A federal judge on Friday removed the NCAA as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by former UNC-Chapel Hill athletes who said their educations were harmed by the bogus class scandal in the African studies department.
U.S. District Judge Loretta C. Biggs ruled that the attorneys representing former football player Devon Ramsay and former women’s basketball player Rashanda McCants had failed to state a specific claim against the NCAA. She did not make a decision regarding UNC, the other defendant in the case.
At a court hearing in April, Biggs had asked Michael Hausfeld, a Washington, D.C., attorney, to explain the direct relationship the NCAA, which regulates college sports, had with his clients. Hausfeld struggled to answer the question, and Biggs cited what she found to be a vague response in her decision.
“Such generalized, sweeping assertions are not sufficient as a matter of law to show that the NCAA undertook any specific, affirmative tasks that would amount to a voluntary undertaking recognized by North Carolina law,” she wrote.
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Ramsay and McCants had filed the lawsuit three months after UNC released the results of a detailed investigation of the fake classes by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein. His report drew a strong connection between the classes – started by a clerical employee in the African studies department – and the academic support program for athletes.
Neither Ramsay or McCants had taken more than two of the sham classes. They are seeking class action status to represent other athletes who enrolled in them.
One of the remedies the lawsuit seeks is the creation of an independent commission that would scrutinize college sports programs to make sure athletes are getting proper educations.
Hausfeld is known as the lead attorney in former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA over its restrictions on paying athletes. Attorney Robert Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice, is also representing the athletes. It’s unclear whether the decision will be appealed.
Biggs did not rule on UNC’s status in the lawsuit. There is a second, similar lawsuit before her filed by two other former UNC athletes who had not named the NCAA as a defendant.