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Mary Willingham - University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Apr 3, 2014|

Willingham, the centerpiece of an HBO Real Sports investigation into academic fraud at UNC, joins Isaac and Suke to discuss the landscape of college sports.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

It's all gone down at the University of North Carolina. Featured on ESPN NH BO stories of bogus. Classes. Phony paper writing. For urged faculty signatures. Grade changes. Lecture classes that never met. And a woman who is -- bringing all this to light is joining us now on the guild mortgage mobile hotline I'm talking about the color the whistle blower. I'm Mary Willingham thank you for joining us Mary -- You for having -- and I'm doing really well. And he got Isaak in Jason here. Actually. Yet appreciate you coming on this is really interesting stuff to us and we're just basically -- -- on a fact finding mission here but the the first thing I'd like to know for me is why are you doing this mean it seems like you're getting a lot of scrutiny for this. Yeah actually work its athletic department here at University of North Carolina chapel built from 2003 to 2010. I was aware of all this fraud and -- it took me probably a little loud not learning curve but it. I'll be around 2000 or 2005 I kind of understood what was really going on -- I called it would be asking eligibility has not really doesn't quite look like our other degrees there are other features. And I was quiet night and income and complicit for a very long time because I live in Chapel Hill and I keep our big UNC fans my hat into the UN -- and then. You know we got to get to all the gains sentiment and it would -- that it. We won two national championship in basketball while I was working in the athletic department. They did run. I'm glad I -- Decided that -- -- hundreds of young men that I failed on didn't get a real education and I am an educator. And that is wrong and I decided that it was time for me that speak out. And what is -- is done for you personally what sort of repercussions have come your way since he started speaking out. Well there's some people on here in the community. There's some people on chat board that is that says they're not affiliated with the university that they really are inside Carolina. I'm actually some people in the athletic department that I worked with them and who can after I left in 2000 and they've been very. -- mean a lot of hate mail from boosters as well as these people on the call themselves fans took short for fanatic. They pushed out my husband didn't didn't and it stopped frequent them they've pushed out my address. I'm they'd they'd -- me death threat to spend. And it's been pretty amazing to see it out interest in our culture is. In athletics over academics but I've also had more and more positive support and negatives. But this is Mary Willingham she is an academic advisor attend North Carolina she tutored at football and basketball players he she says read it. Grade school levels so. Where does it go wrong I mean who's to blame where does the system fail almost a mean you can. You can blame the the pressure from from big time athletics EE could certainly going university administration you can blame admissions I mean. Where you point the finger most. Well I mean it's technically the front door where we take student and who are promising them a contract. Ever gonna provider really. Education to them in exchange for there. Athletic and I mean we know that that we can't possibly do that you can't teach someone -- you know middle school level or below. This scenic competitive schools like Carolina but at any school across the country you can't really do college level work. The dispute is just so I'm -- actually under prepared but honestly all of us participate in this fraud because we watched. And we love college sports I mean you know you know look at the NCAA tournament you know -- nine. You guys tell me if you think those others student athlete and think that there's -- -- Well it's a it's a valid point and when anyone. Brings up the whole paper player whether -- should be compensated. In in this is -- has always driven me notes for years and and I speak out about -- get a lot of help for it. Where people say what they are being -- the tune of of an education and I had to pay for but. My argument is how these kids are getting paid in something that they can't use what good is a 70000 dollar a year in North Carolina education when you can barely read -- write. I mean it and and that's exactly you know that's exactly the problem and in addition we're not even covering the full field where the full cost of attendance. So you know others they're still taking out loans. I would have four -- five football players in my office. At the end of the masters and coming up here North Carolina a couple of weeks. They would be out of food. The training table being closed. You know they would have nothing left on their food cardinal slightly refer to them as students here. And -- -- the -- -- you know there's nothing left and then I looked out the window. Acting like my lacrosse guys on the parking lot is brand new BMW convertible that it that bottom. So you know we've got to sports pain for the 26 other sport. You know football basketball paper everything else and yet either of the guys that I have limited access. And they're not from privileged background. It's just the system. That you know I think it is civil rights issue personally to his system that just encoded at Taylor Branch said -- consistently not equitable. At all the good the argument that I always get. Thrown in my faces when it when I see these kids are getting educated is is people try to put it back on the kids I get so much feedback about this. What you say you're there for five years you have every chance to get an education and if you don't. It's that kid's fault no one