Rashad McCants is his own worst enemy in North Carolina scandal

Frederick M. Brown

The Rashad McCants/North Carolina saga has already reached a point where it needs significantly less talk from McCants and significantly more talk from everybody else if it's going to become something worthy of our time.

Former North Carolina basketball star Rashad McCants appeared on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" with Andy Katz on Wednesday, where he doubled down on his very public recent claims of rampant academic fraud within his old program.

During a 20-minute live interview, McCants reiterated his accusations of tutors writing papers and players receiving high grades in classes where they were never required to show up. While the episode did its part to keep UNC in the news for the wrong reasons, the man at the center of the story's latest chapter didn't do all that much to further his cause.

McCants looked silly, donning a "Defend Student Athletes" t-shirt with an "X" made out of sports equipment on top of the letters "NCAA," and sounded even sillier for the bulk of the approximately 20-minute interview. He took "100 percent responsibility" for not attending class and nearly becoming academically ineligible, and then used the excuse that he was a "17-year-old ushered into the system" seconds later. He rambled at times, he took a shot at Roy Williams for being "old" and he had Jalen Rose accompany him on the show for reasons that still remain completely unclear. It wasn't the total train wreck that UNC diehards were hoping for, but it wasn't exactly Capote interviewing Brando in Japan either.

The bigger issue for McCants and his attempt at a crusade is exactly the same as it was before he went on ESPN Wednesday: people generally don't like him. He had a toxic on-court personality throughout his college career and his off-court comments comparing UNC to a prison didn't float particularly well in Chapel Hill. His attitude problems continued at the professional level where he lasted just four seasons before no NBA team would touch him, a fact he reportedly still blames mostly on Roy Williams.

McCants is currently being faced with the harsh reality that the NBA millions he'd always assumed would be flowing for a couple of decades aren't coming back anytime soon. He also clearly harbors some bitterness and pretty extreme feelings of ill-will towards both Roy Williams and the University of North Carolina. Basically, this is the ideal situation for an institution hoping for a whistleblower who comes off as both unlikable and easily discreditable.

Except, does anybody really believe that there isn't at least some truth to what Rashad McCants is saying here? And does anybody really believe that some form of what McCants is alleging takes place at most major programs across the country?

The most significant moment of McCants' time on ESPN came when he was asked why none of his former teammates have supported his claims of fraud, and why many have publicly refuted them.

"Show your transcripts," McCants said. "If you want to find the truth, the truth is there in the transcripts."

McCants' own transcript, which was obtained by "Outside the Lines," comes off as more than a bit shady. The transcript shows that during his time at UNC, McCants received six C's, one D and three F's in the 10 non-African American studies classes (commonly referred to as "paper classes" because students reportedly didn't have to show up) that he took. In his 18 African American studies courses, McCants received 10 A's, six B's, one C and one D.

When it comes to North Carolina basketball and academic fraud, we're about five years and 15 reports past "where there's smoke" status. UNC has released what feels like 1,000 statements including the phrases "ongoing investigation" and "taking very seriously," while the NCAA has never seemed overly interested in diving too deeply into any of the claims of bogus classes or grade inflation.

Williams, for his part, continued to play the role of coach in the dark on Wednesday, claiming that while he stresses the importance of athletics to his players, he has no control over that aspect of the program. He even pulled out the "aww shucks" routine and told a story about how he'd had the wrong definition of what a "paper class" is during this entire period of accusations.

Williams knows more about the academic side of his program than he'll ever let on, and McCants is about the furthest thing possible from a selfless academic warrior on a mission to save the American student-athlete. Neither of those things change the fact that there are potentially important questions that should be asked and answered here.

If McCants is serious about "the truth" and not just reviving a public life that seemed to have flatlined a few years ago, then he needs to speak directly with Kenneth Wainstein, the man in charge of UNC's latest probe into the allegations of academic fraud. When asked about that possibility on OTL, McCants skirted the question.

"I think [the investigator] should discuss [their academic experiences] with the 16 guys who said they had excellent experiences," McCants said.

That's not going to get us anywhere, and neither is refusing to name the players he alleges had papers written for them by tutors because "it's irrelevant."

The more McCants talks, the more likely it becomes that his story will be brushed aside out of view forever. The longer his former teammates go without sharing their transcripts and getting into specifics, the longer we'll have to suffer through speculative columns that are heavy on agenda pushing and short on substance.

This situation has the potential to give rise to a significant dialogue, and here's hoping that the next time McCants' name is in the news it's because he, or the other side, have given us the details necessary to begin that discussion.

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