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UNC president responds to CNN report on athlete literacy

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -

University of North Carolina System President Tom Ross addressed the CNN report that said some UNC-Chapel Hill athletes could not read above an eighth-grade level.

Earlier in the week, CNN ran a story that included statements from academic counselor Mary Willingham.

Willingham said there are athletes at UNC who are reading at a third- and fourth-grade level. She said there is no way for them to succeed in a college classroom; the only place they can succeed is on the football field.

Looking at 183 football and basketball players between 2004 and 2012, Willingham found that 8 percent were reading below a fourth-grade level and 60 percent were between a fourth- and eighth-grade reading level.

Before Ross responded, he said the system did not have the information it needed at this point.

"We need to look at those facts and see what - if any research was done and what it shows," Ross said. "I don't think we have the information about that at this point."

But Mary Willingham's information was apparently shared with the school by her, according to CNN.

CNN cites email exchanges between Willingham and a vice provost, as well as with a member of the school's committee on academics and athletics. Plus Willingham said the data on student athletes she used in her research was collected by the school since 2008.

Ross isn't the only one calling Willingham's data into question.

UNC men's head basketball coach Roy Williams addressed the CNN following the Tar Heels loss to Miami Wednesday night.

"I don't believe it's true and it's totally unfair," Williams said in his post-game press conference.

As the allegations continue to swirl about the campus, Ross said UNC's reputation has taken a hit from the scandal.

"It's definitely damaged the University in some ways but I don't think it's permanent damage," Ross said.

Ross also said he thinks student athletes are being unfairly targeted when there are other students who are not athletes that are struggling with academics.

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Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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