else's how do you respond to that. All my responses that our K12 system is broken. So they come to that already under prepared and I had at one of our famous basketball player that University of North Carolina county that in fifth grade. One of the teachers told them. Look you're not gonna have been reading writing and any higher grade level that you are we can't teach ourselves to chill on game days because we're gonna. Pushing through. And he played football and basketball that point. Of course middle school -- high school on many came to -- as a basketball player but even so. Under prepared. For the academic rigor there's no laying that we could have given a legitimate degree. You know and so he's not really getting anything. And not at all if it is fifth grade teacher's fault -- -- parents' fault that the system's fault and after related question that I think we need stopped playing the blame game. We've seen this sort this out and figure out how to provide all of our. We all our students with a real education. This is very Willingham in North Carolina here on -- eighty the fan and Comcast sports net. Expand on EE said that you think it's a civil rights -- issue. Expand on that element of it if you would. All right they've got these to export act on the profit sport that's Richard south hall now. -- South Carolina -- Big research sports writer researcher. And eat -- he called in the profit sport and the expenditure sports so -- sport. Then football basketball Carolina paper these 26 -- -- and you know what they are all and field hockey and lacrosse and swimming and diving and so on and so forth and look at but it. Demographics of the sport to sport football black basketball. Male. The other sports. 26. Dominantly white students from privileged back. So. I would I asked the question all the time and I didn't think Carolina -- he'll -- a couple of classes -- are amazing national actually worked everything else. I'm not that I asked me you didn't. It is these two young men football men's basketball that they are made up of white students would we be treating them. You know they just -- that kind of look at me they don't they can't answer. None -- -- have the answer to that but you know these are these kids come from loads of economic background. They have not had access to a real education -- county's poor communities in North Carolina. And we didn't even have a voice to the table we actually told them not to talk to the media not to talk to their professors not to talk. Two adult. Without one of their coaches president. Acceptable. What's the scope it distant from your experience what percentage. Of these athletes don't get a real education. Well I mean football basketball I think our. NCAA Bogut. Statistic that they push out dated at about 50% which already unacceptable but it left the -- -- at University of North Carolina near Chapel Hill. We actually bragged that our graduation rates would slip on basketball are pretty high. However those died during two from 20032010. That I worked with. We're in a fraudulent paper class system and I think these systems exist all across I know these systems that. It is dollar -- to countries so. No there there are transcripts are peppered with eight classes. Don't add on another when you're 25%. Excuse me -- students who -- getting a real education at all so I think the number is so small. And end that we have to state of the NCAA how many of these guys are using this supposed education that they get because there's no studies which show that. Lot of them are just making money if they're making money at all after all of their athletic capital. -- to be the basketball players I think there's football players all over the country. Who are not making any money I've talked and they lost their power washing houses. There there you know. They're working location jobs are on search shipped to Iraq independent third -- at the target neither -- that supposedly -- came -- Carolina -- got -- degrees. You know. In the in the keeping here's this is not just -- North Carolina this is across most major division one universities when you're talking about football and basketball. I mean someday we're gonna look back and I hope -- you know two to three to five years from now after -- hopefully win all -- court cases that aren't played that. I think we will. We look back at stake how why did we do it. This was criminal this this horrible how hard could it possibly could for so long. Well I saw one of the papers that you had brought that was in one of these African American studies -- adjusted to kind of let people know that the scope of of this fraud. This young man hadn't attended a class there was no professor and all they had to do is write one term paper at the end of the year. And that was the only requirement and in it's out there you confided if you Google. You know this story. He rode a 146. Word essay on Rosa Parks that was look like he was written by -- fifth grader he got a -- minus the class for that. 146 were paper. Right and so teach that would be a candidate that he'd. Not a -- introductory African American studies class about actually did that paper. And -- final update not not to be confused with the paper class system which is kind of where the media got it all confused that saint student took that role. Maybe it doesn't paper classes and was writing and I think that was about a third or fourth grade level. There. I think last year either with a degree and that particular case I believe that you left without -- nevertheless. Because we don't even at. We have a problem still here at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill we have athletes who are here today are not getting the help that they need. Yet there entertaining on game day. Union isn't an amazing that at a school like USC Reggie Bush -- family gets whatever was 200000 dollars from an agent someone not affiliated with the school. And USC just gets the hammer dropped on them