North Carolina

Cunningham calls for raising academic entrance requirements for athletes

Posted January 24

— 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.


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  • 4tarheels Jan 30, 1:15 p.m.

    THE Issue is the grade changes and fake classes, not entrance requirements at all schools. Ugh... View More

    — Posted by Alex25

    Actually, the whole Mary Willingham hoopla is centered around UNC athletes not being able to read and not being ready for college. If UNC athletes consistently score better than State and other schools on entrance exams then it is a valid point.

  • Objective Scientist Jan 29, 3:51 p.m.

    ... that next to last sentence in my last post should read "... should NOT remain on the team!"

  • Objective Scientist Jan 29, 3:48 p.m.

    Up front... I'm a "Carolina Guy" - 100% - as much as it is possible to be... I am a "Carolina Guy". That said... with regard to the "grade changes and fake classes". After all the water that has gone over the UNC athletic dam related to that, if we still have those things going on... UNC deserves the NCAA "Death Penalty". Enough is enough!!! With regard to Roy telling the parent(s) of recruits that they (the athlete) are going to do the job academically and they they are going to go to class... ALL athletes that UNC recruits should be expected to do that! UNC football and basketball programs hire people to basically "go to class" with players to insure that they actually go to class! I know a guy who has held such a job for years... I know it happens. No player who has to have an "escort" to insure that he goes to class should ever receive a scholarship. Any player who fails to attend class - ALL ON HIS OWN - should remain on the team!!! Enough of "baby-sitting" athletes!

  • Kenan-FlaglerAlumni Jan 29, 1:20 p.m.

    I would love to see NCSU athletes take the same tests that Willingham administered to UNC athletes. Especially since UNC athletes consistently score better on their college entrance exams.

  • Alex25 Jan 28, 8:04 a.m.

    THE Issue is the grade changes and fake classes, not entrance requirements at all schools. Ugh ...

    Nice detour, Bubba. Not.

  • iamcousinbooger Jan 26, 11:13 p.m.

    Appreciate your comments. I think you best summed it by saying, "For now, patience while the SoS, the DA, and the Courts do their work. Not much longer to wait. Will be interesting for everyone."

    I have looked at various articles, googled information and have come to the conclusion that no one other than the investigators with the SOS, the SBI and the DA's office honestly know
    what happened at UNC. With a system in place to help those student-athletes I simply do not
    understand how all of this could have happened at UNC.

    Right or wrong, I, personally, believe there was a deliberate, systematic effort to bypass all the safeguards which the UNC administration had in place to protect those student-athletes.
    I also think we'll see the NCAA revisit this issue with UNC once the judicial system completes
    it's work.

  • Gunnstigator Jan 26, 10:21 p.m.

    Maybe raise them nationwide, but that's what is funny about the UNC situation. The athletes... View More

    — Posted by 4tarheels

    The problem most of us have is that all we have to look at when it comes to data about SATs,... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    There are a couple of UNC System report which have the SATs for each campus broken out, usually... View More

    — Posted by unc70

    And don't forget the student/athlete that wanted to study abroad but couldn't due to his athletic responsibilities. Willingham brought up examples like the student athlete who wanted to teach art, but the supplies are too expensive. Are these really examples of student athletes not getting the education they're entitled to? Somehow, I don't think so.

  • unc70 Jan 26, 9:10 p.m.

    UNC70 noted that:
    "But remember these student athletes over SAT, even though many have dyslexia... View More

    — Posted by iamcousinbooger

    Yes. UNC has an excellent support program for all students with disabilities. Because of the ADA, UNC can't reveal anything concerning specific student. There are several articles by Vickers at the Pope Center and others. I've posted the links in several forum threads.

    Willingham worked as a teacher in that area. She has LD Certification.

  • iamcousinbooger Jan 26, 3:49 p.m.

    UNC70 noted that:
    "But remember these student athletes over SAT, even though many have dyslexia or other LDs. UNC has to be very careful with anything that is covered under FERPA or ADA."

    If any student-athletes with questionable academic credentials were documented to have been suffering from dyslexia or other learning disabilities did UNC have any programs in
    place to support or assist those students? If that is the case then those records should be reviewed very carefully to see exactly what UNC was doing to help those students.

  • unc70 Jan 26, 12:18 p.m.

    The best action is an aggressive education program at pre-K for children at risk. It is not free daycare for lazy parents; dyslexia is genetic, so the parents and other family members also have great difficulty reading and certainly lack the special training and resources required.

    But if not pre-K, then provide the special ed as soon as possible. But remember these student athletes over SAT, even though many have dyslexia or other LDs. UNC has to be very careful with anything that is covered under FERPA or ADA. Willingham seems to be provoking most everyone in CH, hoping that someone will make a mistake. You don't want to discuss specific student athletes in public.

    For now, patience while the SoS, the DA, and the Courts do their work. Not much longer to wait. Will be interesting for everyone




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