UNC Prof Who Questioned Athletes’ Reading Levels Receives Death Threats

Carolina Tar Heels

In a recent research report, UNC professor Mary Willingham raised concerns about the literacy rate of Tar Heel athletes.

Willingham’s research, which was published in CNN’s report on the reading levels of student athletes at some of the top universities, showed that of the 183 athletes in revenue-generating sports admitted to UNC between 2004 and 2012, 60% were reading between a fourth and eighth grade level and between 8% and 10% were reading below a third grade level.

Mary Willingham UNC

Willingham, who was a learning specialist in the UNC Academic Support Program for Student athletes from 2003 to 2010, say she has received 4 death threats and over 30 harassing messages since CNN’s release of her report.

“Not people who disagree, people who put in the subject or body (of the e-mail) straight-up hate speech,” she said.

UNC issued a statement this week saying that they did not believe the report.

We do not believe that claim and find it patently unfair to the many student-athletes who have worked hard in the classroom and on the court and represented our University with distinction. Our students have earned their place at Carolina and we respect what they bring to the University both academically and athletically.

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.

Willingham says she expected the backlash from fans, but she never thought that the university which at one point supported and paid for her research is now refuting it and have distanced themselves from her.

“It’s already available to them,” Willingham said. “It’s in their system. … They have all the data and more. It belongs to them, and they paid a lot of money for it.”

A formal report of the treats and harassing messages has not been made, but university police say they are looking into it.

The UNC athletic department continues to be on the hot seat for academic practices that are standard in big time college sports. Rules and eligibility requirements are constantly being bent for top recruits. Let’s not act like they’re wooing them for their academic prowess. When collegiate sports bring so much money to these universities, you think they’d turn down a recruit that could bring millions to their school because they can’t read? Child please. This is the system, and as long as this billion dollar industry persist, schools will continue to care more about what an athlete can do on the court or field than anything they’ll ever do in a classroom.

I’m sure UNC is trying to figure out any way possible to get rid of Willingham without looking bad and/or facing a big lawsuit.