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Former UNC hoops star Rashad McCants: ‘You don’t go to class … just show up and play’

06.06.14 at 9:12 am ET

The 2004-05 University of North Carolina basketball team will be remembered in Chapel Hill for its achievements on the court. The Tar Heels won the national title that year. Now one former player has given people a look at the team’s accomplishments, or lack thereof, off the court.

Rashad McCants, the second-leading scorer on that UNC squad, told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that he rarely went to class in his time in school but remained eligible to play because tutors wrote his term papers, and he took classes under a system designed to keep athletes academically eligible, all to the knowledge of coach Roy Williams.

McCants said that he may have been ineligible to play during the Tar Heels‘ championship run had it not been for the university’s “paper-class” system, which did not require student-athletes to attend class. They were simply required to submit one term paper for a grade.

McCants said he made the dean’s list in Spring 2005 despite not attending any of his four classes. He received straight-A’s for the semester. He said advisers and tutors within the basketball program suggested he take the paper classes within the African-American Studies program.

“I thought it was a part of the college experience, just like watching it on a movie from ‘He Got Game’ or ‘Blue Chips,’ ” McCants said, adding: “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, you know, and I think that was the tradition of college basketball, or college, period, any sport. You’re not there to get an education, though they tell you that.

“You’re there to make revenue for the college. You’re there to put fans in the seats. You’re there to bring prestige to the university by winning games.”

UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham responded to McCants’ comments in a statement to ESPN, saying, “It is disappointing any time a student is dissatisfied with his or her experience. I welcome the opportunity to speak with Rashad McCants about returning to UNC to continue his academic career — just as we have welcomed many former student-athletes interested in completing their degrees.

“The university hired former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein in January to conduct an independent investigation into past academic and athletic irregularities. While these are the first allegations we have heard from Mr. McCants, I encourage him to speak with Mr. Wainstein. …

“I have gotten to know some of Mr. McCants’ teammates, and I know that claims about their academic experience have affected them deeply. They are adamant that they had a different experience at UNC-Chapel Hill than has been portrayed by Mr. McCants and others.”

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