On July 1, 2011,
As the matters relating to the NCAA’s investigation of the UNC football team were unfolding, it was determined that McAdoo received impermissible academic support from his tutor. According to the practice that he and his tutor employed from the genesis of their relationship, McAdoo would submit papers to his tutor for review and she would make corrections, comments, additions, and deletions. In accordance with the UNC Honor Code, UNC determined that the academic assistance provided by McAdoo’s tutor “crossed the line” and, therefore, three matters were presented to the Student Attorney General for review. The Student Attorney General’s review concluded with two violations of the UNC Honor Code and such claims were submitted to an honor board for review. After reviewing the evidence, the honor board found McAdoo not guilty of one charge and found him guilty of the other (i.e., his tutor formatted a works cited page). As a result, the honor board mandated that McAdoo be suspended for the spring 2011 term, but could enroll during the summer term and compete athletically in the fall.
On December 14, 2010, the NCAA again declared McAdoo permanently ineligible to compete and the NCAA Division I Student Athlete Reinstatement Committee (“Committee”) determined that it would not reinstate McAdoo. The Committee stated “[b]ased on case precedent, the facts of the case and the NCAA Division I Committee on Student Reinstatement’s December 2007 guidelines directing staff to begin its withholding analysis for academic fraud at permanent ineligibility, with consideration of mitigating factors permitting a minimum withholding condition of sit one season and charging one season of competition, staff did not reinstate [McAdoo].” According to McAdoo, he hired legal counsel in March 2011 and information relating to the alleged shortcomings of the NCAA’s findings was presented to the NCAA in June 2011 approximately three weeks before the NCAA issued its Notice of Allegations to UNC. According to McAdoo, the Notice of Allegations contained erroneous information about alleged academic fraud in violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b). Specifically, the Notice of Allegations stated that McAdoo committed academic fraud over multiple semesters when the UNC honor board found that McAdoo committed one act of academic fraud related to one specific event. Additionally, McAdoo states NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b) requires knowing involvement in arranging for fraudulent academic credit and the information presented by UNC to the NCAA indicated that “it was reasonable for Mr. McAdoo to assume that the type of assistance offered and provided to him by his formally-assigned tutor in the Academic Support Program would be permissible.” Thus, there would be no knowing conduct.
As a result of the foregoing, McAdoo has set forth a multitude of causes of action against the NCAA and UNC including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, gross negligence, libel, tortious interference with contract, claims for declaratory relief, and claims for injunctive relief.
As has been commonly reported in cases of this kind filed over the course of the last five years, the student-athlete has reported he was not aware he could seek legal counsel. In years past, the need for legal counsel was probably not necessary, but the game has changed. While the dollar figures and exposure rise in intercollegiate athletics, so do the likelihood of lawsuits and negative press. The NCAA is going to get sued and keep getting sued, but the institutions have a way to protect themselves from these kinds of suits. An institution should always inform a student-athlete of his right to counsel (especially in situations related to permanent ineligibility) and possibly have the student-athlete sign a form saying the option was presented. Secondly, under NCAA Bylaw 16, the institution can secure the services of an attorney for the student-athlete. In cases where a high profile student-athlete is subject to NCAA review, it is not a bad idea to take such steps. Institutions should protect themselves in these situations, which also provides for an extra layer of protection for the student-athlete.