If you pass students who can dunk but can’t read, who are you really serving? Not them.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina has been in an academic crisis mode for more than three years.

An NCAA investigation into the football program in 2010 expanded into a probe of how the nation’s first public university provides academic help to athletes. It led to a discovery of fraud in a department with classes featuring significant athlete enrollments.

Now, the debate of balancing academics and big-time sports at the university has been reignited by comments from a reading specialist about the reading levels of football and basketball players.

“It really has just been like we’ve been under siege for the past three years,” said Lissa Lamkin Broome, a banking law professor and UNC’s faculty athletic representative. “Now to the extent that we’ve uncovered problems during this siege, that’s a good thing — to find those problems and weed them out and to try to put processes in place to hopefully ensure … that some of this stuff doesn’t happen again.”

In a CNN story this week, Mary Willingham said her research of 183 football or basketball players at UNC from 2004-12 found 60 percent reading at fourth- to eighth-grade levels and roughly 10 percent below a third-grade level. She said she worked with one men’s basketball player early in her 10-year tenure who couldn’t read or write.

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