Durham County (North Carolina) Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson denied on July 13, 2011, a petition by former University of North Carolina (UNC) football student-athlete Michael McAdoo seeking to compel the institution to reinstate his athletics eligibility while preventing the NCAA from interfering in the process or punishing UNC if he returned to play. McAdoo requested the reinstatement to the UNC football team this fall after being declared permanently ineligible for academic misconduct by the NCAA. According to an ESPN.com article, McAdoo’s attorney “argued that McAdoo was losing the opportunity to play college football as well as the chance to possibly turn that into a professional career. But in denying the request, