North Carolina Professor Under Fire For Disclosing Athletes Who Can Barely Read Or Write

image011326px-University_of_North_Carolina_Tarheels_Interlocking_NC_logo.svgWe have repeatedly discussed the corrosive effect on schools with large sports programs. This influence can be seen in lower academic standards to ethical violations to actual shielding of criminal conduct. Despite such scandals, the blind support for popular football and basketball programs continues with excessive salaries for coaches and the continued use of students for this profitable and popular non-curricular function. Professor Mary Willingham is feeling the full brunt of that distortive and often unhinged support for sport programs. She committed the sin of publishing a study showing lower standards for athletes in money-making teams for the university. The reaction was an array of threats against her life and a university that has disavowed her research after first denying knowing of research that it once supported. The university has now gone into radio silence — adding to the appearance of yet another institution unwilling to address such problems.

Willingham was given access to data by the university and she found that between 8% and 10% of the school’s football and basketball players are reading below a third-grade level. The university seemed to go immediately on the offensive, including questioning her data showing a basketball player who could not read or write. What is interesting is the statement that “University officials can’t comment on the other statistical claims mentioned in the story because they have not seen that data. University officials have asked for that data, but those requests have not been met.” However, Willingham says that the data came from the University and remains in the possession of the University.

At the same time, Willingham has received dozens of death threats from fans of the university teams. She has been a source of the local media investigation into the program and is considered a whistleblower by many.

220px-Duke-Carolina_basketball_tip-off_2006You will recall our recent discussion of the criminal charge against a former North Carolina professor at the heart of this scandal. At the time, we discussed how the university has attempted to portray Julius Nyang’Oro, the former chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as some rogue employee and how doubtful it was that a few bad apples were responsible for these violations. The reaction to Willingham reinforces that suspicion and greatly damages the academic reputation of this fine institution. As we have seen so many times before, the University seems to be rallying around its profitable sports programs rather than the academic mission that defines the school. The death threats against this professor only magnify the concerns that major sport programs are creating a grotesque problem for schools who use athletes as sources for revenue and publicity.

As many of you know, I love football. However, there comes a time when sports threatens the very soul of an institution. The University of North Carolina (and particularly its faculty) needed to make a choice as to whether it is a leading academic institution or just a facilitator for sporting events.

Source: CNN

37 thoughts on “North Carolina Professor Under Fire For Disclosing Athletes Who Can Barely Read Or Write

  1. When fans threaten violence against someone who is simply providing the data that supports what everyone already knows those are not “fans” they are criminals.

  2. As online digital higher education becomes increasingly popular and widely accepted, large unaffordable land campuses with large corrupt sports programs are likely to be boarded up, perhaps within the next decade. Meanwhile, corrupt athletic programs can help finance that inevitable demise of physical campuses in favor of electronic campuses.

  3. Anybody who has mingled with college athletes knows that some of them are barely literate – or better said speak/interact at an elementary school level.

    The schools do those athletes no favors – but it is like the Emperor’s new clothes – nobody wants to speak the truth out loud.

  4. Another in a long line of examples as to why there need be a separation between sport and education akin to that of church and state.

  5. You can’t have it both ways, professor. It’s not a fine institution if if rallies behind the lies and punishes the truth. It’s similar to the US government rewarding the bankster’s lies and corruption and punishing the Snowden truth tellers.

    Colleges need those big buck sports programs to feed the insatiable salary needs of annual multimillion dollar athletic directors, annual million dollar presidents, overpaid recruiting staffs, crony contractors, well-paid tenured staff, cushy retirement packages, and purchasing the favors of government representatives costs money, too.

    Kids with potentially promising, although highly unrealistic, athletic careers are going to be more attracted to a school that offers to showcase their talents than fail them for flunking English or Geography.

    Higher education has become a scam. It costs at least tens of thousands of dollars to go to a four-year institution and the loans incurred are strangling the economic well-being of the attendee and the national economy. How is it that these colleges aren’t fighting for a new bankruptcy law that would allow college debt to be forgiven. As it stands now, that debt can chase someone to the point of garnishing Social Security payments.

    And where are the jobs for these kids when they graduate? The unemployment rate for college grads is 7.9% and then there is: Half of recent grads are working jobs that don’t require a degree, according to research from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, released in January. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/unemployment-college-graduates-majors_n_3462712.html

    Face it, college is no more than a glorified corporation that needs more money all the time. It’s less about education then it is about funding education fat cats.

    I wish the professor much good fortune, since she will need it to beat back the moneyed interests that depend on shafting students and perpetuating the lies.

  6. One only has to listen to any interview with these sports jocks to hear how uneducated or poorly educated they are. For the few that make big time, I guess it doesn’t matter to them but for all those suckers who think they are going to play football or whatever thru college and become rich, rich, rich….Oh boy are they in for the education of a life time. Still they keep on playing & ignoring their education.
    I agree with Personanongrata who said we should have separation of sports and education but I don’t expect to see it happen in my life time.
    As for the university not standing behind this professor…..disgusting. She is only telling the truth and we know they are lying when they claim ignorance of the facts.

  7. You know, I saw this report a couple days ago on CNN and I knew this was going to happen. I’ve mentioned here previously how we have a friend who was an education professor @ KU. She also tutored athletes and would tekk us the stories w/ the disclaimer, “I never said this!” She also lamented the reading/writing skills of regular students, but that’s been discussed quite a bit here.

  8. This is a football/basketball problem because the NFL and the NBA use the NCAA as their minor leagues. MLB has a strong minor league system. A kid coming out of high school has a choice if he plays baseball. If he’s a good student, he can go to an NCAA school w/ a good baseball program, right up to Stanford and the Ivy League, they produce major leaguers. If he’s not academically oriented, he can sign a professional contract and go to a minor league team. “There is no freedom w/o choice.”

  9. The pressure need to be put on the NBA and NFL along w/ the NCAA. It needs to be a 2 front war to protect these kids. NCAA football players are subject to more head injuries because the NCAA has no rules on contact practices. The NFL player’s union has negotiated limited contact practices during the season. It is the CUMULATIVE number of brain hits that is the problem, not just the one major concussion. I had a major concussion playing football, but only played one year after that.

  10. The body itself is in sin. A person not being like Jesus is is sinning. Do non human animals sin not knowing how to read or write? Sinning is a lot more than that. Reading and writing is good to have, but having the ability has no soul saving qualities in it.

  11. “The University of North Carolina (and particularly its faculty) needed to make a choice as to whether it is a leading academic institution or just a facilitator for sporting events.”

    Looks like they already have.

  12. A lot of these dumb places like State Penn make the claim that sports brings in more revenue that they spend on sports. I propose that each state hire a forensic economist and accountant to look at the real numbers. We have to factor in the cost of the stadiums, fields, and other paraphernalia for the athletes.

    There was some old NBA artFay on television who can not speak the Kings English. Hell he cant speak LA English. He had ear rings in his lip and was waiving a fat cigar as he cussed at some news guy inquiring as to why he was going into Korea to see their Midget in Chief. Dennis Rodman was the name. Did he go to college? Can he read and write? Where did he go to college? Who paid for that?

    So, If I live in Pennsylvania and I have a kid who wants to go to college to be a business guy and learn about art and history as well, do I send him to some place like State Penn? What are the better four year state subsidized colleges in my state besides the State Penn?

  13. Barkin, The Worm went to Southeastern Oklahoma State, so I guess he went to college. And, give the brother a break, Rodman apologized for his rant, because he “was drunk.” What are you a racist???? Homophobe? Actually, I think The Worm may just be a cross dresser, and most cross dressers are not gay. NTTAWWT.

  14. I looked up the Wikipedia file on Dennis Rodman. The briefly mention that he went to college in Swampeast Oklahomoa someplace but don’t even say if he graduated but morph into his NBA career.

    I wish just one state would start a new program. Make all sports Division III. No scholarships. Students play sports for fun. No professional sports on the horizon. No more important games against State Penn or Ohio State. Graduate enough doctors so that the hospitals in that particular state do not have to bring doctors in from India. That is what North Carolina is facing. All of their schools can not produce a fraction of the number of new doctors that they need. You have folks majoring in mass communication and they cant say a Hail Mary but they can throw one.

    Good ol boys from LSU, went in dumb, come out dumb too
    Hustlin round Atlanta in their alligator shoes….

  15. The Tar Heels need to give as much money to top students as they do to top athletes. This problem is not just a North Carolina problem, but a wide spread systemic problem. While I love college basketball, it is sad that a young student athlete can graduate with very little skill other than in basketball.

