The mother of former North Carolina football player Michael McAdoo, who was banned by the NCAA in November, is trying to get her son's eligibility restored.
McAdoo is one of seven Tar Heels who missed the entire 2010 season as a result of the NCAA's investigation of academic misconduct and impermissible benefits at the school. His mother, Janai Shelton, said the NCAA's decision was not fair or correct in McAdoo's case.
UNC submitted an appeal on behalf of McAdoo, but in February the university announced that the NCAA upheld its original ruling.
"We believe the decision that the NCAA reached is 100 percent wrong," Shelton said this week in an exclusive interview with The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer. "Michael was not treated fairly, and the NCAA made a mistake in deciding he should be ineligible."
Shelton has hired attorneys from the Raleigh office of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough to represent her son. Lawyer Noah Huffstetler III said the firm has requested documents pertaining to McAdoo's case from UNC.
North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour said the school plans to provide the documents to McAdoo, who played defensive end. Baddour said all along that he thought the NCAA's punishment for McAdoo was too harsh.
"We don't think the conclusion by the NCAA is fair," Baddour said Wednesday.
Huffstetler said UNC's honor court found that McAdoo committed fairly minor violations and imposed a penalty that essentially would have put McAdoo out for one season but specifically ruled that he would be eligible to play beginning in fall 2011.
(Huffstetler declined to specify what McAdoo was found guilty of but said it had to do with a family member or tutor giving him too much help on a paper or presentation.)
McAdoo also accepted a total of $103 in benefits consisting of lodging in Washington, D.C., admission to a club and one hour of tutoring service, Huffstetler said. He said McAdoo has repaid those benefits to charity and that typically an NCAA suspension of a game or two would be sufficient for that amount of impermissible benefits.
With the academic violations, though, Huffstetler said the NCAA relied on UNC's investigative findings and then imposed a penalty for academic fraud even though the honor court did not find him guilty of academic fraud.
"It's nowhere near anything that I think rational adults would consider to constitute academic fraud," Huffstetler said.
After gathering and examining the documents, Huffstetler said, he plans to appeal to the NCAA. He said that if the NCAA won't reconsider its decision, the firm is prepared to take the matter to court to force its hand.
Huffstetler said the NCAA has no definite standards that are enforced from case to case. He said McAdoo's appeal consisted of a telephone conference with a panel of three individuals from different parts of the country.
"We don't think that [process] is at all sufficient to ensure against arbitrary and capricious decisions when something as important as a young man's future and livelihood in some cases ... is at stake," Huffstetler said.
In an email Thursday, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn responded that all eligibility decisions are made based on the same set of guidelines, which are established by the NCAA's member schools. Osburn wrote that there would need to be new evidence presented for another appeal to take place.
Shelton said her son isn't taking classes this spring but plans to re-enroll at UNC for the first semester of summer school. McAdoo would have the option of transferring to an NAIA school, but Shelton said he is determined to stay in Chapel Hill, get his eligibility restored and rejoin the Tar Heels.
Her son gets depressed, Shelton said, because he was coming off a strong showing in spring practice last year and was looking forward to playing his junior season in 2010. Instead, he lost all of his belongings in a July fire at an apartment he shared with teammate Kevin Reddick.
Then he lost his football eligibility.
Nonetheless, she said, McAdoo loves Chapel Hill, and she can't get him to come home to Antioch, Tenn.
"He said, 'Mama, I love it, and I didn't do anything wrong, and I have hope that the NCAA or my attorneys will help make this situation right.'"
The NCAA rescinded a permanent ban on another player, UNC fullback Devon Ramsay, after his lawyer, Robert Orr, worked with UNC and the NCAA to get additional facts considered in Ramsay's case.
One difference in Ramsay's and McAdoo's cases, however, is that Orr stopped Ramsay from going through a formal appeal hearing for fear that his ability to contest the charges would be diminished after the appeal was made.
McAdoo went forward with his appeal and was denied. Shelton said she maintained belief the NCAA would come up with a fair ruling in the case, but ultimately she was disappointed.
"I feel the NCAA in this situation dealing with the allegations against Michael and ruling him permanently ineligible is wrong," she said, "and they really need to treat all the players more fairly and equitably."
Staff writer Robbi Pickeral contributed to this report.
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