Two former UNC athletes who sued the university and the NCAA in relation to the long-running scandal over fake classes were sent back to state court by a federal judge.
Rashanda McCants, a former North Carolina women’s basketball player, and Devon Ramsay, a former football player, filed a lawsuit in 2015 in Durham County Superior Court accusing the NCAA and UNC-Chapel Hill of academic fraud.
The NCAA moved the case to federal court and has been dismissed from the case.
Now the athletes are set to head back to the courthouse where they initially wanted to air their complaints.
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“After years of litigation, we are back in North Carolina state court, where we have always wanted to be and where we started this case,” Sathya S. Gosselin, a Washington-based attorney representing the athletes, said after U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs issued her memorandum opinion and order on Wednesday. “We and our clients – the college athletes harmed by UNC’s conduct (and the NCAA’s inaction) – look forward to our day in court.”
The McCants-Ramsay lawsuit punches at a core question hanging over college sports: Can the NCAA’s stated mission of educating college athletes – and schools that compete in their divisions – mesh with the time demands and requirements of being on a team?
The suit filed Jan. 22, 2015, contends that UNC, through the offering of classes that never met and required little work, breached its contract with the students.
“We appreciate Judge Biggs’ decision to dismiss this case from federal court. North Carolina law does not support these claims, and we look forward to presenting our arguments in state court,” UNC-CH spokeswoman Joanne Peters.
The return to state court comes several weeks after a N.C. Court of Appeals three-judge panel ruled against former football player James Arnold and former women’s basketball player Leah Metcalf. The athletes in that case argued that they were robbed of the rigorous education that UNC typically promises.
The appellate judges ruled that their complaint appeared to be an attempt by their attorneys to repackage “educational malpractice claims (that) are not recognized under North Carolina law.”
The judges in the Metcalf-Arnold case built their opinion on legal doctrine that counsels judges to avoid delving “into the nuances of educational processes and theories” to second-guess academic practice.
But the state allows breach-of-contract cases if students can point to violations of specific, binding promises.
To date, none of the lawsuits filed by athletes in the wake of UNC’s academic and athletic scandals have moved through the courts with much success.
Earlier this year, Biggs dismissed UNC from a lawsuit filed by former football player Michael McAdoo and former women’s basketball player Kenya McBee.
In that ruling, Biggs said the case did not belong in federal court.