By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Still on his Feet: McCants shines light on hypocrisy

Rashad McCants was a star shooting guard on the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill basketball team who helped the Tar Heels to the 2005 national championship. As an athlete, his college career was exemplary, and he became an NBA draft pick.

As a student, McCants appeared to have done enough to maintain his eligibility, which was good enough for UNC.
That is, until McCants revealed that the academic work completed in his name was not his own.

He confessed to ESPN’s Outside the Lines on June 6 that he was placed into “paper classes,” classes in which a single paper, not attendance, would fulfil grading requirements – and that academic tutors wrote those papers for him. One semester, McCants received four A’s and made the UNC Dean’s List – all four classes did not have attendance requirements, he said. McCants alleged that members of the Tar Heels’ coaching staff, including legendary head coach Roy Williams, either knew or expressed a desire not to know details. (Sound familiar?)

McCants’ most damning remark revealed an expectation for such behavior: “I thought it was a part of the college experience, just like watching it on a movie from He Got Game or Blue Chips,” he told ESPN. “When you get to college, you don’t go to class, you don’t do nothing, you just show up and play. That’s exactly how it was.”

On its face, McCants’ allegations are shocking. In reality, they further confirm that UNC has guided student-athletes to no-show, easy-A classes as a matter of university academic policy.

Dan Kane, a reporter for the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer, has been reporting since 2011 on UNC’s predilection to funnel football and men’s basketball players into no-show, easy-A courses in the African-American Studies department at the college. A tutor, Mary Willingham, admitted to the press that some Tar Heel athletes came to her as functional illiterates; her revelation led to university administrators smearing her publicly. UNC would not be the first institution to admit strong athletes with questionable academic credentials, but its brazenness in the face of mountain evidence is stunning.

College student-athletes are routinely excoriated for matters of jurisprudence, poor play, bad body language and other intangibles – rightly or wrongly. That said, by showing up to practices and games, they’re holding up their end of the bargain. UNC traded the promise of a full-ride academic scholarship to McCants for the opportunity to play on its basketball team; he may never have made a tuition payment, but it is impossible to fathom what sort of education he received from no-show classes. UNC did not appear to educate McCants.

So will the NCAA investigate UNC for these newest allegations?

Not a chance.

Why not?

Because the NCAA thinks you’re stupid.

Yes, you. The person reading this column. The NCAA actively dismisses your intellectual capacity. Don’t worry, though – you’re not alone. The NCAA thinks I’m stupid, too. It thinks your neighbors are stupid. Your best friends.

I can see the bumper stickers now: The NCAA Thinks Your Honor Student Is Stupid.

UNC is far from the only school to have allowed academic legerdemain to occur within the realm of athletics. That, of course, is part of the problem. NCAA members regularly demean higher education, turning the phrase into a two-word oxymoron.

The non-athletic college student from, say, Yamhill County sees his degree diminish in value with every subsequent revelation of athletic department chicanery. The quality of the non-athletic student’s education diminishes in kind – someone has to pay for all those student-athlete tutors, and that someone is the student that cares not a whit about sports.

Who is the NCAA? The NCAA is a cartel – excuse me, group – made up of member colleges and universities, public and private, across the country. They are led by a group of well-educated, doctorate-sporting career academics who, in theory, carry forward the nation’s conversations on the merits of higher education.

Every single one of these college presidents and chancellors is pointing and laughing at us. They have been for years. They assume that the general population has no idea for what higher education ought to be and is fundamentally unwilling to provide input. Also, the input the general public may provide as to higher education is illogical or ill-informed, since not every member has attained higher education.

That must be their rationale for handing athletes like McCants the keys to their institution while letting regular students suffer. Consider: There are 230 NCAA institutions that spent at least $3.678 million on athletics in 2013. (All but seven received further subsidies from the university; some athletic departments received tens of millions of dollars.) The average student loan balance in the United States is $25,000; in theory, a transference of the minimum listed dollars to students’ loan balance would free 33,837 students from debt. Student loan debt in the U.S. has crossed the $1 trillion threshold; every little bit helps.

What do these academics atop the NCAA get in return? Money – and plenty of it. Compensation for university presidents rose by one-third from 2009 to 2012. If the sports teams win, too, well, that creates all manner of good feelings surrounding the school.

As the gravy train rolls through our nation’s college towns, ordinary students continue to suffer. A study from the Institute for Policy Studies found that student loan debt correlates with compensation to the point where, between 2010 and 2011, it rose 10 percent at the top 25 universities with the highest executive pay – 43 percent faster than the national rate.

If you try to disconnect from the NCAA – well, that’s impossible. The NCAA draws income from cable television, licensing, advertisements, and even your taxes. (This is especially glaring at many smaller public universities, which routinely lose money on college sports.) Money never stops flowing from the proverbial spigot.

With its diversified revenue stream and unconditional love from the non-athletically inclined – some of whom are repeatedly abused in the face of their admiration – the NCAA has already won. By dropping any pretense of educating thousands of young men and women like Rashad McCants, the NCAA is running up the score on society.


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