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Assigned Reading: Bloomberg’s Businessweek on North Carolina’s academic scandal


By now, we’ve all heard plenty about the academic scandal currently haunting the North Carolina athletic department.

Long story short, for the last couple of years, news has slowly been trickling out about how Tar Heel football and basketball players have been enrolling in fraudulent classes in the African American studies department under a professor named Julius Nyang’oro.

No-show classes, changed grades, plagiarized papers.

It hasn’t been flattering.

The latest step came when one of the sources for all the reporting on the topic made herself public. Her name is Mary Willingham and she was a tutor for the UNC athletic department that was fed up with the alleged lies and cheating. She discussed publicly how some of the student-athletes that she worked with were illiterate but still somehow capable of remaining eligible to play.

On Wednesday, it got uglier as Business Week published a lengthy cover story on the scandal. Based on the artwork on the cover, I’m guessing it will sell pretty well in Raliegh and Durham. You can go ahead and read it all here.

The one passage that stands out to me the most is the following:

“We pretend,” he says, “that it’s feasible to recruit high school graduates with minimal academic qualifications, give them a full-time job as a football or basketball player at a Division I NCAA school, and somehow have them get up to college-level reading and writing skills at the same time that they’re enrolled in college-level classes.” Willingham’s experience, Southall adds, shows how “we’re all kidding ourselves.” What’s more, in response to escalating demands that undergraduate athletes deserve pay for their services, the NCAA argues that a scholarship and degree are sufficient compensation. The NCAA position crumbles, however, if the parchment represents little or no real education.

To me, that right there is the strongest argument for paying college athletes.

The sad truth is that far too of the athletes that matriculate through the revenue sports at power conference programs are simply unprepared to be able to capitalize on the education they receive. When they leave, if they graduate, all they have is a piece of paper saying they went to North Carolina. They don’t actually have any of the skills or knowledge that come with truly earning that piece of paper.