Roy Williams finds CNN report on athletes' reading skills 'totally unfair'

acarter@newsobserver.comJanuary 9, 2014 

UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams and other university officials say whistleblower Mary Willingham’s claims about academically challenged athletes are unfair, and untrue as they pertain to an unnamed basketball player she said could neither read nor write.

RWILLETT@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

— North Carolina coach Roy Williams strongly admonished a CNN report in which Mary Willingham, a UNC-Chapel Hill employee who once served as a learning specialist who worked with athletes, said that a former UNC basketball player could not read or write.

Willingham said she analyzed enrollment data of 183 athletes admitted between 2004 and 2012 and found 60 percent of them were reading on an elementary or middle school level. She said about 10 percent of them could not read.

Willingham told CNN specifically about a former UNC basketball player who she claimed was illiterate. Williams strongly refuted the report Wednesday night.

“I don’t believe that’s true,” Williams said. “It’s totally unfair. I’m really proud of the kids we’ve brought in here. I’m really proud of what our student-athletes have done. That’s not fair. I’ve been here 10 recruiting classes, I guess. We haven’t brought anybody in like that. We’ve had one senior since I’ve been here that did not graduate. Anybody can make any statement they want to make, but that is not fair.”

Willingham’s research has brought more bad publicity to UNC, which has been reeling amid several scandals, including a widespread NCAA investigation that led to major sanctions and the revelation that the Afro- and African-American Studies Department was rife with fraudulent classes that helped some athletes stay eligible to play.

Williams, though, defended the university’s integrity.

“The University of North Carolina doesn’t do that,” he said of admitting students who can’t read. “The University of North Carolina doesn’t stand for that. And I think it’s – I don’t believe it’s true, and I’m really, really bothered by the whole thing. People have taken their chances and (have been) beating up on us for quite a while. But we’re going to survive this.

“And I’m really proud of my kids. Anybody says anything like that like – that’s not right. And every kid – and I can’t say others – but I know what the program’s been for 100 years. Every one of the kids that we’ve recruited in 10 years you’d take home with you and let (them) guard your grandchildren. And I’m really proud of my kids.”

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