Second UNC academic fraud case dismissed in court
Former football player James Arnold and former women’s basketball player Leah Metcalf had their case dismissed by the N.C. Court of Appeals because their specific educational malpractice claims are not recognized under North Carolina law.
The plaintiffs said participation in deficient courses at UNC did not challenge them academically and limited later career prospects.
The dismissal follows another case in which former football player Michael McAdoo and former women’s basketball player Kenya McBee sued the University in response to the academic scandal. This case was dismissed in federal court last month on the grounds that the University had Eleventh Amendment immunity as an arm of the state.
Joanne Peters, UNC spokesperson, said in a statement the University appreciated the Court of Appeals’ careful consideration.
“The trial court ruled correctly when it dismissed this case last year,” the statement said. “Today, the court made the right decision to affirm that ruling.”
Joy Blanchard, an education professor at the Louisiana State University, said academic malpractice is not typically recognized by courts.
Blanchard said the University does not have legal responsibility because the only thing guaranteed by an athlete’s scholarship is that they be educated.
“The quality and whether or not these were sham courses, those were things that they were complicit in and were really outside of the parameters of the scholarship contract,” she said.
Jay Smith, a UNC history professor and author of a book on the UNC academic scandal, said the system of academic fraud was constructed to enable the athletic department to circumvent normal academic standards.
“Whatever the exact cause, the athletic department clearly took full advantage of a fraudulent academic system that enabled athletes to circumvent standards,” he said. “And the athletes absolutely cannot bear responsibility for that.”
The University should put strict limitations on the athletic program to ensure student-athlete coursework is legitimate, Smith said.
“That means not trusting the athletic program to advise athletes without strict supervision of genuine academics,” Smith said.
Smith said the University’s guilt should be announced in a formal courtroom setting because these athletes were lured to the campus under false pretenses.
He said the athletes had been brought to the University to pursue a world class education and found when they arrived that they were steered to curricular paths of least resistance.
“In the power relations in which young athletes find themselves 18 years old and on a prestigious university campus where they’re supposed to be trusting the adults who are in charge of their educations, I don’t think they had much choice except to follow those paths that were laid out for them,” Smith said. “As far as I’m concerned, they were wronged.”
Blanchard said the athletes are not able to prove their education was not invaluable.
“A North Carolina education is still a valuable commodity,” she said. “And they received the commodity they were promised.”
The NCAA has its own ways of penalizing UNC, Blanchard said.
“Obviously there is the ethical aspect and the NCAA regulations, and they have to pay the consequences there,” she said. “But as far as legally, it really doesn’t look like these athletes could win in a courtroom.”
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