Mary Willingham deserves a medal. As much as anyone in recent years, the University of North Carolina instructor has helped shed light on how big-time college athletics corrupts academics and robs students of the education they deserve.
Rather than honors, Willingham has received insults and a demotion. Now, in a despicable character-assassination campaign, the powers that be at Chapel Hill are calling her a liar. The situation demands national attention because UNC, widely perceived as a paragon public institution, has become ground zero in the conflict between the industry that is Division One sports and the mission of providing higher education.
As I’ve noted in a series of recent posts (for example, here and here), Chapel Hill offers an especially revelatory example of how higher education suffers under the pressure to keep athletes in the “revenue sports” of football and basketball eligible to play. My dispatches have drawn on three years of investigative work by the News & Observer of Raleigh. ...
This week, CNN added valuable fuel to the fire. The cable network produced an investigative survey showing that at public-university sports powers across the country, dismaying numbers of varsity athletes can barely read or write. UNC played a dubious starring role in the CNN report, and Willingham served as an insider-narrator. She told CNN of one Tar Heel basketball player who couldn’t read or write. Another athlete asked her to teach him to read well enough to follow news accounts of his games.
In a 2011 post, It's time to tax college athletics, I argued that:
As non-profit organizations, NCAA colleges and universities are mostly tax exempt. At present, that includes the huge profits that are generated by many big time football and basketball programs (of course, not all are profitable; some are cash sinks dragging down the rest pf the university).
These profits go to support enormous salaries for coaches, bowl game officials, top NCAA executives, athletic department staff, and so on. Sure, at some schools, some pittance goes to support non-revenue sports, but that can't excuse the massive corruption that pervades revenue sports.
Because it is now obvious that college athletics does not advance the exempt educational purposes of colleges and universities, it's time to start taxing college athletics. And subjecting them to antitrust klaws and all the other regulations that other business must comply with.