Rashad McCants- Liar, or Louse?
It’s the story that just won’t die. The North Carolina academic scandal came to the forefront of everyone’s minds once again today when ESPN revealed their new ‘Outside the Lines’ segment with former UNC shooting guard Rashad McCants, the second leading scorer of the 2004-2005 NCAA Championship team. In the interview, McCants claimed, in short, that he didn’t go to class, didn’t do any work and that the administration and Coach Roy Williams knew what was going on. Because the school has been in the media so much over the past few years for similar claims regarding the football team, the issue is that much more magnified. Especially since a championship and a historic program is involved. The interesting thing though, is that this statement strongly conflicts with one he made ten years ago (ESPN).
So which one is it? Let’s look at the facts. The issue isn’t as cut and dry as it may seem. There are a lot of parties involved, both at North Carolina, and formerly associated with the school. This is why there are a lot of other opinions sourced here. We may never know what truly happened at North Carolina, but logic says that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
1) There are known academic improprieties that occurred at North Carolina.
Former African American Studies Head Julius Nyang’Oro was charged with a felony for his role in fake paper classes (Huffington Post). Former Academic Tutor Mary Willingham’s claims are well-known (although she violated State laws by releasing private academic information). Most of them can be seen at UNCCheats.com, a collaboration web site that is documenting the ongoing scandal. So there’s no way to say that something DIDN’T happen. It did, but…
2) North Carolina has made significant changes.
They vacated wins, fired coaches and administrators and even hired a former US Assistant Attorney General to conduct an independent inquiry of alleged academic irregularities. On top of that, they even created a web site, specifically to address concerns. That seems like a step in the right direction. They’ve acknowledged their mistakes and seem to be moving on. But much of this has been wildly underreported because…
3) It doesn’t fit into the media’s narrative.
Long ago, it seems, it was determined that this story would go on forever. That’s why people like McCants keep coming out of the woodwork to voice their opinion. The media is built on sensationalism and an academic and athletic scandal at one of the nation’s top universities is a pure gold well for organizations like ESPN. But while the school’s transgressions have been widely reported (and there are many, all without excuse), the opposing view has not really been given a voice. You may know Mary Willingham, but do you know Bradley Bethel?
4) He’s a learning specialist at North Carolina who claims that Mary Willingham isn’t telling the truth.
Bethel’s web site, Coaching the Mind, is an interesting read for anyone who is following the ongoing story. On it, he responds to the latest criticisms and claims, refuting them with both facts and opinion. He hasn’t posted anything about McCants yet, but I’m sure he will shortly. And speaking of McCants…
5) His credibility is low, even if his statements mirror many other findings.
McCants long been known as a loose cannon (Sporting News), and the inability to deal with these antics is one of the reasons Coach Matt Doherty lost his job. ESPN even wrote an article in 2010 that discusses how his personality derailed his career. But what is McCants’ motivation for revealing everything now? The timing seems extremely odd considering the allegations against the African American studies Department were originally made years ago- He wants to write a book. Yes, the claims may be true. If they are, then UNC certainly still has a long way to go to clean up their image, starting with vacating the 2005 Championship. But this appears to be much more simple than it looks. He wants attention. He needs attention. McCants’ path is similar to that of former UNC football player Michael McAdoo, who was kicked off of the football team for academic violations in 2010. After suing the school, he subsequently came out with a number of accusations (Charlotte Observer) after his NFL career flamed out and he ended up in Canada. McCants has certainly not had a stellar career either. One look at his Wikipedia page, and you’ll see that he’s a journeyman, but not by choice, and not through success…
6) So how can he be trusted?
Many former athletes have come out in support of Coach Roy Williams and the school, denouncing McCants- recent athletes like John Henson, Kendall Marshall, Eric Ebron and even former football player Dre Bly. What’s most interesting though, is the support from Coach LeVelle Moton of North Carolina Central University and Julius Hodge, formerly of NC State. What do those two guys have to gain from calling McCants a ‘nut job’ as Hodge referred to him as? They’re not affiliated with North Carolina. They could even be seen as competitors to the Tar Heels. But they don’t appear to trust McCants either. So why should we?
Personally, I do not feel that the school has handled the issue correctly. At times, they’ve come off as either overly defensive, or extremely suspicious. I call this the ‘Tiger Woods’ (NY Post) approach to public relations. Now, as someone with a degree in PR (yes, from Carolina), I can’t honestly condone this technique. No matter how bad the truth is, I think upfront honesty is the most important quality an organization and individual can have. You make a mistake, you own it. Everyone knows that a little white lie turns into something bigger, so why lie in the first place? So again, in no way do I think that UNC is completely absolved of any wrongdoing. But at the same time, there are other individuals with a story to tell and they’re not being heard.
The scandal at North Carolina is extremely complicated. It’s runs deep. It’s emotional. But it’s not necessarily what you think. It may have been irresponsible and extremely unprofessional for ESPN to sensationalize McCants’ statements in the way that they did, but it’s hard to think that there isn’t some truth in them.
UPDATE- In addition to the University’s response to the ESPN story by Coach Roy Williams and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham (GoHeels.com), McCants’ teammates from the 2005 NCAA Championship team have released a statement as well (USA Today).