Cunningham calls for raising academic entrance requirements for athletes
Posted January 24
Chapel Hill, N.C. — As the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill continues to face the fallout of an academic adviser's report that many of the school's football and basketball players struggle with basic reading skills, athletic director Bubba Cunningham called Friday for tougher academic standards for student-athletes.
"I think it would be good to increase all the incoming requirements for freshmen," Cunningham said, noting that the NCAA had shelved a proposal to raise high school grade, course and test score requirements set to take effect in 2016.
Cunningham heads a UNC-Chapel Hill panel looking at the lives of student-athletes from the recruiting process to graduation. The group met Friday and shared stories about their efforts to bring the best and brightest to campus.
"If now we are forced to have an admissions criteria that’s as aggressive as Cal’s and Stanford’s, we wouldn’t win," women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance said.
Assistant men's basketball coach C.B. McGrath said head coach Roy Williams is upfront with parents of recruits that their sons must succeed academically.
"He lets the family know – the father figure or mother figure for the student-athlete – they're going to do the job academically," McGrath said. "They're going to do it themselves, (and) they're going to go to class."
Cunningham said the university has done a good job of bringing in good students who also excel on the athletic field or court.
"We work hard to attract students who represent the university well, and I think they do a terrific job," he said. "As the stakes get higher from the academic and athletic standpoint, we want to improve."
The athletic and academic scandals that have haunted UNC-Chapel Hill for the past three years have been difficult, he said.
"I talk to the student-athletes all the time, and everyone would like to move on and look at the future," he said. "This is a great university, but we can get better in a lot of ways, and we’re going to try to do it."
Most recently, academic adviser Mary Willingham told CNN that 60 percent of 183 athletes she studied from 2003 to 2010 read at elementary school levels, and up to 10 percent read no better than a third-grader.
UNC-Chapel Hill officials have disputed Willingham's claims, contending that her research is flawed and that more than 90 percent of the school's student-athletes are college ready.
"I think the provost and chancellor did a great job of defending the students who are here, and I think we're very proud of what those students achieve and represent us very well," Cunningham said, adding that he hasn't seen Willingham's report.