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Ex-UNC football player sues school again, could force change

Not just for North Carolina, but for the NCAA as well.

Streeter Lecka

It seems that every day there's a new suit alleging that the someone in college athletics has broken laws in a quest to uphold amateurism. Usually, those suits involve the NCAA. The latest doesn't name the NCAA at all, but it could also have a profound impact on the organization's future.

Former football player Michael McAdoo is suing the University of North Carolina for failing to properly educate its athletes. The lawsuit comes in the wake of the Wainstein report, which showed egregious cases of academic fraud at the university on a massive scale. From the suit:

"The UNC football student-athletes' reward for their athletic participation was supposed to lie in the legitimate UNC education they were promised in exchange for their athletic efforts. UNC systematically deprived its football student-athletes of the benefit of the bargain. UNC has reaped substantial profits from football student-athletes' performance for the school, but it has not provided them a legitimate education in return."

UNC could potentially argue that it gives athletes every right to choose which classes they want to take (though the Wainstein report casts doubt on whether that's always been the case).

McAdoo has also already sued UNC, along with the NCAA, due to his dismissal from the football team for academic fraud. That suit was thrown out. In this case, it could be tough for McAdoo to prove injury, and he would need to show that the university explicitly prohibited him from taking classes that would have meant a better education, one that ultimately would have helped his earning power.

But this suit is different from before, and it has the potential to be dangerous for UNC. If the university really was forcing athletes to take certain classes that would devalue their educations, then McAdoo appears to have a legitimate case. Moreover, we could learn about even more wrongdoing that was not brought to light in the Wainstein report. Many former coaches and administrators refused to talk to Wainstein about the inner workings of the athletic/academic relationship, but a court would have subpoena power.

More UNC scandal

Even if the case is just successful in uncovering more information, it could affect the NCAA. Most cases against the NCAA allege that the price cap (a scholarship and education) in exchange for the service of playing college football is illegal. The O'Bannon case already chipped away at this idea, but the NCAA is still hanging onto amateurism for the time being, because many people, including the O'Bannon judge, believe that the educational aspect is a distinguishing factor in college sports. But this case goes a step further, alleging that a major university didn't even hold up its end up the deal.

It could also hurt the NCAA's argument that a degree is a worthy payment for the services provided, by showing that getting a degree and receiving a good education are not the same thing. The value of an athlete's degree has not been a court focus, but this case could show that athletes' current compensation package is not even what the NCAA and the schools crack it up to be.

As Yahoo's Dan Wetzel wrote, the NCAA's inaction since the issuing of the Wainstein report shows that the organization is not living up to the one thing it's supposed to do: support athletes in their quest to get an education while playing sports.

While this case only names one of its member schools, the NCAA should hope that no more allegations arise from the proceedings and that McAdoo is not ultimately successful in proving that UNC did not live up to its end of the deal in giving him an education. Because if any part of this case is successful, and the NCAA merely gives UNC a slap on the wrist, the NCAA could have much bigger problems than UNC down the road.