Court of Appeals rules against McAdoo
The North Carolina Court of Appeals has affirmed a decision by a lower court that dismissed a lawsuit brought by former UNC football player Michael McAdoo.
McAdoo had sued the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chancellor Holden Thorp and the NCAA claiming UNC did not follow its own procedures before reporting him to the NCAA, which eventually ruled McAdoo permanently ineligible to play football.
McAdoo claimed that if he had been able to play football at UNC during his senior year, he would have been in a better position to be drafted by the NFL and receive a more lucrative contract.
When the case was heard in Durham County Superior Court, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson dismissed the case in November 2011, and McAdoo then appealed that decision.
The Court of Appeals released its decision Tuesday morning, saying that McAdoo had not sustained any injury because his scholarship was never terminated and that his case was moot because he accomplished the goal he sought to achieve – playing in the NFL.
The court also ruled that the remedies that McAdoo sought were hypothetical because there was no proof of his claim that if he had been allowed to play football his senior year at UNC, he would been drafted and signed a better contract with an NFL team.
McAdoo’s attorney, Noah Huffstetler, argued in front of the three-judge panel on Sept. 13, 2012, that UNC had a contractual agreement with students that if they are alleged to have violated the student honor code, the student Honor Court is the body that investigates, holds hearings and determines if students are guilty or not guilty and then issues punishments if found guilty.
Huffstetler argued it was not the university’s or the NCAA’s right to determine whether McAdoo had violated the honor code when his former tutor, Jennifer Wiley, wrote the footnote citations for a paper he wrote.
In the Court of Appeals ruling, which includes a summary of the events that led up to the academic as well as NCAA violations, it stated that McAdoo wrote the paper, then emailed Wiley a list of the websites and books he used as sources for the paper and asked her help in writing the citations.
She wrote the citations and sent them back in an email, saying she thought she had done them correctly.
The revelations about academic fraud came to light while the university was investigating whether football players had accepted improper benefits from sports agents.
McAdoo was found to have received improper benefits of $99 when he allowed a teammate to pay for his hotel room in Washington, D.C., and got into a club for free that had a $10 cover charge. The hotel room, however, was actually paid for by a prospective sports agent.
As part of that investigation, UNC began reading McAdoo’s emails.
“This investigation went in an unexpected direction when UNC began to inspect the players’ email communication for evidence of improper sports agent contacts,” according to the factual background of the case included in the ruling.
“When UNC examined McAdoo’s emails, it found reason to believe Wiley’s assistance to McAdoo may have violated the school’s academic honesty standards.” UNC officials interviewed McAdoo in August 2010, and he said the level of help Wiley had provided on his paper was typical of the type of help she provided him while she was his tutor, the ruling stated.
As a member of the NCAA, UNC had to comply with NCAA regulations, and so in September 2010, UNC declared McAdoo ineligible to play intercollegiate athletics and withheld him from the first three games of the season, the ruling stated.
UNC attempted to have McAdoo’s eligibility restored by arguing that McAdoo didn’t know he was violating the academic rules when he accepted Wiley’s help in writing the footnotes, the ruling stated.
UNC contended that it was reasonable for McAdoo to assume the assistance Wiley gave him was proper since she had been assigned to be his tutor by the university’s Academic Support Program.
Meanwhile, UNC’s Honor Court found McAdoo guilty of one violation regarding one paper, gave him an “F” on the paper and placed McAdoo on academic probation, which meant McAdoo wasn’t eligible to play football for the rest of the fall semester in 2010.
UNC attempted to have McAdoo reinstated but the NCAA announced in November 2010 that he was permanently ineligible to play.
If the NCAA hadn’t rule him permanently ineligible, McAdoo would have been eligible under UNC’s eligibility requirements to play football during the 2011 fall season, which was his senior year, the ruling stated.
UNC appealed to the NCAA and during a hearing, UNC officials “vigorously argued Plaintiff did not ‘knowingly’ violate the NCAA bylaws,” the ruling stated. The ruling quoted from the transcript of the hearing.
“This is not a case, we don’t believe, in which Michael actively sought out impermissible help. He was a freshman. He had no reason to think that Jennifer [Wiley] would do something different than what was appropriate. He was essentially accepting the help Jennifer [Wiley] was offering,” an unidentified UNC official said during the hearing.
The ruling also quoted what McAdoo said during the hearing.
“I never thought for a second that we were ever breaking any rules. I was working hard and she was there to make sure I was on the right track,” McAdoo said. “My biggest concern was trying to make sure I would not plagiarize so that’s why I wanted her to check all of the citations.”
NCAA didn’t buy that argument, saying, “Mr. McAdoo did take deliberate action and he knew what he was doing.”
McAdoo should have known Wiley was giving him improper assistance beyond what other tutors were providing since he asked for her help after he had already been assigned another tutor, the NCAA responded.
In August 2011, before the start of his senior year, McAdoo signed a contract with the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent and received the NFL minimum yearly salary of $270,000, according to the ruling.
“By signing a professional contract, McAdoo was no longer eligible to play college football,” the ruling stated.
Court of Appeals Judge Robert N. Hunter Jr., wrote the ruling and Judges Sam Ervin IV and J. Douglas McCullough concurred.
When McAdoo filed the lawsuit, he included the paper he wrote as evidence. N.C. State fans ran the paper through a program and discovered instances of plagiarism, which then opened the door to criticism of UNC’s Honor Court and an investigation of the African-American studies program at UNC, neither of which discovered the plagiarism.