Former UNC-CH athletes want NOA added to court case

Posted January 22, 2015 3:41 p.m. EST
Updated June 30, 2015 6:19 p.m. EDT

— The notice of allegations sent to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is now the focus of a legal dispute.

Two former student athletes, Rashanda McCants and Devon Ramsay, filed a class-action lawsuit in January against UNC Chapel Hill and the NCAA seeking reforms to ensure other student-athletes get a proper education.

Lawyers for McCants and Ramsay filed a motion in federal court Tuesday asking the judge to admit the NCAA’s report into the case. That report accused the school of offering improper academic benefits to student-athletes as a way to keep them eligible.

The 100-page lawsuit was filed on behalf of former women's basketball player McCants and former football player Ramsay. It seeks educational reforms, including an independent committee in the NCAA to ensure athletes get a proper education, as well as financial compensation for the athletes.

UNC-Chapel Hill Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs Rick White declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying university officials hadn't yet seen it. NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy also declined to comment.

The suit alleges that the NCAA and member institutions breached their duties to the student-athletes "in spectacular fashion," highlighting the no-show class scandal at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein was hired to conduct an outside investigation into academic fraud at the university. His findings showed academic advisers steered student-athletes for 18 years toward classes that never met and required only a short paper to pass in order to keep their grades high enough to remain eligible to play on their teams.

The NCAA should have known about the academic fraud, the lawsuit contends, but the organization sat by as college sports programs "operated as diploma mills."

"They are making millions and millions of dollars for all of these colleges, and the question is, what are (the students) entitled to as part of this scholarship agreement?" said Raleigh attorney Bob Orr, who is representing the athletes.

Ramsey was kicked off the football team back in 2010 for getting improper help from a tutor, but he was allowed back on the team after his attorney convinced the NCAA he'd done nothing wrong. In July, he testified in a U.S. Senate hearing about college athletics.

"I've come to realize that there's a void in college athletics," Ramsey told senators. "The NCAA, as an institution, no longer protects the student-athlete. They're more concerned with signage and profit margins."

Orr said the students shouldn't be blamed if they didn't receive an education while at a university.

"They look up to the people in the institution, whether it's coaches, whether it's people in the athletic departments or professors or academic counselors," he said. "If they tell them to do something, they think they're supposed to do it."

Orr compared the suit to the long-running Leandro lawsuits challenging state funding to poor school districts in North Carolina and seeking a sound education for all public school students.

"(We want) the formation of an independent commission to review, audit, and assess and report on academic integrity," he said.