Turnabout, Fair Play and Lousy Ethics: North Carolina Lawsuit

Sometimes the most serious sports ethics issues show up as almost insignificant little stories. It’s not that it’s insignificant to the people involved, it is just that the stories may not be flashy or headline news.

untitled (17)On November 10, 2014, Michael McAdoo a former University of North Carolina football player filed a lawsuit against the university.

According to NBC News:

“McAdoo, who played football at UNC from 2008 through 2010, was ruled permanently ineligible in 2010 for academic violations connected to a tutor providing improper assistance on a research paper for a class in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies department. The lawsuit comes weeks after a report detailing the academic and athletic scandal at UNC revealed that more than 3,100 athletes and everyday students took no-show classes in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies department for nearly two decades ending in 2011.”

That is correct; the university set up no-show classes for more than 3,000 students, most of whom were athletes. Tutors wrote papers for the athletes and indeed, the athletes were steered to only a handful of academic choices that had virtually no prospect of helping them gain future employment. McAdoo is suing the university saying that North Carolina “failed to provide him and other athletes a quality education.”

This sets up an amazing ethical debate and strikes at the very heart of academic fraud and NCAA issues.

How do universities truly view their student athletes? As students or as athletes? Ultimately, do they want their athletes to be educated – and do they even care?

Are the athletes simply money makers to support the medical school, law school, library, building fund, what and whatever?

Classically, we have always assumed that most athletes at big D-1 schools could care less about their studies. However is that the spin the universities have put on it all, or were those the words of the athletes themselves? It could be a mixture of both.

What we do know is that departments such as African and Afro-American Studies at UNC taught many of the student-athletes nothing and had no pretense of ever teaching them anything. The university was content to pass through thousands of men and women whose only purpose was to generate income for the university. It was only when the scandal broke wide open that McAdoo and many others were left high and dry.

The university failed to serve them as athletes and failed to serve them academically. It is more than sad; it is an ethical sham.

Now that McAdoo like tens of thousands of others, has failed to make an NFL roster (he came close with the Baltimore Ravens), and has failed to use anything he was ever not taught to gain a career, he is no better off than a kid who drops out of high school and is only qualified to flip burgers.

Don’t blame the student athlete

The university and many other universities had a choice a long time ago. Unfortunately, the path they took was to create a population of ex-athletes who were caught between two worlds.

The right thing would be to allow McAdoo to re-apply for admission. Give him the option of taking a few classes a semester. Put a time limit on his option to gain admission if necessary, but give him something. No one needs to guarantee  anything; just a chance at getting a degree. Why can’t McAdoo get a shot at eventually going to the law school or medical school he once helped build?

It won’t happen of course, that would be ethical of the university; but it’s awful nice to think about.







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