Over the years Williams’ players were enrolled in fake courses to keep them academically eligible. Williams has actually used the prolonged — and botched — NCAA investigation into UNC’s violations to his advantage.
Williams has essentially played the martyr (a fantasy UNC fans have happily bought into) and this has served as a successful tactic to inspire his players as well.
The longer the NCAA investigation goes on, the shorter peoples’ memories get. Recent media coverage of North Carolina at the NCAA Tournament made few references to the ongoing investigation, and the University and Williams have mounted a successful multimillion dollar PR campaign to keep the attention focused on basketball glory — not shameful cheating.
During an NCAA Tournament, Williams even had the audacity to deny his program had even one iota of culpability in the 18-year-long scandal.
After a vague admission that there were “some mistakes made,” Williams said: “But there were no allegations against men’s basketball. So I’ve sort of hung my hat on that part, and I know we did nothing wrong.”
If that’s true, why was former UNC standout Rashad McCants, the second-leading scorer on the 2005 championship team, enrolled in fake courses in which attendance was not required, making the dean’s list with four As?
“As an athlete, we weren’t really there for an education,” McCants said in one interview ... (in another interview) he also noted that Williams told him, “We’re going to be able to (figure out how to make it happen),” regarding the fact that McCants was not meeting academic eligibility requirements to play basketball.
“The University makes money off us athletes,” McCants said. “And they give us this fake education as a distraction.”
Fake education equals fake NCAA titles.
So, up to this point, Williams and UNC have actually benefited from the scandal.
Any talk that UNC will receive the NCAA “death penalty” for its egregious actions is highly unlikely.
In the last two seasons, UNC has played the maximum 12 games in the NCAA Tournament resulting in the University receiving millions of dollars in compensation through gate and television revenue and from sales of products bearing the UNC logo.
The University has also received priceless media attention worldwide, and the NCAA is riding those Carolina coattails and reaping the benefits as well.
Will the NCAA bite the hand that feeds it? That seems doubtful.
Right now, Williams has managed to turn inside out the adage: “Cheaters never prosper,” but history won’t be so kind to Williams or UNC.
Despite his being a talented coach and recruiter, Williams didn’t play by the rules, and his accomplishments — like those of other sports cheats — will always be accompanied by an asterisk.
Williams and by association, the University of North Carolina, will always be remembered as cheaters.
Patrick O’Neill is a former reporter with The Chapel Hill News who covered Tar Heels sports.