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UNC Rips Willingham, Methodology

And the band played on.

Roy Williams is less than thrilled to have his UNC basketball team under the microscope
Roy Williams is less than thrilled to have his UNC basketball team under the microscope
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC went after Mary Willingham on Friday, ripping into her research methods at the Faculty Council.

The administration made the case that Willingham's methods, and therefore her results, are flawed.

The university pointed specifically to a test called the Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults and suggested she misinterpreted the results and that her conclusions were "virtually meaningless."

Provost Jim Dean said that he and other UNC officials spent more than 200 hours on the research and that the university will have the data and her techniques evaluated by an outside party.

That's the smartest thing we've heard from Chapel Hill lately.

Willingham, in a phone interview with the N&O, contested the university's contentions. From the N&O:

"Willingham said in a phone interview after the meeting that the test is more than a 10-minute vocabulary test. It also includes a writing portion in which the athletes would have been asked to write a paragraph based on questions, she said.

“'It was a combination of the SATA reading and writing (tests) and the SAT and ACT scores,' Willingham said of her data."

The presentation got a mixed response, with some faculty members impressed and some less than that.

Richard Weinberg (cell biology and physiology) said that even if it was flawed, the research could become "a real mess...“I certainly hope that there was no external pressure put on the IRB."

Frank Baumgartner (political science) said it sounded like "a stonewall..."What I see so far, unfortunately, is a strategy of denial and almost anger or resentment when these allegations are being brought up, when they could be brought up anywhere and our university could take this opportunity to become a leader ... to make some real reforms."

It could have. But UNC chose a different path. We'll be very interested to see the independent evaluation.