  16. Professor Mary Willingham is feeling the full brunt of that distortive and often unhinged support for sport programs. She committed the sin of publishing a study showing lower standards for athletes in money-making teams for the university. The reaction was an array of threats against her life and a university that has disavowed her research after first denying knowing of research that it once supported. The university has now gone into radio silence — adding to the appearance of yet another institution unwilling to address such problems.” – JT

    The highest paid public employee in the vast majority of states is a football coach or basketball coach.

    It is a failure of public policy.

  17. BTW, like JT, I love football too. But balance is required for sane living.

    Great football weekend coming up!

    (Seattle v Denver in the Super Bowl?)

    Just sayin’ …

  18. Once our forensic accountants and economists puncture the lie that sports teams make money for state universities we can then start discussing why we spend so much money on ball bouncers. Show your ignorance NC. How bout you Florida? Texas? Penn? Ohio? Mizzou went in dumb come out dumb too?

    Y’all turn out the Dennis Rodman’s of the world.

  19. This is not “news” …

    In 1972, i was a TA at Chapel Hill, and UNC-CH was a nationally ranked football school The football players were barely prepared to graduate from high school. They knew they were “special” and did not have to meet the usual academic requirements

    ….back around 1990, the University of Georgia fired a professor who would not gun-deck (falsify) academic records of football players. Big lawsuits, but nothing has changed at Georgia since then.

    Usually, Money talks!

    But in the early 1950s after winning a Rose Bowl ( I think that was the game), Washington and Lee University confronted cheating in athletics and W&L changed to an athletic program for real student athletes. It can be done, but no more multi-million dollar payouts from TV.

  20. UNC does have some good departments and programs. It is better than the run of the mill state universities. Which is why they should take the lead and dump the pro athletic thing and go to Division III which is no scholarships for athletes and less onerous schedules etc.

  21. In the late 1980s, there was a well known, ‘upscale’ African-American magazine entitled ‘Emerge.’ In the mid to late 1990s, this magazine depicted (or blew the whistle on) colleges and universities’ graduation rates amongst African-American student athletes in the top 50 public institutions whose athletic department’s budget were (and still are) financially substantial. After many years of providing this info, the magazine ‘Emerge” was shut down. As of January 2014, there is still no explanation for the magazine’s disappearance.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerge_(magazine)

  22. Fortunately, we need not be concerned about the impact of Prof. Willingham’s research on the morale of athletes at the University of North Carolina since they are unable to read it.

  23. Mike, for the 8-10% of basketball and football players reading below a third grade level the ironic truth of that statement is to weep for.

    Would a parent, or a player in that situation have valid cause to sue a college for not teaching him to at least read? If they accepted him they had to know early on that he was not a qualified student; did they not have some responsibility to behave like an academic institution to him in return for his athletic prowess, which they wanted?

  24. Willingham was given access to data by the university and she found that between 8% and 10% of the school’s football and basketball players are reading below a third-grade level.

    Then how these students managed to pass their S.A.T?
    And why they have been allowed to graduate primary, junior high and high school?

  25. RWL

    In the late 1980s, there was a well known, ‘upscale’ African-American magazine entitled ‘Emerge.’ In the mid to late 1990s, this magazine depicted (or blew the whistle on) colleges and universities’ graduation rates amongst African-American student athletes in the top 50 public institutions whose athletic department’s budget were (and still are) financially substantial. After many years of providing this info, the magazine ‘Emerge” was shut down. As of January 2014, there is still no explanation for the magazine’s disappearance.
    ——————–
    visitor

    Willingham was given access to data by the university and she found that between 8% and 10% of the school’s football and basketball players are reading below a third-grade level.

    Then how these students managed to pass their S.A.T?
    And why they have been allowed to graduate primary, junior high and high school?
    =========================
    Mysteries wrapped in corruption no doubt?

  26. You don’t put too much salt in the soup…. If you’re making brine fine…. These are money makers to the school…. Who cares if a jock is dumb….. Oh… Yeah… Rice does…..

  27. It would be a sad thing if a university in the heart of the Old Confederacy was to be making money off minority student athletes while failing to advance their education thereby hurting their chances to adequately provide for themselves and their families if something happens to them that prematurely ends their careers and removes their chances to reap financial rewards from their athletic abilities.

  28. Remember the UT professor who got criticized for saying that in some cultural groups, failure is not considered a disgrace? He was right.

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