North Carolina coach Roy Williams reiterated Wednesday to Taylor Zarzour and Marc James at Charlotte radio station 610-AM that he is bothered by the academic scandal in his school’s African and Afro-American Studies department. But he also reiterated that he thinks things have been done the right way in his basketball program since he returned from Kansas in 2003.
“No question about it,’’ Williams told “The Drive.” “Our track record is pretty doggone good. And our track record has been pretty doggone good for 15 years at Kansas, nine years at North Carolina. And we know how much we emphasize the academic side in the basketball office. We know what our guys are majoring in. We know -- every day we’re in touch with those kids. So it’s something, again, that I’m very proud of.
“And am I going to sit here and say there is absolutely no way nothing will ever happen? Nothing will ever show up? We don’t know what’s going on every day. I mean, I’ve got 13 to 17 kids, counting the walk-ons and things like that. You don’t know. But boy, I feel really, really good about what’s happened academically in the basketball program since we came.”
In May, UNC made public an internal probe found that 54 AFAM classes were either “ aberrant” or “irregularly” taught from summer 2007 to summer 2011. That included unauthorized grade changes, forged faculty signatures on grade rolls, and limited or no class time.
UNC says no student received a grade without submitting written work. But more than 50 percent of the students in those suspect classes were athletes. As first reported by The (Raleigh) News & Observer, one class last summer had an enrollment of 19 -- 18 football players and one former football player.
Late last month, a faculty committee looking into the scandal issued a new report stating that academic counselors assigned to the athletes may have pushed them into those classes. Then last weekend, what appears to be a partial transcript of former two-sport star Julius Peppers’ was uncovered by NC State message posters – raising questions, among other things, about how far problems in the AFAM program went back.
UNC says it shared the results of its original internal probe with the NCAA before it sanctioned the football program for improper benefits and academic misconduct involving a tutor last March. And so far, it looks as if the AFAM situation has been deemed an institutional, rather than an NCAA, issue because the classes were open to non-athletes and appears that the problems originated on the academic side. You can read more about that here.
Here is some more of what Williams told Zarzour and James on Wednesday:
His thoughts on the AFAM scandal, including Peppers’ alleged transcript becoming public?
RW: “Everybody wants my opinion, I don’t want to give it. This is the good thing about America. You know, I’m bothered by a lot of stuff. I’m bothered by some sensationalism that’s going on. I’m bothered by problems that we have. I’m bothered by mistakes that we have made. But I think in my own opinion it’s best for me to keep my mouth shut and let our administrative people take care of it.
“We’re trying to do a lot of research on our end of it, and the things that we are in control of. We’re going to continue trying to do that. But it’s something that, I am bothered by it. I am worried about it. [I’m] a little discouraged about it to say the least. But the bottom line is, there’s nothing I can do about it. And I do think -- I have some very strong opinions and yet as soon as I make some strong opinions or anything, then everybody decides to take their bow and arrow and a shotgun and a machine gun and the bazooka and everything out. But for me, I’m going to wait and see what happens at the end, and let those people that are supposed to be taking care of it, take care of it. But it’s not something that I’m enjoying, I can tell you that.”
On whether he was aware or concerned about any academic issues in the basketball program before he returned to Chapel Hill in ’03:
RW: “I’m not sure I understand exactly what you said but I’ll answer it this way. ... When I came back I felt great about the University of North Carolina [and I] still feel great about the University of North Carolina. I got a great education there. My wife did, my son did, my daughter did.
“We’ve been there nine years -- and I think I’m right in saying this -- that every senior we’ve had has received their degree. Our kids have done the work, they’ve done some great jobs. Tyler Zeller this year was the Academic All-American Player of the Year. We still emphasize the academic side of it a great deal. It’ll always be that way. So you’re talking to a guy who absolutely loves the University of North Carolina. And it’s been that way since the fall of 1968 when I stepped foot on the campus.
“But there have been some mistakes made, I don’t think you can put your head in the sand and say, ‘Oh, we’re all right -- it’s just people making things up.’ I’m not saying that. There’s been some mistakes made, and there’s been some serious mistakes. But I do think that some of it has been a little sensationalized, also.”
Williams also told WRAL after he played in the Pro-Am during the Wyndham Golf Championship in Greensboro, N.C., on Wednesday, that he doesn't believe the academic scandal bleeds into the football program. You can watch the video here.
"It's a bunch of ... you can fill in the blanks,'' he told the TV station. "I feel extremely good, extremely good and if you want to add in any more than that about everything that's been done academically in the nine years that we've been there, and anybody that wants to take exception to that can do whatever they please."
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.