Roy Williams has enough problems without someone questioning his players' literacy. The UNC-CH basketball coach lashed out today at a report aired yesterday on CNN about college athletes' reading skills. The report claims that many students in college football and basketball programs could not read beyond an eighth grade level, and showed an enormous scholastic gap between college athletes and other students at the same schools.
Former UNC learning specialist Mary Willingham told CNN her research showed that 60 percent of UNC athletes admitted between 2004 and 2012 were reading at an elementary or middle school level, and that about 10 percent of them couldn't read, period. She specifically mentioned a former UNC basketball player who she said was illiterate.
Williams blasted the report, saying, "I don't believe that's true. It's totally unfair . . . we haven't brought anybody in like that."
The CNN report and Williams' comments come at a time when the UNC system is under fire from a number of scandals, the most harmful of which is the NCAA's revelation that the African-American Studies Department was loaded with fraudulent classes designed to let some athletes remain eligible to play. As a result of that mess, the NCAA hit the school with major sanctions.
Coincidentally, the UNC Board of Governors is scheduled to review an annual report on intercollegiate sports at the university's 15 campuses this week. According to Raleigh's News & Observer, the report shows that 12 of the 15 UNC campuses committed NCAA infractions; 22 recruited athletes entered school as "exceptions to minimum course requirements"; and graduation rates in the schools' individual sports programs vary widely from school to school and from sport to sport. As Williams put it, "People have been beating up on us for quite a while," and the addition of the CNN report doesn't help his cause. Williams' team has been criticized this year for its inconsistency and often lackadaisical play. Now the coach is having to deal with additional claims that his organization has greased the rails for topnotch athletes, leaving some of them with mediocre reading skills at best. So far, Williams' season isn't going as planned.