Two majors stories surfaced this week that could potentially change the future of the NCAA and Division I athletics. ESPN aired an interview with Mary Willingham, a former learning specialist at the University of North Carolina Academic Support Program for student-athletes. She claims that she interacted with many students that were offered fake college classes to raise their GPA and maintain their athletic eligibility. She said that some athletes “couldn’t write a paper. They couldn’t write a paragraph. They couldn’t write a sentence.” She added that some were reading at a second grade level. The classes in question were called “paper classes” or “independent studies.” No attendance was required. A former UNC football player, Deunta Williams, confirmed Willingham’s account. He added that the student advisors made the athletes aware of these “classes” and that they would receive “an easy B” or higher. Ms. Willingham is convinced that the faculty and administration were well-aware of this scam. She presented evidence of a paper a student-athlete had submitted that “was not close to college work, yet this athlete was awarded an A minus.” Others have since reported that this paper was simply plagiarized from Rosa Parks’ autobiography. Since the students are not receiving a real education, she feels UNC cheats, but she acknowledges that other schools do as well. In a separate story, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Northwestern University football players were primarily employees who work for the school rather than students who attend the school. As such, they were granted the right to form a union. Peter Sung Ohr, a director at the NLRB, found that scholarships were a form of salary, as opposed to financial aid. During the football season, athletes spend 40-60 hours per week on football-related duties, and academics therefore, could not be a priority. At present, the ruling is limited to the football players at Northwestern. Other private college athletes may seek similar recognition. State colleges will not be affected since the NLRB has no authority over such institutions. It is likely that this ruling will be appealed, and ultimately it will end up in federal court.
TeenJury will keep up updated on both matters.
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