Williams, UNC Respond to SI Article

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local columnist milled about the media room on Friday, doing his due diligence by asking UNC beat writers for clarification of the AFAM academic scandal. The foundation of his understanding was not the Wainstein Report, but rather S.L. Price’s recent Sports Illustrated piece.

Price’s story, which ran in the March 16 issue of the magazine, details his return to UNC in February in an attempt to reconcile the Carolina that he knew as a student in the early 1980s with the Carolina recently rocked with an academic scandal started by AFAM department head Julius Nyang’oro and his assistant, Deborah Crowder.

The Jacksonville columnist would later ask Roy Williams during his press conference on Friday if North Carolina had in fact lost its way, as suggested by Price.

“Carolina has not lost its way,” Williams replied. “There are things in college athletics that people may think don't fit together. I happen to think they do fit together. I think that you can have a great academic institution and have a great athletic program. That doesn't mean that it's impossible to make mistakes.”


In a recent interview with InsideCarolina.com, Joel Curran, UNC’s vice chancellor for communications and public affairs, said that Price interviewed Chancellor Carol Folt, Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham, Williams and junior point guard Marcus Paige during his visit to campus. Curran, who was present for Price’s nearly 90-minute interview with Folt, felt the dialogue was positive in nature.

“Frankly, I was disappointed with the tone of his article,” Curran said. “He sounded almost ashamed to be a Carolina graduate, which I was really disappointed to hear and read. I would remind him, like I would remind anybody, this diploma means as much today if not more than it ever has. People expect the best from Carolina; so do we.”

Curran described Price’s article as a deeply emotional, personal journey that failed to offer any new details into UNC’s reform procedures and how the University has changed for the better.

“We just felt like he missed a bigger story that’s also a big part of a conversation that’s happening in college athletics,” Curran said. “We conducted a major investigation in a very public way. We implemented a comprehensive reform program and there’s more to come. We told him all of that.

“If he wants to use Carolina’s failure as a metaphor for the problems in big-time college athletics, which is what I think he was trying to do, then he also needs to include the changes that we’ve employed as a University, that we can find a way to make a balance between highly-competitive academics and championship athletics.”

UNC has implemented nearly 70 academic reforms or initiatives since 2011. The reforms are designed to “tighten up” the academic operations and the full student-athlete experience, according to Curran.

One key reform was moving the student-athletes’ academic advising center (ASPSA) underneath the University provost to ensure a direct line between the chief academic officer and athletics. Another primary reform focuses on how UNC monitors classes and the inappropriate clustering of student-athletes in specific classes. Clustering is a natural occurrence in some cases, but Curran said UNC wants the department head and professor to be aware of such instances.

“The vast majority of those [reforms] address not just student-athletes, but they address the way we conduct our operations on the academic side as well,” Curran said. “They are steps that perhaps we should have had in place, but now we do.”


Price expressed doubt in Williams’s claims that he had no knowledge of the paper class scheme, writing that not suspecting “something awry in the AFAM classes seems impossible.”

The Wainstein Report found that Williams was not involved. Wainstein told reporters during his Q&A session that Williams’s actions in 2005 with regard to AFAM clustering in his program were inconsistent with being complicit or attempting to promote the scheme.

“I really believe at some point you have to try to take the full body of evidence and what has been said on the record by an independent investigator and the man himself,” Curran said. “I just feel at this point it’s unfair to continue to point fingers at Roy.”

On Friday, Williams spoke passionately in defense of his school and his program.

“I'm very proud of my degree,” the 12th-year UNC head coach said. “My son and daughter went there. I'm very proud of the degree they have. I have a five-year-old and a three-year-old grandson, and I hope like crazy they go to school there and I'll be extremely proud of their degree.

“Some people's attitudes or ideas are out in Never-Never Land and think everything in the world is perfect. I don't happen to think everything in the world is perfect, but you can make really, really positive things if you really want to… But, no, I disagree, I don't think Carolina has lost its way.”

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