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The plot thickens for UNC as a whistle blower emerges

In this week’s edition of UNC’s “As the Academic Scandal Turns,” yet another significant piece of information has been leaked. A whistle blower has emerged, thus bringing the news once again back into the forefront. Finally a source willing to put a name with her quotes has stepped up. The NCAA will surely have to work harder now to unearth all of the details, right?

The Raleigh News & Observer’s Dan Kane took a direct shot at North Carolina’s credibility when he published the news that a former academic adviser witnessed and was willing to come forward about blatant cheating during her time as a “reading specialist.”  Mary Willingham is the former adviser who stepped forward, saying she was surprised and disturbed by what was going on at the University. Willingham said she was willing to break the silence because of “her frustration over the muted culture of cheating at North Carolina.” According to the report, she stopped working with the athletes and eventually moved to a different department.


From the News & Observer:

Willingham, who still works at the university but not with athletes, said she lodged complaints at least two years before UNC’s academic problems erupted into scandal. She channeled some of her frustration into a thesis for her master’s degree, on the corrupting influence of big-money sports on university academics.

Among her assertions:

– The no-show classes that had been offered by the chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies date back at least to the time Willingham began working for the support program in 2003. Commonly known within the program as “paper classes,” they were billed as lecture classes, but the classes never met.

Willingham learned of them when she was asked to work with a female athlete on a paper. Willingham said the paper was a “cut-and-paste” job, but when she raised questions about it, staff members told her not to worry. The student later received a grade of B or better.

– Members of the men’s basketball team took no-show classes until the fall semester of 2009, when the team was assigned a new academic counselor. The new counselor was appalled to learn of the classes, and wanted no part of them. University records show the enrollments stopped that semester for basketball players, while they continued for football players.

– Numerous football and basketball players came to the university with academic histories that showed them incapable of doing college-level work, especially at one of the nation’s top public universities. … Some athletes told Willingham they had never read a book or written a paragraph, but they were placed in no-show classes that required a 20-page paper and came away with grades of B or better.

– Roughly five years ago, Bobbi Owen, the senior associate dean who had oversight of the academic support program, sought to rein in the number of independent studies offered by the African studies department, which by then averaged nearly 200 a year. Independent studies required no class time and often not much more than a term paper; they were popular with football and basketball players.

Willingham said she met with university attorneys at their request in mid 2010, during the NCAA investigation, to discuss what happened in 2008. She said they thanked her for coming, and never talked to her again. She said she never heard from the NCAA.


North Carolina is currently in the process of an internal review on the situation. Surely this new information will stir up more attention and perhaps bring about more dialogue in the public about it. The NCAA is said to be overseeing the internal review. The news from Willingham is certainly significant, as she is the first person to publicly put her name behind the assertions that North Carolina tolerated academic cheating. Keep in mind, her claims mentioned both football and basketball players. 


Article written by Ally Tucker

I once successfully requested "The Wobble" to be played 6 times at one wedding.

19 Comments for The plot thickens for UNC as a whistle blower emerges

  1. Walter Kronkite
    5:28 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Isn’t the NCAA embarrassed about their inaction? Seriously. They are looking like fools.

  2. bmt22033
    5:42 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    It will be interesting to see if ESPN picks this news up. Robbi Pickeral, who authors the UNC blog at the ESPN website, worked at the News & Observer for 8 years before she joined ESPN in 2011. I e-mailed her yesterday to ask if she, specifically, or ESPN in general would be reporting on this latest turn of events but you’ll be shocked to know that I’ve received no reply. If this happened at UK, it would be plastered across the front page at for weeks.

  3. Roy Williams
    5:43 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    That daggum academic advisor can’t keep her lips zipped.
    Daggum paper classes were hard classes and our players studied hard for them.
    Can’t have a daggum African Studies class without someone sticking their daggum nose in it.
    They should be investigating that daggum jewlery loan to a Duke player instead of a daggum African Studies class.
    That daggum Tyler’s Mom and now this daggum academic advisor…women are going to be the downfall of this daggum basketball program.

    Excuse me now, I am so daggum upset I think I will go cry.

  4. BBN
    5:44 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Nothing new will come from the NCAA from this development. UNC will attack her character and reputation and it will go away again. The NCAA will do nothing.

  5. I'm Batman
    5:49 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    This should have been one of the first things posted. Glad ksr has its priorities in order. Guess we need headlines such as “ending on the right note.” Keep up the great work guys and keep stealing stories from CatsIllustrated.

