With extreme anticlamatic-ness. Yes after two hours of listening to lawyers talk I am making words now.
Durham Superior Court judge Orlando Hudson denied former Tar Heel DE Michael McAdoo's request for an injunction which would have allowed him to play football at UNC this season. Hudson, after two hours of hearing various arguments, issued the ruling from the bench in such a quick and decisive fashion it was almost like he made his mind up halfway through the hearing and spent the rest of the time thinking of what he was going to have for dinner. Seriously, it felt something like this.
McAdoo's attorney Noah Huffstetler: Can we have an injunction?
Two hours of lawyer talk which included the NCAA lawyer, Paul Sun calling McAdoo a cheater more times than I can count, Huffstetler alluding to the possibility the NCAA behaves like a criminal organization and UNC's counsel Stephanie Brennan saying, "Hey, we're just following the rules here and besides the NCAA has a nuclear missile with the GPS coordinates for the Kenan Football Center programmed into it so for the love of everything holy don't grant this injunction"
Judge Orlando Hudson: "Um, yeah...no injunction. Have a nice day folks!"
Since McAdoo's arguments were mostly included in the lawsuit filing, we knew what was coming from Huffstetler. He argued that the NCAA did not follow its own procedures with regard to the facts during the appeal by ignoring the new honor court findings. He also noted the NCAA's action against McAdoo was based on bad information i.e. the NCAA used three instances of academic fraud when the honor court only found one. I did think Huffstetler was doing some serious hair splitting by saying while UNC reported violations, it never said McAdoo committed the violations. The implication there was the violations were all on tutor Jennifer Wiley who provided illicit help which McAdoo did not realize was out of bounds.
The NCAA went for blood out of the gate painting McAdoo as a "cheater" who knew exactly what he was doing when he asked Wiley for help. If there was a question as to whether the newly discovered plagiarism from the paper would have any bearing in this hearing was answered rather quickly. Sun told the court not only was McAdoo guilty of academic fraud but the paper was worse than anyone originally thought.
Side note: It should be said the Pack Pride message boards will be insufferable now. Well they were insufferable before but having been credited with discovering the plagiarism in McAdoo's paper then seen it used by the NCAA's attorney in rebutting McAdoo's arguments. There is already a sense in the NC State online community that they are these crusaders for truth and justice doing the investigations the pro-UNC media, board of governors and John Swofford won't do. This will only reinforce that...um...notion despite the fact no one really takes them seriously.
Sun pounded the point of McAdoo's academic fraud which was interesting since no one really disputes that part of it. Sun however went further in saying that the three instances mattered because it showed a pattern and implied rather strongly that McAdoo has been cheating his way through school with Wiley's help all along. Sun also pointed out that the NCAA is not bound to what the honor court at UNC decides. This despite the fact UNC determines eligibility unless the NCAA says they don't or the fact the NCAA left other players who were suspended by the honor court alone. Unsurprisingly, Sun did argue that the courts do not generally interfere with voluntary associations which is what UNC being a member of the NCAA is. I would question how "voluntary" the association is for both parties at this point, at least in practical terms.
UNC's attorney Stephanie Brennan basically said the UNC staff followed the procedures and did as much as they could for McAdoo within the context of the rules. Brennan also noted that the NCAA has the power to punish UNC which causes the university to do nutty things like hold players out at the first sign of trouble and meekly agree to anything the NCAA says. It was clear UNC is still worried about what the NCAA might do to the football program and the repercussions of putting an ineligible player back on the field only to have him declared ineligible at trial. The injunction request actually addressed this but UNC is still wary enough of the NCAA's power to express concern about it in their rebuttal.
So where does it go from here? McAdoo is done playing football at UNC. It is possible he could go play elsewhere such as NAIA(as suggested by Sun during the hearing) or even semi-pro football. The lawsuit itself will move to trial now assuming the NCAA does not move to settle the case out of court. Why would the NCAA settle? Because the time, cost and potential damage of a trial is probably best avoided. In some ways the hearing was about each side feeling out the other's arguments. The NCAA's argument focused on McAdoo's guilt and that the organization was well within its rights to punish a rule breaker. Huffstetler hammered the NCAA on the procedure and clung to the idea that UNC determines eligibility and since the honor court did that, the NCAA's penalty was excessive. In other words, neither side tipped their hand too much. The NCAA's non-interference claim was expected and no one is going to argue that Sun was wrong in calling McAdoo a cheater. The issue of the NCAA's inconsistent application of penalties never came up. It is possible that is being saved for the trial where a lot more of these issues get fleshed out. Given the odds against getting the injunction, Huffstetler probably opted to reserve certain aspects of their argument for the trial instead of tipping the NCAA off which would help them craft a rebuttal. The NCAA answering why they banned McAdoo but did not do that to others who did worse will carry a lot of weight with a jury.
That, more than anything else, is why I will be surprised if the NCAA doesn't move to end this thing sooner rather than later. Jury trials are unpredictable and a young football player who had his dream of playing football crushed by an overzealous, drunk-with-power organization is not a story the NCAA wants to fight in front of the average citizen. Calling McAdoo a cheater and playing that card won't work because any person with an ounce of common sense is going to conclude one paper does not mean a player should be punished that severely. Introduce the numerous instances of the NCAA doling out lesser penalties to equal or greater crimes and it could get dicey. Of course the NCAA will argue non-interference and such but such trials are unpredictable. Yes, McAdoo cheated but the argument is he paid for that. So the NCAA would love nothing more than to see this go away. The question is if McAdoo wants to go through with it or not. If the NCAA offers enough money, I imagine it will be hard to say no and keep fight the battle for the sake of principle.
The bottom line is, this isn't over yet and if McAdoo can stomach the long fight, I would love to see this played out in a full trial.