During his first of many media duties leading up to the Final Four, UNC coach Roy Williams was asked about the NCAA investigation that has been hanging over his program for the better part of five years.
The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations found football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball players in particular received impermissible benefits over several years in the form of “preferential access” to fake classes within the African studies department. Exhibits in the notice indicate athletes in other sports also received special access.
The notice does not accuse individual coaches or athletic officials of committing violations. The institution as a whole is facing a major violation — lack of institutional control — for failing to root out the fake classes and their use by counselors within the athletes’ tutoring program.
The question asked of Roy came from Houston Chronicle columnist Brian Smith.
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“For you, personally and the program, what does it mean to reach this level again, which North Carolina has obviously done so many times—things are a little different right now in terms of the investigation going on, and you’ve mentioned some of the criticism you’ve taken within the state and nationally—does it feel different, is there more validation when you go through something like that? And how are you handling the ongoing investigation compared to the fact that you’re in the Final Four and you’re playing basketball at the highest stakes possible at the collegiate level?”
After checking that he had Smith’s first name right (he did), Williams gave his answer.
“You hit in on the head yourself. You probably gave the best answer because I would agree with everything you said. It’s different, what we’ve had to go through. There were mistakes made. We’ve said that freely. We’re discouraged about it, we’re sad about it, you can put any description there you want. With this team, we’ve tried to focus on playing basketball. We’ve tried to focus on getting Brice and Joel and Marcus Paige to have the best senior year they can possibly have. Those kids trusted us, believed in us. It makes it even a little more special. Here we are, as you said, going to college basketball’s biggest stage. It doesn’t validate anything, because I don’t think my integrity or credibility should have been in need of validating.
“You know, it’s been a tough time. At the same time, I’m very proud of the fact that we have no allegations against men’s basketball. I like that part. I don’t like the fact that my school—and it is very much my school, I went to school here, my wife went to school here, our children went to school here, and hopefully I can live long enough to see my two grandsons go to school here. It’s not just a workplace for me. It’s been painful, it’s been hurtful, but this group of kids has helped me just focus on basketball. It’s been a sweet, sweet run and hopefully we can do some more. Coming down to Houston, hopefully people will focus on the game, the players and what they’re accomplishing and not the other stuff that we don’t have any control over. I’m really hopeful that that will be the story down there.”