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Why Are People Calling For Roy Williams’ Job?

Posted on Jun 9, 2015 by

Roy Williams is a polarizing figure in the Triangle, to say the least.

Williams is entering his 13th season as the head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, and has already brought two National Championships home to Chapel Hill in his tenure. He’s already in the Basketball Hall of Fame. He’s a member of the illustrious Dean Smith coaching tree (a line that now features former Detroit Pistons assistant coach Rasheed Wallace), and was on the bench for the 1982 National Championship game in which Michael Jordan hit the game-winner to beat the Georgetown Hoyas.

Roy Williams is also either a man who failed to do his job or a cheater, depending on which lie you’d rather buy into.

Yes, with North Carolina receiving its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, pundits and fans have been dishing out takes about the university’s athletic department, and Roy Williams’ name has come up in more than his fair share of them.

And his fair share, by the way, should be zero.

The #FireRoy crowd is back, although this time, it’s not a segment of unappreciative Tar Heel fans upset that Williams can’t recruit shooters or coach the end of games. This crowd, instead, feels that Williams should lose his job because of the role he (didn’t) play in the decades-long academic fraud scandal at North Carolina.

This comes after both the Wainstein Report and the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations have seemingly cleared Williams of any fraudulent activity. In case you have more of a life than me and haven’t read those documents, lets recall what they concluded.

From the Wainstein Report (which you can read the entirety of right here), the first few paragraphs about Williams:

“Williams, Holladay and Walden brought the same oversight process they had used in Kansas. Walden focused on keeping up with the players’ classes and monitoring their eligibility. He provided regular reports about academic progress to Holladay, who would counsel and/or discipline players with academic issues. Holladay, in turn, reported to Williams on the general status of player academics. On occasion, Williams would question a player about his studies or talk to the team about the importance of academics. Beyond that, he largely delegated academic responsibilities to Holladay and Walden.

As Williams, Holladay and Walden told us in their interviews, a large number of the team that they inherited were majoring in AFAM. Five of the 15 members of the 2003–2004 team were AFAM majors, and 10 of the 15 players on the 2005 team were AFAM majors. The three men were uneasy about this situation. Coach Williams was uncomfortable with that clustering in AFAM because it looked like the players were being steered into that major, and after a year or two on the job he asked Holladay to make sure that basketball and ASPSA personnel were not steering players to the AFAM Department.

Walden acknowledged knowing about irregular aspects of the paper classes, including that Crowder was doing at least some of the paper grading. When asked whether he shared this information with Coaches Holladay or Williams, he could not recall doing so. Both of the coaches claim that they never learned from Walden or anyone else that there was a question about faculty involvement in the classes or that Debby Crowder was doing the grading.”

And from the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations (which you can read right here), here’s the only mention of Roy Williams in the document:

“FI221: December 14, 2014 – Interview transcript of Roy Williams (R. Williams), head men’s basketball coach. This includes, but is not limited to, R. Williams’ concern about the number of men’s basketball student-athletes majoring in AFRI/AFAM. “

So, looking at the information given by the two most in-depth reports about the academic misconduct at North Carolina, it appears that Roy Williams shouldn’t be too worried about being implicated in the university’s wrongdoings. It wasn’t, and isn’t, his job to know every single class each of his players is taking, and it’s unrealistic to ask of him to be the man who singlehandedly brought down North Carolina athletics. Williams either honestly didn’t know, or he did his part to assure he had nothing to do with the scandal.

Yet, here we are. Williams has been the focal point of columns searching for repentance from North Carolina. Don’t get me wrong; North Carolina should, and will, pay heavily for what happened in the AFAM department. That’s undeniable. But of all people, why point the finger at Roy Williams?

I have a few theories:

  1. Roy Williams is the current face of North Carolina athletics. Men’s basketball is the flagship program of North Carolina, and as head coach, Roy Williams is viewed as the most important person in North Carolina’s athletic department. He’s the public face of the Tar Heels, and with no knowledge other than “North Carolina had fake classes,” it’s easy to instinctively blame Williams for what happened. Plus, to punish men’s basketball would be to punish the entire athletic department.
  2. Just about everyone else has either resigned or been fired. This was discussed in both my rebuttal to Patrick O’Neill’s horrid op-ed as well as on the debut edition of “What in TARnation?”. The only other figure comparable to Roy Williams in the past decade, as far as perceived power goes, is former football coach Butch Davis. North Carolina canned Davis in the summer of 2011 without a major press conference to announced the firing. Just days later, athletic director Dick Baddour stepped down from his position, later replaced by Bubba Cunningham. The chancellor when the scandal first broke, Holden Thorp, stepped down in 2013 and has been replaced by Carol Folt. The football coach, the athletic director and the chancellor are all gone. Roy Williams is the only major public figure left, and that may be a reason he’s found himself somewhat of a scapegoat in the wake of the Wainstein Report and the NOA.
  3. Everyone loves a good firing. There’s something of a spectacle when a major coach loses his or her job. Remember when Al Davis verbally set Lane Kiffin on fire? That was quality TV. Could you imagine the surreal press conference that would take place if North Carolina fired Roy Williams? That would go down as one of the most “I can’t believe this is actually happening” moments in Triangle sports history.
  4. 28-3 and Jimmy V. You’ll find the largest chunk of the new era of #FireRoy to be wearing red and white, and that’s no coincidence. Roy Williams is to the N.C. State fanbase what Russell Wilson is to the Tar Heels/Panthers hybrid fan. When you dominate a series that consistently, some harsh feelings are going to develop. That’s not the only reason that particular fanbase may want to see Roy Williams ousted; In 1989, legendary Wolfpack head coach and then athletic director Jim Valvano also found his program in trouble with the NCAA and resigned under pressure from his colleagues. The scandal ultimately would not define Valvano’s legacy, as his courageous battle against cancer continues to inspire those fighting the disease to this day, but at the time, it was a huge blow to Wolfpack athletics. To see Williams get by clean when Valvano would be a travesty to a segment of Wolfpack fans.

Heads have rolled in the wake of the paper class scandal, and more jobs will likely be lost in the next year as the NCAA investigation rolls on. High profile administrators have left North Carolina in the past 5 years. It’s understandable to be outraged. It’s understandable to want reform (which you can find at the Carolina Commitment website). It’s not understandable to make Roy Williams a scapegoat.

There are fingers to be pointed, but to call for Williams’ job would be pointing in the wrong direction.

Photo courtesy of romec1 (Creative Commons). Quotes pulled from Wainstein Report and NCAA’s Notice of Allegations.

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