As Rashad McCants has blown the latest lid off the UNC academic scandal with his ESPN interview Friday, there remains a missing person who could shed light on why the African and Afro-American Studies major became the focal point of the national story about Carolina athletics.
Deposed AFAM Chairman Julius Nyang’oro has yet to speak publicly on why so many of his courses were converted to so-called “paper classes” – a form of independent study usually reserved for juniors and seniors and exemplary students. Maybe Dr. Julius will enlighten us some day.
His administrative assistant Deborah Crowder, who retired in 2009, has spoken to former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein in the latest internal probe commissioned by UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, but Crowder’s comments and Wainstein’s report have yet to be made public.
Burgess McSwain, the beloved academic advisor to the men’s basketball program since the mid-1960’s, died in 2004 after a prolonged illness. If the candid, caring McSwain were alive today, she would probably have plenty to say.
The name that has avoided most of the headlines to this point is Wayne Walden, the academic advisor for Roy Williams’ program at Kansas for 15 years and for Williams’ first six years at UNC. Walden left Chapel Hill after getting married in the summer of 2009 and now lives in Dallas, where his last LinkedIn profile had him working for a non-profit in Texas.
How Williams felt about Walden was best summed up in the book, Going Home, by Adam Lucas, published after Williams’ first season back at UNC:
“I’ve jokingly said – and my staff doesn’t know if I am joking or not, and I want to keep it that way– that I would rather lose every one of my assistant coaches than lose Wayne Walden,” Williams said. “He is the best I have ever seen about staying on top of things and on top of kids. He is totally devoted to our players and to what they are doing in the classroom. He is willing to give whatever time is necessary plus more, and he genuinely cares how the kids are doing in the classroom.“
Walden has pretty much disappeared as far as his time at UNC and Kansas is concerned. He cannot be reached at any of the numbers listed by his name on a Google search, and the UNC Basketball office will not give out his new contact information. Where is Wayne Walden and why is he not saying anything?
Walden may well have stepped into a hornets’ nest that took him four years to untangle. According to published records of UNC basketball players and their majors, when Walden arrived with Williams at Carolina, the roster they inherited from Matt Doherty had five of 13 players majoring in AFAM. In 2005, the year of Williams’ first national championship, 7 of the 13 players were AFAM majors and, according to McCants interview on ESPN, carloads of them were driving over to where the tutors lived and picking up the papers the tutors had written for them.
McCants claims that Williams and all the coaches knew what was going on, and Mary Willingham says the deans and other administrators had to know as well.
In 2006, when Tyler Hansbrough arrived on campus, the number of AFAM majors on the basketball team went down to three of the 11 scholarship players. The next year, it remained at three. In 2008, two basketball players were majoring in AFAM and in 2009, the year Williams won his second NCAA title, only one basketball player was an AFAM major.
Since then, and since Walden left UNC, not a single basketball player has majored in African and Afro-American Studies.
So did Walden say to himself, “My job here is done” and head for marital bliss and a new job in Texas? Until someone talks to Walden – and hopefully Wainstein’s investigators are doing so – we will never know what Walden knows about what he found when he arrived at Carolina and what he did to fix it.
Where is Wayne Walden? The world is waiting to hear from you.