This Sunday (June 15) marks the official release of "Tarnished Heels," though it has been available for pre-order (and delivery) via Amazon.com for several weeks. The book has garnered a lot of attention on that merchant's website; more on that later.
The topic of UNC's athletic and academic troubles have continued to be at the forefront of the news, most recently punctuated by claims made by former UNC basketball player Rashad McCants McCants was a member of the school's 2005 National Championship team. Among other items, he said that he never wrote papers, did not have to attend many classes in the AFAM department, and even made the Dean's List during his national-championship semester -- despite never stepping foot inside an academic building.
Both fans and sports/media personalities across the country have displayed a mix of surprise, shock, and outrage over the former player's statements -- a few directed at McCants, but most towards UNC and head basketball coach Roy Williams. Most of the surprise, however, has come from those who have not been keeping up with the facts and information all along.
"Tarnished Heels" clearly details the culture and system that has been prevalent at UNC over the years, spanning back as far as two decades. And it is the data within the book that makes it very easy to believe what McCants is saying. There is documented proof of fraudulent classes. Of forged grade changes. Of players (other than McCants) saying they did not have to physically be in AFAM classes. Of tutors giving excessive and impermissible help to athletes. And much, much more.
UNC loyalists have attacked the person rather than the message; they say McCants is an outcast and was always a trouble-maker. They do not, however, have any factual arguments to refute what he has said.
Again, history, data, and documentation supports McCants, and it also backs the other athletes who have spoken out: Michael McAdoo, Deunta Williams, and others, with more rumored to be speaking soon. "Tarnished Heels" lays the groundwork and support for everything they are saying, and gives justification to what otherwise might be viewed as baseless claims.
As the book's official release arrives, the question of "why" it was written will undoubtedly arise. For those who have already purchased and read the book, much of that answer is encapsulated in the brief "Author's Note" that concludes the narrative.
For me as the author, it is ultimately about right vs. wrong, and especially in terms of education. Overwhelming information points to the conclusion that the University of North Carolina used and abused the education system in order to gain an athletic advantage. In essence, they used education as a shield in order to cheat, and that simply is not right. It is not right in terms of setting an example for kids, it is not right to the university's local tax payers, and it is not right when they promote themselves as a national (and even global) collegiate brand. Education is something that is passed on to every child in our country, and part of an educator's duty is to show integrity by example. Again, it is right vs. wrong.
Rashad McCants echoed similar thoughts in the statements and interviews he has given, challenging his former teammates to "show your transcripts" and do what is right: reveal the inevitable truth that they earned high grades in fraudulent classes.
As mentioned earlier, the book has been on pre-sale via Amazon.com, and actually began shipping to buying customers during the last week of May. As of this morning the book has garnered over 75 user reviews. Not all of those reviews, however, have been from people who have actually read the book; this is a reflection of those factions who wish to continue to hide the facts and the truth about UNC's athletic/academic scandal.
A link to the book's page on Amazon is here: Tarnished Heels
Of the Amazon user reviews, 49 of them gave the book a 5-star rating, the highest distinction possible. They note, among other things, the narrative's fact-based and analytical approach, often quoting and/or referring to specific chapters and sections. Noting that "Tarnished Heels" is fact-based is a key point, as it is not a smear job, nor is it a hit-and-run piece of sensationalism. It is full of documented information, and from those facts it then attempts to raise important questions that have too often been overlooked by numerous failed investigations and reviews into the school's past misdeeds.
On the flip side, there are currently 25 reviews of the lowest rating, which is 1-star. A very telling note, however, is that NONE of those 1-star reviews are from Amazon users who have a "verified purchase" of the book. Put simply, those reviews are Amazon customers, but are from people who did not buy the book. And since June 15th marks the date it will be readily available in brick-and-mortar bookstores, it is therefore a virtual guarantee that they have not read it. Rather, they are simply criticizing in order to protect whatever it is they hold dear -- which is apparently not education.
I welcome any and all criticisms of the book's narrative, of course. I simply ask that prospective buyers consider the sources of any negative reviews. Public Relations "talking points" and methods of deflection that the university has employed in the past are well covered in the book; not ironically, they also appear to be well represented in the 1-star (non-purchased/read) reviews on Amazon, as well.
I feel that history will ultimately show "Tarnished Heels" as the first detailed chapter in this ever-deepening story. As more and more adults find their moral compass and come forward with the truth, there will undoubtedly be more chapters to come.