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. 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’ …

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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)

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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?

  9. 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?

  10. 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…..

  11. 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.

  12. 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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