and Reggie Bush is the dirty this guy ever at USC is a -- program. But whether it's the university of Minnesota Florida State North Carolina. Baylor any of the schools that have had some of these academic issues come up which goes to the foundation. Of what the NCAA is all about there's no outrage over this. We hear more about a player's dad getting a car or cam Newton's dad getting to church that we do about the basic fundamental mission of the NCAA. Deliberately being. Screwed over by the university's. I -- we can't open that pandora's box because once we open the academic box. I mean it's so frightening. It just is everywhere and so then the whole system. Becomes of pride because the NCAA. Is. Is not really promising and then they're not really making good on any of their promises and the university systems are just going right right along with them it's a cartel. And -- it it's it's organized crime. It's unbelievable and it work and we're gonna dismantle it we're about to dismantle it between the northwestern case you batting -- the Catholic case there's been building. -- congress right now. I don't think there's any turning back the curtain has been pulled and I think people are starting to -- college sport for what it really is. I continue to Timor on that and that's a good placed upon as if he can you stay with this marries a possible PD do another segment. -- ground did you hold and that we're gonna combat but more because that's -- -- hit nine. Now let's again look like what's gonna have -- ago -- -- this will get to that next with a merry Willingham she is. An academic advisor out at North Carolina who tutored. Football and basketball players there she says many of them read at grade school levels and you know let -- cartels it's it's pretty. -- strong words so -- continue this conversation with Mary when we return it's 415. In you've got eyes against UConn 1080 the fan. We're chatting with -- Willingham from North Carolina the academic advisor who they call the whistle blower on the -- academic fraud going on. They're in Chapel Hill and as she joins us for another segment you know marry one of the things that we get a lot we've talked about this before on the show us most certainly earlier this weekend. Some folks will say well you know a lot of kids going to college in and not all of them. Use their degree your date they take majors because they're easy. I wonder if you could just outlined his I don't think we did that quite well enough in the first segment. Just the difference between. You know kind of help connect an athlete through and in getting a degree vs what you saw in terms of just how fraudulent. These. You know. Diplomas that they're getting more. On graduation I cannot University of North Carolina just kind of -- and that I've been doing for the last. Public masters and so I see all the worksheets that are amazing students. No put together with regard to progress -- Syrians have double majors and minors and they studied abroad they've done in -- it they've done re search in 08 until they picked their own classes intentionally. And Deke then. You know what they've taken and what they've been injured and and then you you -- next to. I did you know I should -- basketball players worksheet with progress towards -- very didn't see that they're all in the same. -- clustering on the same boat classes. It would defectors we know are gonna patent through my best example of the that this class called drama 160 that they all -- And it down it stagecraft. So it's really meant for a drama major who is going to see immediate staged act. And I don't really can't really imagine that any football player basketball players to be that staged attack ever. DB that it doesn't but they all take the class because it's a meeting today. And it's been going on for like twenty years. So you won't really find that plaque on anybody else's. Worksheet except maybe a drama major who is going to be yes -- -- which is great. And so it it seemed like that that are just so obvious just a bunch of mismatch classes. That we used to keep players eligible so we -- 78. Major at Carolina and we have a 79 major pro football basketball players that should be acting eligibility. Well it's amazing just after our first conversation a couple of days ago and and I read through you know some of -- you have you have a website will -- to get that out to. But I just. Kind of sort of randomly going around at some of the bigger football and basketball universities. And and they only at some of them don't like Alabama does even with their majors but a lot of them do for juniors and seniors and it is shocked -- How many I mean it's it's it's like and an 80% clip at just about every school that they're juniors and seniors are major and in the exact same thing and it's it's called different things and but you know at USC had -- and organ stated to -- at Florida State's. At Syracuse is -- it's. I just went around and every single one of them you -- one or two majors all almost exclusively. Listed for that this seniors and and in juniors aren't just about every football -- basketball team. Right and get professor as -- get. Yes students out there calling me leaving -- messages about. Well you're putting down telecommunications. -- you're putting down an African American studies major now I'm not I'm not putting down -- teenagers. Because if you -- if you take a worksheet have a real student. Not a student athlete but not an athlete and student. Hold them updated in a completely different it's not about the majors just about whatever we can do to get past these kids through. And -- they leave with more hours than they even hate to graduate. It didn't really get a degree which should shock all of us. Yeah in touch -- -- -- all of us because it just so Bogut. And they're young people and their trapping the adult. And the adults are feeling. I think one of the reasons why your kid is that I think a lot of people kind of yeah