by Kent Sterling
Mary Willingham is a polarizing person in the college athletics world.
Her research shows 60% of the University of North Carolina football and men’s basketball players with whom she worked as an academic advisor read and write at anywhere from a 4th to 8th grade level, and 10% don’t fare quite that well.
UNC wonks believe her research serves an agenda designed to demean athletes. Those who are suspicious of the intentions of coaches making millions to win football and basketball through the efforts of young athletes not yet eligible to play in the NFL or NBA view her as a lonely voice of reason among the din of those who like the system as is.
Tar Heel administrators and boosters say Willingham’s research is flawed and the results spurious. Other hail Willingham as a hero who is a champion of student-athletes whose physical abilities are being used by the school while being compensated with an education they have difficulty participating in.
Willingham took some time to talk to Chris Hagan and I during today’s “Ahead of the Curve” on 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis, and she presented a compelling case that her interest is in helping those exploited by a system designed to bring millions into FBS universities.
Out on a limb alone, Willingham is being shouted down by many within the academic community at the University of North Carolina @ Chapel Hill, but she continues to speak out as an advocate for student-athletes who report for duty at a school with a taxing curriculum like UNC ready only to meet the challenges on the gridiron or hardwood.
Listen to the interview yourself and draw your own conclusions. (Interview player is beneath poll)