Why is Roy Williams still head coach of the UNC men’s basketball team? Why hasn’t he resigned or been fired? If the Wainstein report has supposedly fast-tracked a new era of transparency and accountability in the school’s athletic department, then the one person who really needs to be held accountable is Coach Roy himself.
Sure, the report shows that Williams was concerned that so many of his players – 167 courses in total – were enrolled in bogus no-show classes and that he relied on academic counselor Wayne Walden to manage the players’ academics and eligibility. But it also appears that he trusted Walden way too much and that because of this he was “dumbfounded” by the details of the report and the extent of the academic fraud.
Pardon my cynicism, but if Williams were truly “dumbfounded” by the report, then that says he either (a) knew what was happening, but didn’t bother to do anything about it; (b) had an inkling, but handed off the problem and didn’t spent much time on follow-up; or (c) was utterly clueless about the whole situation.
I’m opting for (b) here because I think Williams lacks credibility and has spent the last couple of years attempting to cover up any involvement he might have had. The tipping point for me came back in January, when whistleblower Mary Willingham – who has been totally vindicated by the Wainstein report and is owed a huge apology by UNC, which has treated her like pond scum – offered to show Williams proof that one of his former players could not read or write. Williams refused to meet with her, saying that it was “not my place” to do so and that he didn’t believe what Willingham was claiming was true. “I don’t believe it’s true, and I’m really, really bothered by the whole thing,” Williams said at the time.
Really? Not his place? Not at all interested to see whether one of his players was essentially illiterate? Not willing to put his money where his mouth is, show up and either see proof of Willingham’s assertions or find out that they were, in fact, bogus? That’s either the height of arrogance or almost criminal indifference. Either way, it doesn’t exactly shine a positive light on Williams’ involvement, or lack of same, in the academics of his players.
The point here is that all this happened on his watch. And as the saying goes, the buck stops with him. Either Williams placed too much faith in the wrong people or he preferred to attend to other matters.
Here’s the thing. When administrators at Penn State realized that Joe Paterno had not done enough to follow up on the Jerry Sandusky pedophile situation, they fired him. I’m not equating an academic scandal with a sexual one, but I am equating UNC’s lack of response with Penn State’s willingness to sack a legend.
So far, it seems the powers-that-be at Chapel Hill are content to lay the blame for this mess on some second-tier employees and two members of the African-American Studies Department who are no longer at the school. But if UNC really wants to show some courage, it needs to fire some of the bigger players in this scandal.
Roy Williams’ claim that he was gobsmacked by the Wainstein report shows that he is out of touch and basically running a rogue operation. He needs to resign. If not, UNC needs to do the right thing and fire him. He deserves it.
Lewis Beale is a Raleigh-based journalist. He attended school out of state and has no rooting interest in any local college sports programs.
Correction: This piece originally said 167 players had taken the paper courses when in fact players had enrolled in the classes 167 times.