The woman who performed a study stating that a majority of college athletes playing money making sports at the University of North Carolina only read between a fourth to eighth grade reading level is under fire. Mary Willingham has received death threats and UNC is denying her report.
CNN sought to conduct a study on the academic abilities of college athletes at various public universities around the United States. The study asked for records from 40 different universities, receiving the records from 21 of those schools. Professionals from various backgrounds were given the records and asked to research them. Willingham’s review of UNC presented less than admirable results.
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Focusing on college athletes that play revenue producing sports (like football and basketball), Willingham looked at the records of 183 students. Her study found that 60 percent of those students read between a fourth and eighth grade level. Eight to ten percent read below a third grade level. The Drake Group selected Willingham because she showed a commitment to helping UNC student athletes learn how to read. The Drake Group is a special committee dedicated to protecting the integrity of the college athlete system.
UNC contends that Willingham was not authorized to perform the study and that she overstepped her bounds. But Willingham has proof that she not only exchanged emails with school officials concerning the study, but the school actually funded part of it. A portion of her study claims that one unnamed basketball player can not even read or write. The school flat out denied this claim in an official statement, as did UNC Athletic Director, Bubba Cunningham.
“I think that we admit students who can do the work. I have great confidence in our faculty committee that reviews our applications,… Now we also are highly competitive, and our students have to compete Monday through Friday as well as they do on Saturday and I think the ones who are really committed to being outstanding students, they are.”
Besides Willingham’s research being denied, she has also received a number of death threats. She has received at least four death threats and 30 other threatening messages. She believes she is speaking up for the integrity of the University and the benefit of college athletes everywhere. Major universities have faced criticism for exploiting college athletes in money making sports.