardy of academic ineligibility after receiving F's in two of his four classes during fall semester of North Carolina's national championship season.
He said Williams told him "we're going to be able to change a class from, you know, your summer session class and swap it out with the class that you failed, just so the GPA could reflect that you are in good standing."
McCants ended up in four AFAM classes in the following semester, earning straight A's. He said he didn't know what Williams was getting at with the summer school class replacement reference, and he never talked with Williams about it again. The transcripts show he had received one A in an AFAM class in the summer of 2004.
"I remained eligible to finish out and win the championship, his first championship, and everything was peaches and cream," McCants said.
Allegations made by McCants are some of the most damning for North Carolina in the three years since the Raleigh News & Observer and other media outlets began to report about academic fraud at the school. The scandal has centered around sham classes in the African American Studies department and accusations that tutors or academic advisers were writing papers turned in by athletes.
The NCAA sanctioned North Carolina's football program as a result of improper benefits and academic misconduct involving a tutor, but the penalties were a bigger blow to the school's reputation than to its ability to compete on the field. The basketball program has thus far emerged from the scandal penalty-free.
North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham released a statement to Outside the Lines that called McCants' accusations "disappointing" and encouraged him to speak with the federal prosecutor the school has hired to conduct an independent investigation into the academic "irregularities."
"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."
McCants averaged 17.6 points per game over the course of three seasons at North Carolina, earning all-ACC honors as both a sophomore and junior. He teamed with Raymond Felton, Sean May and Marvin Williams to lead the Tar Heels to Williams' first national championship in 2005 before being selected with the 14th overall pick in that year's NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
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