Former UNC athletes sue school, NCAA over academic failures
Two former University of North Carolina athletes have filed a lawsuit against the school and the NCAA, saying neither is doing enough to ensure athletes receive a quality education.
The lawsuit names former women’s basketball player Rashanda McCants and former football player Devon Ramsay as plaintiffs but seeks class-action status. It was filed Thursday afternoon in Durham County court, making it the second lawsuit to emerge in the wake of UNC’s long-running academic fraud scandal that heavily involved athletes.
The first was filed by former football player Michael McAdoo in November in U.S. District Court in Charlotte against the school. This one, however, expands the scope beyond the Chapel Hill campus to include the governing body for major college sports.
One of the attorneys handling the case is Michael Hausfeld, who represented former UCLA men’s basketball standout Ed O’Bannon in last year’s antitrust case against the NCAA. In that case, a federal judge ruled in August the NCAA couldn’t stop players from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses instead of limiting their compensation only to scholarships or the cost of attending school.
Robert F. Orr, a former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice who has become an advocate of reform of NCAA athletics, is also part of the plaintiff’s legal team.
"It’s about a lot more than Chapel Hill," Orr said shortly after filing the 100-page lawsuit. "It’s about the system."
UNC spokesman Rick White said in an email the school has no comment because it has yet to see the complaint. NCAA spokeswomen Stacey Osburn and Emily James didn’t immediately return an email for comment Thursday afternoon.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as the creation of an independent commission to review and report on academic integrity among NCAA member schools. It accuses the NCAA of acting "carelessly and negligently" in its oversight role when it should have been ensuring academic integrity at member schools.
"Instead, the NCAA sat idly by, permitting big-time college sports programs to operate as diploma mills that compromise educational opportunities and the future job prospects of student-athletes for the sake of wins and revenues," the lawsuit states.
The focus is no-show classes in UNC’s formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department, classes which were often treated as independent studies that required no class time and one or two research papers. However, an investigation conducted by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein reported that an office administrator — not a faculty member — typically handed out assignments and then gave out high grades after only a quick scan of the work, regardless of the quality.
Wainstein’s probe found the fraud stretched from 1993 to 2011 and affected more than 3,100 students, roughly half of those athletes.
The NCAA has reopened its investigation into academic misconduct at the school, while the school is facing questions from its accreditation agency.
McCants played for the Tar Heels from 2005-09 and was member of two Final Four teams as well as a third that reached a regional final before playing professionally in the WNBA and overseas. She is the sister of former Tar Heels men’s basketball player Rashad McCants, who told ESPN last summer about taking some of the problem AFAM courses and that tutors wrote research papers for him.