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Michael McAdoo Retains Counsel

Enter the lawyers.

Former UNC DL Michael McAdoo has retained legal counsel in an effort to get his eligibility back after the NCAA ended his career for violations discovered in during the scandal of last summer. McAdoo's mother, Janai Shelton has taken to the media to discuss her son's situation saying that the punishment leveled by the NCAA was unfair. Since UNC's appeal was denied, McAdoo is exploring legal options to have the decision reverse. From the News & Observer:

"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.

According to McAdoo's attorney, Noah Huffstetler III, McAdoo committed minor academic violations which were handled solely by the UNC honor court. The honor court's adjudication of the matter included McAdoo sitting out the 2010 season which he did. Had the issue ended with the honor court(and the NCAA relied on the honor court findings) McAdoo should have been eligible to play in 2011.  Huffstetler said that the honor court never made a determination of  "academic fraud" but the NCAA acted as though McAdoo commited an ethical conduct violation and declared him ineligible. There is also the matter of $103 in improper benefits for a trip to Washington, DC, admission to a club and use of a tutoring service. Huffstetler has said McAdoo paid the amount back to a charity per NCAA rules on the matter.

Obviously we are getting one side of the story. Huffstetler is not going to reveal details that would hurt their case in the PR aspect as well as the fight with the NCAA. That being said, it is difficult to get past the NCAA's penchant for uneven enforcement of its own rules. Take for example UNC CB Charles Brown who, like McAdoo, committed some academic violations which were handled by the honor court. Brown sat out the entirety of the 2010 season as a result and will sit one game in 2011 for receiving $87 in improper benefits. While we do not know what Brown did in terms of academic infractions, we do know the honor court reached the same conclusion with both who also had similar dollar amounts in improper benefits. So why does the NCAA accept the UNC honor court's determination on Brown and suspend him one game but with McAdoo they deem the honor court insufficient and give him the "death penalty?" The only thing I could think of that would bring the wrath of the NCAA down so harshly is if McAdoo lied at any point in the process. Neither Huffstetler or Shelton address that aspect of it.

McAdoo's situation can also be compared to Devon Ramsay's who was given the same penalty as McAdoo but proved to the NCAA that he never actually committed a violation. Are McAdoo's academic issues similar to Ramsay's? We have no idea. What we do know is Ramsay was given the "death penalty" over a very minor academic violation without the improper benefit angle. This is another example of uneven enforcement since the NCAA is apparently willing to drop the heaviest of hammers on a player for a minor academic violation while only suspended players at Ohio St. for five games for having done far worse. If that was the case for Ramsay, it certainly makes it plausible to believe McAdoo is in the same boat.

The one notable difference between Ramsay and McAdoo will be how the process plays out. Ramsay actually opted to not go through the appeal with the NCAA because doing so would result in him admitting he was guilty. Instead, Ramsay's lawyer circled back around to disprove the charge against him result in Ramsay being completely cleared of any wrongdoing. McAdoo actually went through the dog and pony show of appealing and was denied. That means McAdoo admitted guilt and also exhausted his options in terms of the NCAA process. Therefore McAdoo has two options. One is for Huffstetler to request the NCAA to reopen the case which seems unlikely. The second is to take the NCAA to court and get an injunction. Neither seems likely to work. However I am not aware of players using legal counsel to address penalties they believe were unfair. Ramsay did it but it was still within the NCAA process. What McAdoo is attempting to do is force the NCAA's hand in court(assuming the NCAA doesn't reopen the case) which is probably a nightmare scenario for the NCAA. The last thing they probably want is players taking to the courts in an effort to undo penalties they hand down. The NCAA would probably be wise to re-open McAdoo's case versus allowing this to go into a realm where a legal precedent could undermine their ability to hand down penalties.

If what Huffstetler says about McAdoo's case is true and there are no missing pieces of information which justify the penalty then hopefully this move will succeed. I have said this before and I will say it again here. You hope the NCAA did not end a player's career on the basis of some minor academic violations and $103. Because if they did, I don't care which team you are a fan of, the possibility the NCAA can be that harsh over such minor issues should scare the crap out of everyone. Even more so when they willing turn a blind eye to more egregious violations elsewhere.