DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Two former University of North Carolina athletes have filed a lawsuit against the school and the NCAA, saying neither has done enough to ensure athletes receive a quality education.
The lawsuit names former women’s basketball player Rashanda McCants and former football player Devon Ramsay as plaintiffs but seeks class-action status. Filed Thursday afternoon in Durham County court, it’s the second lawsuit to emerge in the wake of UNC’s long-running academic fraud scandal that heavily involved athletes.
The first was filed by ex-football player Michael McAdoo in November in U.S. District Court against the school. This one, however, expands the scope beyond the Chapel Hill campus to include the governing body for major college sports.
One of the attorneys handling the case is Michael Hausfeld, who represented former UCLA men’s basketball standout Ed O’Bannon in last year’s antitrust case against the NCAA. In that case, a federal judge ruled the NCAA couldn’t stop players from selling the rights to their names and likenesses instead of limiting their compensation to scholarships or the cost of attending school.
Robert F. Orr, a former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice who has become an advocate of NCAA reform, is also part of the plaintiffs’ legal team.
“It’s about a lot more than Chapel Hill,” Orr said shortly after filing the 100-page lawsuit. “It’s about the system.”
UNC spokesman Rick White said in an email the school has no comment because it has yet to see the complaint. NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said the same in a statement.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as the creation of an independent commission to review and report on academic integrity, while accusing the NCAA of acting “carelessly and negligently” in its oversight role when it should have been ensuring academic integrity at member schools.
“Instead, the NCAA sat idly by, permitting big-time college sports programs to operate as diploma mills that compromise educational opportunities and the future job prospects of student-athletes for the sake of wins and revenues,” the lawsuit states.
The focus is no-show classes in UNC’s formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department, classes which were often treated as independent studies that required no class time and one or two research papers. An investigation conducted by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein reported that an office administrator — not a faculty member — typically handed out assignments then high grades after only a scan of the work, regardless of the quality.
Wainstein’s October report found the fraud ran from 1993 to 2011 and affected more than 3,100 students, roughly half being athletes. It also outlined how academic counselors enrolled athletes in those classes and how poor oversight allowed the fraud to run unchecked for so long.
Thursday’s complaint includes a roughly 12-page list of “academically unsound” courses, including 21 outside of Wainstein’s time range and reaching as early as fall 1989.
The NCAA has reopened its investigation into academic misconduct at the school. UNC also faces questions from its accreditation agency.
McCants played from 2005-09 and was member of two Final Four teams before playing professionally in the WNBA and overseas. She is the sister of ex-UNC men’s basketball player Rashad McCants, who told ESPN last summer about taking some of the AFAM “paper classes” and that tutors wrote research papers for him.
Ramsay was at UNC from 2007-12, an injury-plagued career that included losing most of the 2010 season to a later-overturned NCAA charge of academic misconduct.
According to the complaint, Rashanda McCants took two of the problem AFAM courses before graduating with a degree in communications and media productions. Ramsay took one before graduating with a degree in public policy.
Orr said the class of potential plaintiffs is currently athletes who played football and men’s or women’s basketball, though it could expand to non-revenue sports.
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