  6. Carl
    6:01 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    It’s getting harder and harder for the NCAA to bury this.

  7. Doc
    6:25 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    That such useless endeavors as “Afro-American Studies” is considered a legitimate university degree at all is a reflection of our deteriorating higher education. The lack of academic integrity when money and athletics are involved is only a symptom.

  8. Truth
    6:57 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    If the NCAA truly is a “student first” association then it would have done something in the first place. However, It is not student oriented but money oriented and could care less about this, which is evident by it trying to cover it up and circumventing the issue. It picks and choses its battles and needless to say, its rulings are based on favortism. Its inconsistentcy and inefficiency should be examined and corrected.

  9. njcat
    7:30 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    NCAA / Emert very quick to pile on a criminal matter at PSU where they had little if any jourisdiction, yet in a case of obvious academic fraud where players fraudulently maintained eligibility – they say / do nothing. Is this what the Univ. presidents really have in mind for a governing body? Hate to be cynical, but maybe it really is just about the money until they are backed into a corner.

    that is, of course, unless it has anything to do w/ a coach on their ‘most wanted’ list…

  10. twnky
    8:01 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Hey Batman, chill out bro. Do you not realize that almost all “reports” of news coming out dont come straight from the point of origin? I think Matt Jones is as goofy as the next guy but do you think that he should have a writer hanging out at unc or puke for that matter? if you dont like the fact that ksr reports something else that has already been reported than break the story yourself, its a free site god sakes. that being said the ncaa wont do a dame thing to them.

  11. Han
    8:31 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    I will be shocked if the NCAA does anything to UNC, or Duke for that matter. It has been clear that they’re trying to do nothing both places. Unless there’s suddenly a change at the top of the NCAA, I doubt either university will be held accountable for their issues.

  12. steve
    8:38 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    it is a mocrocosm of the lack of media integrity in the nation these days. UK equal conservative thinking and UNC equal liberal thinking.

  13. Maxps8
    8:57 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Wow. Of course, this will be all over ESPiN, CBSports, FoxSports, etc… tonight. Or tomorrow. By Tuesday at the latest. Right? Right? If this were KentuckY they’d all stop and drop everything else and 100% The Horrible KentuckY Scandal. (UNC’s SoJ – School of Journalism, Sucks.)

  14. Musehobo
    9:47 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Let’s see here…

    Take Algebra II before Algebra I in high school…big deal
    Commit widespread academic fraud in college (National COLLEGIATE Athletic Association mind you)…no big deal
    Have a school pay for your visit to a school…big deal
    Mysteriously buy $100,000 worth of jewelry with no job in college…no big deal

    I will not shed a tear for them when the super-conferences align and form their own committee under Jay Bilas.

  15. StudentAthlete
    10:10 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Come on guys/gals! I wouldn’t point the finger at UNC before looking inward. Do we really believe our ‘student athletes’ are any different? I highly doubt that Bledsoe, Cousins, Noels, etc have ever read a book or written a paragraph either! Hope I’m wrong.

  16. DCS195
    10:42 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    15). You highly doubting something doesn’t make it so. There are many people fully capable of reading books that as high school seniors or college freshmen never voluntarily read a book that wasn’t required in class, at least after the fourth grade. Liking to read and able to read are two totally different things. When you have some facts, please comment.

  17. Winston Churchill
    11:22 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    15- Actually, yeah, I think our student-athletes actually went to real classes and did real work rather than committing widespread academic fraud over decades like UNC.
    You sound like the type of dickhead that “attended” fraudulent classes yourself.

  18. Big Whoop
    6:03 am November 19, 2012 Permalink

    Gee, I wonder what Bob Knight thinks about this revelation. Since it doesn’t involve UK, my bet is we won’t hear a peep. At least UNC didn’t build a trophy case to celebrate their last win over UK. Duke and UNC will always get a pass, initially, from the NCAA. It looks like their hand will now be forced to take some kind of action. Expect some form of slap on the wrist because “they didn’t mean ot cheat.”

  19. Who cares
    8:46 am November 19, 2012 Permalink

    Why do we even care about this. The guy doing the reporting is a local writer. If this were Jerry Tipton doing a similar article we would be throwing trash on his lawn. If this were Pete Thamel people would be saying he is attacking young men trying to go to college. People… Just let it go! Really, who cares.

    Are we naive enough to think that ‘acedemic advisors’ don’t help our football/basketball players? That our own student athletes don’t have ‘help’ with their studies? Do all of our kids show up for class everyday and stay attentive?