I mean you kind. -- had feelings that this stuff is going on -- don't know what seem to what degree. And that's kind of what you're shedding light on is it just it sports is so has gotten so big that. Pretty much everyone's complicit like you said I mean -- Europe stand up North Carolina you've been there you kids their fans and you were involved and is it is it just this fear of ruffling feathers with the high and mighty athletics that has become. Really the real problem with us. I think that is the problem acting you know game days are spectacular there's no question and then. I live really close to campus can actually live around and how the thirteen -- houses people own houses just to come here for game. So it got to be -- -- so important people that. You know you know and to which they will go to providing -- entertainment is -- cute and I think. You know -- 60080000. People you know cheering the quarterback it's it's a big deal. People feel good about it and it's what makes us feel good. And yeah. Dick Clark Howell the tactic the NCAA the only controlling bodies and they control everything and you know people are just afraid days they're scary. All of these -- -- are ticking time money. Connecting people I wish more people would speak out. I keep calling on people to speak out but they're they're afraid. Lending to both times you do your freighter the blow back is is so hard against you that you get labeled as another crack pot and you hit a lot of venom in people. Don't see the the personal interest in this with. At some whistle -- and in fact the history of whistleblowers at the NCAA champion most of Marquette. Hello I'm usually pretty great that committed suicide or they've gotten that car and it is the real scary business but. I'm I'm I'm alive I'm well. I'm not going to you can see all the pieces of the athlete that I helped and I don't want their children we're also going to be amazing athlete. Come didn't sit down and have to tolerate this fraud and lied -- and had to tolerate. Knew you were there for two national championships in basketball the football team had varying levels of of success but just from your experience and I think North Carolina you can extrapolate that out to any meiji university. What is athletics look like if these kids were actually required to do real work. -- or basically not be on the team because that's with the into doubly supposed to be. I go on on a basketball roster of twelve in your experience how many of them could actually exist. Any real academic sense at at North Carolina. Mom probably year now. Because -- -- years you know it -- full time job with travel with media without the united interview and hand. And they they had injuries lot of injuries. And the you know their paraded around like superstars like heroes. They have that life is well. -- you can -- and take classes. Mean not my regular students who aren't athletes on the that they studied -- -- hour of the week it Carolina has to keep up with all the papers and all the -- And these guys are they've gotten more than a full time job and in March they're pretty much gone at least they were when I was in an apartment because they're winning so much. In time they're they're not they would not have been admitted to the university under any or other circumstances except that they can play ball. I said the cartel scrambling you you mentioned that all these lawsuits and am with a completely did did the you know the jury's out on this. This so I stopped short of calling it a fix but what do you think it's going to look like once all this stuff comes down how does this get rectified. All the first thing -- asked if I talked to the type -- about that today he was going to be ESPN peace with me and I said look. You know you -- have to be at the table it's one thing from Mary Willingham are all the other adults to be saying what you want. You -- you know at my -- I have three kids are grown now at them when they want. What do you guys want. And we need act the players. Asked the president what it is that they want and what they need it when they have a -- at the table that's when things are gonna really change. And my recommendation with education. And some of the players that talked to including -- I -- agreed with me that if you come in one standard deviation below regular emission standards. Need a fifteen month remedial program and we need to preempt -- you and prove that you're ready for college work we can do it. It would work. We can provide student athlete with a real education. What was your experience and by that I think that's a phenomenal idea what was your experience in in how these athletes. Viewed the the system I know that when when I was going to school. I said in on some classes with some kids and I felt bad for them because it did they were so will fully prepared. And they would -- cheat off someone's -- store or try to find being goal to get by and I judges that let me was such a horrific feeling. Knowing that they're sitting there classy you just feel. It adequate in every single way to be there was that your spirits -- there was a sense of embarrassment or was there a sense of entitlement of hey this is great -- to do everything. Well -- I think everyone wants to be Smart so my experience was that. You know these guys already felt they were wounded learners they -- -- Smart. Then you're sitting in these classes that are still above they would like any of medical schools are actually like a complete fool when the world is going on at all and just not a appeared from medical school and take me a good two years ago back right -- -- -- -- do -- but to go back and take all the science classes -- -- they just didn't feel comfortable they didn't feel like they did and you know that there there definitely separates they don't have a college experience at all. So you know the few guys that hit -- I didn't come here for education -- I came here to play football or basketball. You