A former North Carolina football player has filed a lawsuit against the school and the NCAA, seeking reinstatement after being declared permanently ineligible for academic misconduct.
Defensive end Michael McAdoo is also seeking unspecified damages from the school and the NCAA, which the lawsuit accuses of libel and "gross negligence" in ruling him ineligible based on inaccurate information. McAdoo's attorneys filed the lawsuit Friday in Durham County Superior Court, claiming he was "improperly and unjustly" declared permanently ineligible in November.
According to the complaint, the NCAA ruled McAdoo ineligible for receiving improper assistance from tutor Jennifer Wiley "on multiple assignments across several academic terms." 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 Wiley had formatted in-text citations and the "works cited" page for websites used to prepare his research paper.
The school's Honor Court decided to suspend him from school for the spring semester, but allow him to re-enroll in the summer and then return to the football team this fall. It cleared him in a second case and the student attorney general decided there was insufficient evidence to pursue a third against him.
He had also received $110 in improper benefits. Most of that was connected to a trip to the Washington, D.C., area with teammates Marvin Austin and Greg Little, prompting the school to hold him out for the first three games of last season.
"All told, McAdoo has been declared permanently ineligible to play intercollegiate athletics because he received $110 in improper benefits (which he has since paid to charity), and because his university-assigned and trained tutor provided McAdoo with too much assistance ... for one class in the summer of 2009," the complaint states. "This punishment is grossly disproportionate to the facts of McAdoo's case, and is inconsistent with the punishment meted out by the UNC Honor Court."
The 6-foot-7, 245-pound lineman from Antioch, Tenn., turns 21 on Saturday. He was one of seven players forced to sit out all of last season amid the NCAA's investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct. The lawsuit seeks to compel chancellor Holden Thorp to reinstate McAdoo while also preventing the NCAA from interfering in the process or punishing the school if McAdoo returns. A hearing on that request is scheduled for July 15.
A school spokeswoman said the university is reviewing the lawsuit but had no further comment. A call to the NCAA for comment was not immediately returned Tuesday.
The university initially reported the academic allegations against McAdoo to the NCAA before the cases were reviewed by the school's Honor Court, which issued its guilty verdict in October. Still, the school reported that its investigation concluded "it was reasonable for McAdoo to assume that the type of assistance offered and provided to him by his formally-assigned tutor ... would be permissible," according to the complaint.
The NCAA ruled McAdoo permanently ineligible the next month based on "clearly erroneous" information as well as the allegation that McAdoo knowingly committed academic fraud, according to the complaint. Then, in December, the NCAA "disregarded its own stated procedures and moved forward with the appeal when the factual record was in dispute," according to the complaint.
Noah H. Huffstetler III, McAdoo's attorney in Raleigh, said his office sent a letter to the NCAA in June with documentation refuting the ruling that McAdoo had committed multiple academic offenses. He said they followed up with a phone call about 10 days later, but received no response. Later that month, the full charges against McAdoo resurfaced again in the NCAA's notice of allegations, which outlined numerous major violations within the football program.
"We really did our best to resolve the issues without litigation," Huffstetler said. "But it became apparent that we had to file this lawsuit when we did for Mr. McAdoo to have any chance of playing this fall. ... We haven't received even the courtesy of a call back, no response whatsoever."
The improper benefits consisted primarily of an $89 hotel bill for two nights in Maryland as well as $10 for a cover charge at a nightclub in April 2010. McAdoo believed Austin had paid the expenses. The NCAA later linked the hotel expenses to Todd Stewart, who it termed a prospective agent because of his ties to a financial advising firm, according to the complaint.
McAdoo spoke with the NCAA last July when investigators first visited campus, though news of the possible academic violations didn't surface until a month later.
The changes Wiley made to the citations in McAdoo's paper in July 2009 were via e-mail and qualified as an hour of improper extra tutoring benefits, valued at $11. The benefits were considered improper because Wiley had recently graduated, though the complaint states McAdoo didn't know she was no longer a school employee.