First Posted: 1/15/2009
The devil, it has been said, is often in the details. But for Roy Williams, the basketball coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the details effectively exonerate him from accusatory headlines last week that called into question his integrity.
The headlines - and the crawls that could be seen rolling at the bottom of the television screen - essentially blared this: “Report says UNC's Roy Williams OK'd payments to players at Kansas.”
In 17 years of coaching, Williams has established a reputation not only as one of the game's best coaches - he led the Tar Heels to a national championship this season and has the top winning percentage of all active coaches - but also as one who runs a squeaky clean program. That's why Williams came out swinging on Saturday, admitting a “mistake” but denying intent while blasting the national media for the way the story was being covered.
Williams explained that the mistake was bad communication with the compliance office at Kansas, where he coached for 15 years before returning to his alma mater in 2003. The compliance office is a resource for college coaches as they try not to violate NCAA regulations.
Williams said he did give a booster at Kansas permission to give three Kansas basketball players who had exhausted their eligibility “graduation gifts” but insisted they not be “extravagant.” In the report, which Kansas compiled in a self-review, the booster says he was told by the compliance office that the gifts would not violate any NCAA rules.
The report also found that three Kansas players were reimbursed a total of $6.59 too much for travel expenses in 2002, and that two walk-ons on the 2002-03 team were not charged for four meals - total value $26 - that they were not eligible to receive for free.
So when the details are provided, the headlines lose their sting.
There are a lot of problems in college basketball today, but Roy Williams isn't one of them. For years he has demonstrated that winning is a byproduct of playing by the rules, being true to the concept of bringing in athletes who have a genuine concern for education and recruiting outstanding players. So that we can demonstrate that ours in not a partisan position, we would heap equal praise upon Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, N.C. State coach Herb Sendek and Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser were they caught up in headlines that were as misleading.