Lawyer: Former UNC player denied due process by university
Posted September 13, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — In an effort to collect the difference between the NFL’s minimum salary and a lucrative first-round draftee’s contract, lawyers for former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill football player Michael McAdoo argued on Thursday that his case was not handled properly by the university and the NCAA.
According to McAdoo's lawyer, Noah Huffstetler, North Carolina officials skipped an important step in due process when they reported academic fraud allegations to the NCAA before McAdoo had received any procedural guarantees under the university's honor court system.
In the end, McAdoo was found guilty of one of three separate allegations of the UNC Student Honor code, but he was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA.
Huffstetler said Thursday that McAdoo hadn’t received any procedural protections guaranteed him by the honor code before the NCAA made its decision and also argued that the university’s honor code is a binding agreement between the school and students.
“When the student is admitted to the university and signs this instrument, we don’t think that is a one way agreement,” Huffstetler told a three judge panel at the state Court of Appeals Thursday.
Based on that argument, McAdoo’s lawyer said his client should not have been ruled ineligible for the 2011 season, a season Huffstetler contended would have been important for his professional prospects.
Citing an affidavit signed by a sports agent with 16 years of experience, Huffstetler said that McAdoo would have made more money had he participated for the Tar Heels in 2011.
Stephanie Brennan, a lawyer for the Attorney General's office who represented UNC, said Thursday that McAdoo's claims are irrelevant because of his admitted academic fraud and his status as a current NFL player for the Baltimore Ravens.
Paul Sun, an attorney for the NCAA, said the voluntary body of member institutions isn't bound by the decisions of a member institution's honor court and reiterated McAdoo's admitted academic fraud.
"It's undisputed that Mr. McAdoo knew what he was doing. He was turning in the tutor's work as his own," Sun said. "He turned in Jennifer Wiley's work and claimed it to be his own."
Huffstetler said McAdoo did not knowingly commit academic fraud and said he had every reason to believe Wiley knew university and NCAA rules and was following them.
In a Sept. 7 filing, McAdoo's lawyers offered five documents from UNC's own investigation as evidence that McAdoo did not "knowingly or willfully obtain improper assistance." The lawyers say the court didn't have all the information necessary before it dismissed his case.
"By UNC's own admission, there are were serious irregularities in the way in which the course in question was conducted," McAdoo's lawyers wrote.
They use the university's internal investigations into the AFAM department and a report on irregularities in the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes to demonstrate that UNC had doubts about the integrity of the class in which McAdoo allegedly cheated.
The Court of Appeals did not make a decision Thursday about whether the case could go back to the trial court, but a ruling is expected within the next 90 days.
McAdoo was one of seven players forced to sit out the 2010 season while the NCAA investigated the Tar Heel football program. The NCAA ruled McAdoo ineligible for receiving improper assistance from tutor Jennifer Wiley on multiple assignments across several academic terms.
The university began an internal investigation of the AFAM department after McAdoo's lawyers included an assignment in court filings. The paper, written for class taught by then-department head Julius Nyang’oro, was revealed to be largely reproduced from other sources.