know that there are few and far between. I think all young people and acting even adult. We don't feel less then. We want a Smart we wanted to feel valued in my honest feeling like a member of our community. So I don't think we're doing them serviced at all and my experience like that. You know they wanted more from the adults and they were looking to us to provide more than they're providing Japan. Two things before that you go one is you kind of alluded to before but this seems almost exclusively to be a basketball and the football thing did you see any of this. In in the other you know twenty plus Boortz. And is there anyone at the university from a coach to. To an athletic director that had any sort of I don't know just guilt or at least tried to do something to fix it or is it just the machine that everyone looks the other way. While I should. Bad baseball when they. It started going to Omaha got involved in some of the fraud I women's soccer is where you. You know we've got it and she's in women's soccer program here twenty some years of national championships at these these girls go to Olympics and they go to world. Competition and so they got involved in the fraud. And certainly any other athlete that is brought to be that that. And the brush it whether it was or swear. Or a hockey place where I mean there's definitely dabbling in eight classes so -- it to machine. The coaches know I haven't had one single coached. At University of North Carolina -- me out. And today I agree with you not want national coach. I'd I didn't. I know most of did they don't talk to media athletic people don't talk to me they're very very angry at me. Do you think he'll be working there much longer. I think that we suffered irreconcilable differences and I've made promises to student and two grad assistants that I'm gonna make it through that semester. And then I think that I'm gonna be called to do some more important work. Decent the -- the work with the -- try legacy program. Hear it in North Carolina and you know his last wish was here. The president here for many many years in the university system in his last wish when he died. And in the fall 2012 with that everyone in North Carolina has access to. That we teach writing tutors. So I'd like to participate in that. Program and you know on to move on I think at some point but I'm waiting for the university to. Make a final. Statement against the agreement that's filed if it doesn't help me I'd like you can at least help the next person who decides to tell the truth. Perhaps they'll be protected in a way that I want him. Do you know if if so what what sanctions or what investigation the NCAA has done into this because clearly this is. And NCAA violation. I've never spoken to an -- NCAA. Paid represented rights -- spoke to a UNC. Paid NCAA representative but I don't count at that person. Competition really recognize these two double and not spoken to joining nor have I heard that they're coming on our campus again it pandora's box. Mean it all you have to do is look at the transcript. And you'll see the broad it is so blatantly evident and it's been going on for two decades. So what are the NCAA do what. -- huge question and I think it's gonna play out the next several court cases. I think you'll have the answer may -- by the end of the summertime and we're gonna have a new -- like Vatican two. NCAA to. And yes I think you're I think the courts and in all this union step analyst hockey can definitely see the momentum while it was. A good talking to you thank you for your perspective -- Willingham appreciate you joining our show. Thank you for having me appreciate I appreciate you calling me -- thank you. Yen and good luck -- look at all your future endeavors they're that's very -- him she -- academic advisor. -- North Carolina -- joining us there on the guild the mortgage mobile hot line. We get a lot there's like thirty minutes of it. There's a lot to chew on but I want you directory header on the fact that the NCAA has not spoken to this -- who want to us. You US him guidance well look at a guy got to ride in a golf cart and yet the NCAA has yet to speak to this woman. I would like to reiterate. As you know I see your text feedback and search. She. And she's never said anything otherwise. One little postscript. She is only talking about a certain percentage. Of the student athletes that she was. You know I think she said there are some like 800 total student athletes in North Carolina what we just disgust. Was about a 123. Of that 800 football invest there are a lot of student athletes including football players and basketball players who have legitimate. Take legitimate courses and and follow all the guidelines to get legitimate degrees. But what she's highlighting is another part of it. Most justice that even the legitimate ones when asked her how many basketball players could actually exist she Sid zero he had but he again I -- not the point isn't the end all beyond legislation is trying to make is even if you are record -- -- a real student in -- tried to do work. The demands. Of basketball. Would keep you from actually succeeding in any sort of real classes you said that the soccer team had to dip into that because of -- All I'm doing is pointing out by the way you played college football and you got a degree yes on doing is playing out there are guys who who many of them. -- who go through the system and they do just fine it's in -- So for real degree and I had to work my ass off and does not like I said it's hard that looks like -- -- -- get all I wanted to do was point out that we're not talking about all about a hundred student athletes here today is Betty I think it's -- it is -- from listening to her top. It's much wider spread. -- high. Thought at least that in her experience -- north Carol I think it's at every university and I think that the system itself is rotten to the court.

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