Pat Forde (Yahoo Sports)
UNC professor blasts university and its athletic heroes in defense of Rashad McCants
Jay Smith has had enough of the vilification of Rashad McCants.
Smith, a North Carolina history professor who is co-authoring a book titled “Cheated: The UNC Scandal, the Education of Athletes, and the Future of Big-Time College Sports,” emailed me Saturday. He was angry about comments he read in my Thursday column from Dean Smith-era Tar Heels who were critical of McCants in the wake of his allegations of academic fraud during his 2002-05 tenure as a basketball player at the school.
Smith believes that instead of the backlash on McCants, more attention should be paid to coach Roy Williams and his staff. In particular, Williams’ longtime academic counselor, who came with him from Kansas to North Carolina in 2003. Wayne Walden’s name has been in the news since 2012, but Smith believes there should be more scrutiny of his role at UNC.
“When Roy Williams came here from Kansas, he brought with him the team academic counselor who had served him so well at Kansas: Wayne Walden,” Smith wrote. “He regarded Walden as such a vital contributor to the good fortunes of his teams that he was practically moved to tears when Walden departed in 2009. Walden knew every detail about the academic lives of those players; he had to. He registered them for their courses, for crying out loud. [And that means he got on the phone with the Department of African and Afro-American Studies and he put them in paper classes.] Walden also spoke with Williams every day; he had to. Williams’ claim that he had no earthly idea that his players were floating along on paper classes – and that he never would have guessed that one of his stars was enrolled in four no-show classes in the spring of 2005 – is nothing more than a confidence trick. He’s counting on the customary journalistic favoritism, and journalists’ amazing lack of curiosity, to enable him to tell this whopper and walk away with his aura intact. We’ll see if that works.”