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The Daily Tar Heel

University settles in football lawsuit

After a two-year legal battle, the University has agreed to a settlement with The Daily Tar Heel and seven other media outlets, pledging to produce, among other records, unredacted interview transcripts with UNC football players.

The University will release those records to the outlets today, ending a contentious lawsuit that centered around the question of which of UNC’s student records are public and which are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

In addition, the University will pay the outlets $45,000 in legal fees.

The outlets sued the University in October 2010 for all records relating to the NCAA’s investigation of its football program, which began that summer.

But the University claimed that the records in question were protected by FERPA.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning disagreed. In his first decision in April 2011, Manning ruled that the University had to produce parking tickets for 11 student athletes and unredacted phone records for then-athletic director Dick Baddour, then-head coach Butch Davis and former assistant coach John Blake.

But the outlets’ largest request — for all documents related to the investigation — was addressed in September, when Manning ruled broadly that records related to players’ misconduct, not academics, should be released.

“FERPA does not provide a student with an invisible cloak so that the student can remain hidden from public view while enrolled at UNC,” Manning wrote in the order.

Records to be released included statements of facts and player reinstatement requests — relating to non-academic misconduct — sent by the University to the NCAA. Manning also ordered the University to release the redacted portions of its response to the NCAA’s notice of allegations unrelated to academics.

The 30-day deadline to comply with Manning’s order is today.

The settlement comes with conditions. First, the media outlets cannot post the student athlete interview transcripts to the Internet but are not limited in their ability to report on and quote from the transcripts.

Additionally, the outlets are prohibited from assisting other parties in obtaining the transcripts. But if a third party does gain access to the transcripts, the outlets are permitted to post the transcripts online.

The settlement brings to a close yet another chapter of the football scandal that claimed the jobs of Blake, Davis, Baddour and, eventually, Chancellor Holden Thorp, who lent his signature to the settlement on Thursday.

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