University of North Carolina's academic fraud scandal has turned toward the basketball program with claims made by former star Rashad McCants telling ESPN that he took bogus courses, rarely went to classes and tutors wrote his term papers.
McCants said the extra help kept him eligible during the 2004-05 season when the Tar Heels won the NCAA championship.
McCants discussed the "paper-class" system at North Carolina, which allowed students to write a term paper instead of actually attending courses. Also, McCants was on the Dean's List in the spring of 2005 even though he did not go to class.
McCants claimed that coach Roy Williams and the athletic department knew about the fraud, including the "paper-class" system.
"I remained eligible to finish out and win the championship, his first championship, and everything was peaches and cream," McCants said.
Williams denied knowing about the so-called paper classes.
"In no way did I know about or do anything close to what he says," Williams said Friday.
The school's academic fraud scandal has been in the news since 2011, though it mainly involved the football team until McCants' accusations. The scandal has centered on its African-American Studies program. McCants took 18 AFAM classes, according to McCants' academic transcript that was obtained by ESPN.
North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham responded to McCants' claims via a statement.
"It is disappointing any time a student is dissatisfied with his or her experience," Cunningham said. "I welcome the opportunity to speak with Rashad McCants about returning to UNC to continue his academic career -- just as we have welcomed many former student-athletes interested in completing their degrees.
"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."
McCants left the Tar Heels after three seasons and was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He averaged 17.6 points per game during his collegiate career. After four seasons with the Timberwolves, he was traded to the Sacramento Kings. He has spent the last five years playing in the NBA D-League and overseas in France, Philippines, China and Brazil.
Sixteen players from the 2005 championship team issued a statement that read:
"We are proud of our accomplishments both on and off the floor at UNC. With conviction, each one of us is proud to say that we attended class and did our own academic work. We want to thank our advisers and counselors who supported us, while also maintaining the integrity of the institution. We also want to make it clear that Coach Williams and his staff operated with the highest level of ethics and integrity within their respective roles. We are forever grateful for the lessons we learned on the court, in the classroom and during our time in Chapel Hill.
"In light of the comments made by Rashad on ESPN Outside the Lines, we want to state that our personal academic experiences are not consistent with Rashad's claims. We know that Coach Williams did not have any knowledge of any academic impropriety, and further that Coach Williams would not have tried to manipulate a player's schedule. Rashad will always be our teammate and we wish him well on all of his future endeavors."