RALEIGH (AP) — Lawyers for former University of North Carolina football player Michael McAdoo asked a state appeals court Thursday to reinstate a lawsuit against the school and NCAA, claiming his prospective NFL career was irreparably harmed when he was kicked off the team.
The NCAA declared McAdoo permanently ineligible to play college football for receiving improper benefits from a prospective sports agent. But McAdoo’s attorney, Noah Huffstetler, argued the athlete’s due process rights were violated when he was wrongly disqualified from college athletics for a separate infraction — an NCAA ruling that he improperly benefited from a tutor’s help on term papers in three courses.
Huffstetler told the court the university reported McAdoo to the NCAA as getting improper help on term papers before the school’s student-led Honor Court could decide the issue.
“Those are the only folks authorized to investigate cases of academic misconduct and impose penalties. It’s not the university administration, it’s not the athletic department, it’s not the NCAA,” Huffstetler said.
The honor code of academic conduct at the country’s oldest public university is a contract that binds both students and the school and should be enforced by state courts, Huffstetler said. The alternative is to allow the NCAA and its member universities to “treat the injuries experienced by student-athletes as mere collateral damage” to their billion-dollar business arrangements, he said.
McAdoo was forced to leave for a minimum NFL contract with the Baltimore Ravens in 2011, Huffstetler said, so McAdoo should be compensated for what he could have earned if all his due process rights were followed and he was allowed to play his final two years of college football.
“That is a speculative claim. Courts have not allowed claims for the possibility of a future professional career because there’s just too many variables,” said Stephanie Brennan, an assistant state attorney general representing the university.
Attorneys for UNC and the NCAA argued that students can’t claim a right to play intercollegiate sports. McAdoo’s decision to leave school for the NFL negated his claim that losing his college eligibility would affect his professional prospects, attorneys said.
McAdoo is now recovering from a second serious injury that threatens to wipe out his second consecutive pro season.
McAdoo was one of seven players forced to miss all of the 2010 college football season during the NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct within the Tar Heels program. The probe led to the firing of head coach Butch Davis and the early departure of Dick Baddour as athletic director.
But McAdoo’s lawyers argue that the school’s Honor Court found him guilty of only one infraction: Representing another’s work as his own after the tutor provided citations used to prepare his research paper. It cleared him in a second case and the student attorney general decided there was insufficient evidence to pursue a third against him.
McAdoo’s punishment from the Honor Court was a failing grade in the course and suspension from school for one semester, but allowed his return to the football team in fall 2011, Huffstetler wrote in court filings.
Accusations of plagiarism in a McAdoo term paper later surfaced after his attorneys included a copy in a court exhibit that was made public.
While the NCAA was not bound by whatever a campus honor court decides, McAdoo’s attorneys ignore the fact that the student court he cheated, said the college sports body’s attorney, Paul Sun.
“The very process that Mr. McAdoo is arguing should occur did occur and established beyond a reasonable doubt that he was cheating on at least that one paper,” Sun said.