He said Williams informed him of his academic troubles during a meeting ahead of the spring semester, telling him, "We're going to be able to change a class from, you know, your summer session class and swap it out with the class that you failed, just so the GPA could reflect that you are in good standing."
McCants, who declined to comment Saturday, ended up in four African-American studies classes the following semester, earning straight A's. He said he didn't know what Williams was getting at with the summer school class replacement reference and that he never talked with Williams about it again. McCants' academic transcript, obtained by "Outside the Lines," shows he received one A in an African-American studies class in the summer of 2004.
Williams adamantly denied Saturday that he ever discussed swapping any classes with McCants; further, he said he did not recall such a meeting "at all."
"I don't have any idea what swapping out would be," Williams said. "That's not in my vocabulary. You can't take a course and get another one thrown out at the college level. All of your courses count. So I know I would not have that kind of conversation. I don't know what swapping out means, and I have never suggested that anybody take any course."
Williams did say that if a player were having academic trouble, he probably would talk with the player: "That's part of my job." But he repeatedly said he and his staff have drawn lines they don't cross when it comes to players' academics.
"We have a very defined system here at the University of North Carolina," he said. "I have somewhat control over the basketball program. I don't have control over the academic side. But the academic side and our athletic director and our president want me to emphasize that academic side every single day, and they want our players to understand that. ...
"They want us to be concerned and to emphasize it but they don't want us to step over to the academic side. They don't want that to happen."
McCants' allegations mirror and amplify many of those first made public in 2011, when the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer began to report about widespread academic fraud at UNC. The scandal has centered on the African-American studies classes many athletes took in order to remain eligible.
The newspaper reported in December 2012 that basketball players on the 2004-05 national championship team accounted for 15 enrollments in the classes. A UNC internal investigation found that 54 classes in the department of African and African-American studies were either "aberrant" or "irregularly" taught from summer 2007 to summer 2011. That investigation went back to only 2007.
Williams, who got emotional at one point in Saturday's interview, said the past two years have "been the hardest time" of his career.
"Your integrity has been questioned," he said. "Some things have happened that shouldn't have happened. I tell the kids all the time, 'You're accountable, you're responsible.' ... I feel like that my university, my basketball program, my school has had a tough time and in some ways has been attacked, and that's not easy."
Mary Willingham, a former UNC learning specialist who often is described as a whistleblower about the UNC academic fraud scandal, told "Outside the Lines" she believes McCants' allegations.