On "Amnesia"

"Roy Williams has 'amnesia' when it comes to college basketball's seedy underworld," reads the headline of this Yahoo! Sports article written by Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel.

Well, that's a juicy start, isn't it? Amid the emerging scandal surrounding shoe company representatives' involvement with college basketball, let's put a high-profile college basketball head coach — the coach of the defending NCAA champions, no less — in the headline and paint him as a liar. That'll get the clicks.

But the article itself starts with a false premise: that Roy Williams claimed to be completely ignorant of any of the seedier influences in college basketball. It wants us to think that Ol' Roy is playing dumb. He's not. Thamel and Wetzel's article centers around an interview with Myron Piggie, the former AAU coach of the Children's Mercy Hospital 76ers, who served 37 months in prison after admitting to taking more than $420,000 for his players and using that money to steer them to — and away from — certain schools.

Thamel and Wetzel apparently asked Piggie about this article from ESPN's Jeff Goodman, which the Yahoo story declines to link.

"Williams admitted he hasn't followed the specifics of the college basketball scandal closely, but that he was 'stunned' when he first heard the news that four assistant coaches and two people affiliated with Adidas were arrested by the FBI a week ago.

'This is a whole different level we're talking about here,' Williams said. 'This is a different level that should have some people being scared to death.' . . .'I know it looks really bad,' Williams said. 'I don't know. I don't enjoy that part. But to paint the entire college basketball world like this I don't think it's fair either because I don't think that's what the entire college basketball world is all about. But it was just a shock to me.'"

That's Goodman quoting Williams. And Piggie's reaction to that, according to Thamel and Wetzel?

"'Well, that’s [expletive],'” Piggie told Yahoo Sports. 'I mean, come on. Come on. You know Roy knew. He was in the mix. He knew what was going on. Roy’s got amnesia.'"

Myron Piggie was based in Kansas City. He paid JaRon Rush $5,000 not to play for Roy Williams at Kansas. Williams is certainly aware of the seedy underbelly of college basketball, and he knows who Myron Piggie is. He's never said otherwise. Roy Williams has never claimed to be unaware of handlers in college basketball. And from Kansas to North Carolina, he has pulled out of several high-profile recruiting battles specifically because of it.

The Yahoo writers reached out to Steve Kirschner, North Carolina's senior associate athletic director for strategic communications, who coordinates Williams' media obligations. Kirschner adds context for Williams' quote. 

“'He was shocked that last Tuesday he came to work and heard about FBI informants and wiretaps and coaches getting arrested,' Kirschner said. 'It was out of the blue that this story came out. I think that’s the shock we all had. Unless you had knowledge of the FBI investigation, I’d say last Tuesday shocked everyone.'"

That statement is in the paragraph no. 10. 'Amnesia' is in the headline. Yet two Yahoo Sports writers figured out how to tie Roy Williams in with convicted felon Myron Piggie, who sent players to Duke, UCLA, DePaul and Missouri. But not to play for Roy Williams.

Wetzel and Thamel continue:

"Piggie said he doesn’t know how any coach could claim ignorance as to how the system works because the system has been the system for more than a generation. After all, JaRon Rush’s son, Shea, is currently playing for Williams as a walk-on at UNC.

While not every kid is involved in violations, Piggie says it’s improbable that any high-level program is completely clean in the recruitment of the very best players.

'You aren’t getting great players unless you’re paying,' Piggie said. 'Someone is going to drop some money somewhere. That’s the name of the game.'"

This from the guy who went to jail for more than three years because he was funneling the payments. And yes, Shea Rush does play for Roy Williams. He's on scholarship now, by the way. Because when JaRon Rush was in high school and he and Sarah Hofstra welcomed a son named Shea, Roy Williams stayed in contact with the family through Shea's childhood, through Hoftra's mother's cancer fight — Williams had just lost his mother to the disease — and through Shea's visits to Carolina Basketball camp. Incidentally, that's something Thamel and Wetzel could have read about on Argyle Report.

This Yahoo article follows a media strategy that Carolina fans and alumni have grown accustomed to. At any hint of scandal anywhere in college athletics, Carolina will be dredged up, for the clicks.

Last week, after the Louisville men's basketball program was implicated in the Adidas scandal, Greensboro News & Record columnist Ed Hardin questioned the ACC's decision to include Louisville in its expansion plans. The News & Observer was only too happy to be Louisville's White (-suited?) Knight, running a column from Mark Story of the Lexington Herald-Leader titled 'Want Louisville expelled from ACC? Then North Carolina should get the boot first.' 

"Don't look over here! Look over here! Hey, don't forget about Carolina!" Never mind that North Carolina fans aren't the ones clamoring for Louisville's removal from the conference, and no one seriously thinks that is (or should be) an option.

Maybe we are close to some resolution of the NCAA's case with North Carolina, of the endless investigations and hearings. But we aren't close to hearing the end of it. Not by a long shot. Mistakes were made at Carolina, and the university has spent more than seven years finding them out and making the appropriate corrections. Still, any time a hint of scandal crops up in college athletics, Carolina's name will be invoked. For decades to come.

Maybe that's fair. But this article, centering on an out-of-context quote and the reaction of a convicted felon? It's completely disingenuous.


Roy Williams photo by Turner Walston

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