At turns defiant and downcast as he made his first public comments about the Wainstein Report, Roy Williams said Friday night that if the past 16 months had been his first 16 months as a head coach, “you wouldn’t see a 17th.”
For the North Carolina basketball coach, it’s only going to get tougher.
While P.J. Hairston and “Fats” Thomas may have made life miserable for Williams last year, the issues raised by the Wainstein investigation into academic fraud aren’t going away as easily as Hairston eventually did.
The report, released Wednesday, outlined concrete links between the men’s basketball program and the phony classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, much to the dismay of a “dumbfounded” Williams.
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And while the report and Wainstein himself were both largely complimentary of Williams’ conduct, it also provided new information about the team’s enrollments in the classes, the role of former academic adviser Wayne Walden and ammunition for potential NCAA sanctions.
“I’ll always be sad that the image that we have right now around the country, we had one of the greatest images you could possibly have,” Williams said. “We’re going to work as hard as we can possibly work to have that image back where it was.”
The Wainstein Report noted, as previously reported, that basketball players were heavily enrolled in the sham classes at the time Williams arrived from Kansas in 2003 but enrollments dropped off to near nothing by 2009.
According to the report, Williams and assistant coach Joe Holladay were concerned about clustering in a single major and the coaches wanted to make sure players were free to choose their own majors and weren’t being steered toward African and Afro-American Studies – an explanation Williams repeated Friday night.
But in 2012, when Williams was asked about the decline in enrollments, he said players may have decided on their own not to take them. Since the logic Williams offered in the Wainstein Report and again Friday night was perfectly reasonable, why not be more forthcoming in 2012?
Williams argued Friday that his arguments were materially the same – “It’s all the same answer, we let kids choose what they want to choose” – but that’s an oversimplification at best.
Then there’s the case of Walden, the academic adviser Williams brought from Kansas after he decided longtime basketball adviser Burgess McSwain had become too close to the athletes. McSwain had been funneling players to Crowder’s phony classes and Walden would eventually do the same, as noted in the report, over time becoming aware some of the classes were not legitimate.
Williams said again Friday that Walden never passed that knowledge along to Williams or Holladay, but the question will linger of how Williams’ hand-picked academic adviser could know about the scam without passing that info along. Williams, for his part, defended Walden as “one of the most ethical guys I’ve ever known.”
As for the NCAA, no one knows what that organization might do, let alone Williams. Above all else, if the NCAA decides there were ineligible athletes on the 2005 national championship team, vacating that championship would be a logical sanction.
For a coach who maintains his goal has been, and still is, to “do things the right way,” such public reprimand would make Hairston and his shenanigans seem very insignificant indeed.