When you read or hear the statement “winning at all costs”…what is the FIRST thing that comes to mind? It is likely safe to assume that most would focus their thoughts on PED’s (performance enhancing drugs).
However, a winning at all costs attitude can take many forms…one of which was recently highlighted by Steve Delsohn in an Outside the Lines ESPN video piece UNC Academic Scandal: Whistleblower, Former Athlete Speak Out.
In it, Mary Willingham (former Learning Specialist for UNC-Chapel Hill) and former UNC football player Deunta Williams reveal a different kind of “winning at all costs” attitude. One that puts the future of college athletes at risk, where learning and real academic success was relegated to the bottom of the list, and where the practice of fake classes (“paper classes”) becomes commonplace…and is encouraged.
Ms. Willingham starts out the interview with a startling statement…putting everything into context…that student reading levels of some UNC athletes, individuals certified by compliance to compete and who supposedly meet academic standards, were at a second- or third-grade level. Something she explains would be considered illiterate for an adult.
Here…take a look:
Bringing this all into ultra-focus is Mary’s statement toward the end of the video:
“I think that to keep winning and to keep these athletes eligible we had to do something and so we cheated.”
Hey…here’s a novel idea. How about building remedial programs that MUST be taken, ones that will build student reading skills…student learning, instead of taking the easy way out by encouraging these paper classes? How about NOT accepting anything below minimum standards and offering ways…options…so student athletes CAN work their way back in…if they are willing to put forth the efforts. You know…you get what you earn…NOT we’ll make it easy for you if you can help us win.
I know from personal experience that what Mary Willingham describes is not specific to just UNC…but goes on at, likely, many other universities…and in many other forms. In fact, I know of athletes being pressured to “help” other athletes (who are less than capable and not necessarily willing to put forth the effort) in order to make sure they stay eligible…so they can “win” games.
Yep…“winning at all costs” can take many forms…something that ultimately takes away from the athlete ALL that can be learned.