Roy Williams said he made a ''mistake'' when he approved gifts to graduating players and others who had used up their eligibility while coach at Kansas, but denied there was any intentional wrongdoing.
''We wanted a program that would positively represent the university and the integrity of our basketball program was always very important to me,'' Williams said in a statement Saturday. ''I am deeply saddened to say there was evidently a mistake.''
Williams now the coach at North Carolina issued the statement to respond to a report by Kansas outlining NCAA rules violations in its athletic department. Williams was out of town and was unavailable for further comment, said Steve Kirschner, a spokesman for North Carolina.
After conducting an internal review, the school said Williams who won the national championship last April in his second season in Chapel Hill, N.C. approved payments made by three representatives of the university's ''athletics interests.''
The school said Dana Anderson, Joan Edwards and Bernard Morgan gave cash and clothing to graduating players and others who had exhausted their eligibility. Payments went back as far as 1998, though no player was said to have received more than $400.
Williams said there was a ''communication problem'' with the school's compliance department, leading him to believe a gift was permitted. The violation falls under the NCAA's ''extra benefit'' rule and specifies that once athletes enroll, they are barred for life from receiving gifts from fans.
''I did not know the rule that once you're a student-athlete, you are a student-athlete until death,'' Williams said.
''Kansas never gained a recruiting or competitive advantage the students had completed their eligibility and it was seen as a graduation gift. I have never promised anything to a prospective student-athlete, including playing time.''
The violations, which Kansas reported to the NCAA last month, were among several involving three programs, ending in 2003. The school responded to violations in the football and women's basketball programs by reducing scholarships, but the men's basketball violation will be addressed through extra education about the rules regarding gifts.
No other sanctions against the program are planned.
North Carolina chancellor James Moeser and athletic director Dick Baddour also issued statements in support of Williams, while Bob Frederick the former athletic director at Kansas who hired Williams added his praise.
''He ran a model program at Kansas in every respect,'' Frederick said in a statement. ''If there was a mistake in this matter, it was a communications mistake, because Roy Williams would never knowingly violate a rule. And everyone who worked around him at that time knows that to be the case.''
Williams was also critical of media reports of the violations, saying ''sensational headlines do not portray a true picture of what took place.
''I love the University of Kansas and hate that this situation developed,'' he said. ''I feel strongly that this does not paint a proper picture of my 15 years there. I am personally very hurt by what has happened. My integrity and reputation are extremely important to me and the initial media reports of these incidents have in some instances been extremely harsh.''
Williams won 418 games and reached four Final Fours in 15 years at Kansas before departing in 2003 for his alma mater, where he spent 10 years as an assistant to Dean Smith.
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