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U of O to present whistleblower of Tar Heels athletics scandal

September 26, 2016
By cnp
Posted in Community Events

Mary Willingham, the whistleblower who helped uncover academic fraud involving hundreds of athletes at the University of North Carolina, will speak at University of the Ozarks on Thursday, Oct. 13.

The event, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the Rogers Conference Center, is part of the University’s 2016-17 Walton Arts & ideas Series. It is free and open to the public.

Willingham is the former athletics literacy counselor at UNC who blew the whistle in 2012 about the fake classes that went on for nearly 20 years at the prestigious university, the largest academic scandal in NCAA history. In 2015, she co-authored  the book, "Cheated: The UNC Scandal, The Education of Athletes, And The Future of Big-Time College Sports," which unveiled a corrupt academic system for student-athletes at UNC, home of the legendary Tar Heels.

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Mary Willingham, a former athletics literacy counselor who helped uncover academic fraud in the University of North Carolina’s athletic program, will speak at Ozarks on Thursday, Oct. 13.

Willingham spent years fielding attacks from university officials?including accusations that she was lying when she said that officials within the athletic department steered underprepared athletes into the fake classes to keep them eligible.  For nearly five years, UNC denied those claims, but Willingham refused to keep quiet. She first told her story to the News & Observer in Raleigh, and then to national media.

North Carolina received a notice of allegations from the NCAA in 2015, accusing the school of committing five severe violations from 2002-2011, including a lack of institutional control of its athletic department.

An author, educator, activist and human resources professional, Willingham said she continues to work on college athletics reform. Her research includes studies on the NCAA and university admission procedures with regards to profiting athletes, and their specific gaps in basic skill deficits.

Willingham is a co-owner of Paper Class Inc., a company dedicated to raising awareness about the need for NCAA reform and PCRead, a non-profit literacy organization.

In 2014, she was in Taylor Branch’s Documentary, "Schooled: The Price of College Sport", Bob Edwards Documentary, "Dropping the Ball," and appeared on HBO Real Sports, ESPN Outside the Lines and CNN’s "Some College Athletes Play Like Adults, Read Like 5th Graders" with Sara Ganim. She was also featured in Paul Barrett’s February 2014 cover story, "In Fake Classes Scandal, UNC Fails Its Athletes?and Whistle-Blower" in Bloomberg Business Week Magazine.

She has recently co-authored commentary published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The News & Observer, and Inside Higher Education. Willingham has a degree in psychology from Loyola University in Chicago, and a master’s degree in liberal studies from UNC-Greensboro.