Former North Carolina basketball star Rashad McCants claims that a series of sham courses and excessively helpful tutors allowed him to stay academically eligible, a damaging admission for a school already embroiled in an massive academic scandal.
In an interview with ESPN's Outside the Lines, McCants admitted that during his 2002-2005 tenure at the school he and many other basketball players took "paper-classes," the name for courses in which the only requirement was an end-of-semester term paper. Those papers were then written by tutors, absolving McCants of attending class or doing any work. In the spring of 2005 — a season when the Tar Heels won the national title — McCants said he made the Dean's List for getting straight A's in classes he never actually attended.
McCants, who went on to have a five-year NBA career, laid waste to the NCAA's claims about student-athletes. "You're not there to get an education, though they tell you that," he said. "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." For UNC, that athletic department revenue totaled $82,792,342 for 2013.
The admission only further undermines UNC's case that academic fraud was not a widespread problem as has been alleged by many current and former insiders since late 2012. A former academic specialist who worked in the athletic department exposed dozens of classes that athletes earned credit for that never took place and revealed that some athletes across the department were "functionally illiterate." Her research was later suspended and she eventually resigned. Earlier this year, ESPN found that an awful 146-word essay written for an introductory course received an A-minus grade.
UNC coach Roy Williams rejected McCants statement that the coach had helped players skate around academic requirements. "I strongly disagree with what Rashad has said," Williams said in a statement. "In no way did I know about or do anything close to what he says and I think the players whom I have coached over the years will agree with me."
Speaking of revenues, McCants' comments come the same day that NCAA lawyers put forth the argument that not paying players allows for "competitive balance" among schools of differing size. Currently, recruits receive the cost of a scholarship, room, and board — no matter what school they attend or what team they play for. NCAA lawyers note that if players were to appropriately share in revenues, some would make more than $100,000, while those at smaller schools might earn nothing. So, instead, everyone will all make nothing.