Thursday, April 24, 2014

I Believe She Is Right

Learning specialist who questioned reading levels of North Carolina athletes is resigning

Nick Bromberg
Dr. Saturday

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North Carolina players take the field for the Tar Heels' annual spring football game at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Saturday, April 12, 2014. (Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT)
Mary WIllingham, the learning specialist who said a majority of North Carolina athletes surveyed from 2004-12 had below-average reading levels, announced she will resign at the end of the semester.
The university has strongly questioned Willingham's findings, calling them flawed. Willingham said earlier this year that her research of 183 football and basketball players showed that 60 percent were reading at fourth-to-eighth grade reading levels and approximately 10 percent were reading below a third-grade level.
In January, the university stopped her research pending approval from a university review board.
Willingham told the Associated Press on Monday that she and UNC Chancellor Carol Folt had a difference of opinion.
"She has a job to do and I hope that she does the right thing — academics should be in charge of this great university, not athletics," Willingham said in an email to the AP.
Experts hired by UNC announced earlier in April that Willingham's data is insufficient for her claims. One put the fourth-to-eighth grade reading level estimation at 7 percent.
In January, Michael McAdoo, a former UNC football player who was kicked off the team in 2010 after a tutor did his term papers, called the academic environment for athletes at the school a "scam."
Julius Nyang'oro, the former chairman of the African and Afro-American studies department, was charged with a felony in December after allegations he was paid $12,000 for a class he didn't teach in the summer of 2011. AFAM 280: Blacks in North Carolina, was at the centerpiece of an NCAA investigation into the university. The class was a no-show class requiring a research paper and, in the summer of 2011, all 19 enrollees were UNC football players.
AFAM 280 is among 200 other UNC classes confirmed or suspected of not ever meeting per, the Raleigh News and Observer reported. The paper reported that university correspondence showed counselors knew what classes didn't meet and what weren't challenging while steering "academically-challenged freshmen football players into one such class, which was listed in a course catalog as a seminar for seniors majoring in African studies."
An investigation by the university said that athletic officials had no role setting up the classes. A 2012 internal review found 54 classes that were "paper" classes, and all but nine were taught by Nyang'oro.
The NCAA hit the school with a one-year bowl ban in 2012. Former coach Butch Davis was fired in July 2011.
Willingham provided a declaration in support of the Ed O'Bannon case against the NCAA and met with a former U.S. Justice Department officlal in charge of North Carolina's review of possible academic fraud last week. She also said that 17 members of North Carolina's 2013 Belk Bowl-winning team had a combined GPA of 2.3.
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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him
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