Latest Scandal News: Willingham Resigns

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Wasn't this inevitable?

The moment Mary Willingham started the ball rolling in January with the CNN report on athlete literacy rates, she had to know her time in Chapel Hill would be short. In the name of the "cause" Willingham was probably hoping UNC would do her a huge favor and fire her. Such a move would give her valuable points as a martyr and victim of big, bad UNC. However UNC has patently refused to oblige, probably because Willingham had a grievance filed against the school. At any rate, Willingham had a meeting with Chancellor Carol Folt on Monday morning and after that meeting decided she was done working at UNC effective at the end of the semester. According to UNC professor Jay Smith, who talked to Willingham who heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. who said Folt was mean to her or something. Yes, really.

Smith said Folt spent much of the meeting berating Willingham for her comments about the scandal in recent months, which included interviews with national media that gave the scandal a wider audience and had become a major embarrassment for the university.

One dramatic exchange came when Willingham told CNN that a former basketball player struggled to read. That angered Coach Roy Williams, who challenged her claim and said she was disparaging the athletes. But he later turned down her offer to meet, saying it was not his place.

"There was no attempt to repair the relationship or to build a bridge," Smith said of Willingham’s meeting with Folt on Monday. "Instead, from what I understand from Mary, it was just a tongue lashing, and I think that’s what kind of tipped the scales for Mary. When she realized that even Folt is beyond reach there isn’t much point in continuing."

Just so we are clear, we have Dan Kane quoting Jay Smith telling us what Mary Willingham said Carol Folt said in a private meeting. Actually it is not even that. It's Kane quoting Smith telling us that Willingham said that Folt talked to her in a certain way. Very little content is discussed other than to say it was about Willingham's public comments.

One interesting aspect of Smith telling Kane what Willingham said Folt said is, according to WCHL, the meeting was recorded by both parties.

UNC Vice Chancellor for Communication Joel Curran told WCHL that both Chancellor Folt and Willingham recorded the meeting. He said he listened to the recording and that it was very business-like. He said Willingham did not hand in a letter of resignation.

So on one hand we have Kane's three degrees of separation reporting and on the other Curran who says he heard audio of the meeting and it was "businesslike." I'll let you decide which is more believable.

Believe it or not, that's actually not the most interesting part of what happened today. Buried near the bottom of Kane's article is mention of WIllingham meeting with Kenneth Wainstein. Wainstein is the former Department of Justice official who has been charged with undertaking yet another probe into the AFAM academic scandal. Obviously Wainstein is talking to everyone and Willingham got her sit-down last week.

The fact that meeting occurred makes Willingham's sudden resignation even less surprising. She really has nothing else left to do in what is probably an increasingly uncomfortable work environment. Willingham made her point and got her say in the latest probe into the AFAM issue. All that was left was to orchestrate an exit which could be characterized as her being a victim of the big, bad university. The message coming out of the meeting is UNC refuses to listen and is now even hostile to her so Willingham has no choice but to walk away.

The question is what will Willingham do now? The best guess is there will be some sort of lawsuit filed against UNC by Willingham. On what grounds such a suit would be filed is anyone's guess. It really doesn't matter. That kind of legal action most certainly would be to extend Willingham's time in the spotlight and give UNC another headache to worry about.

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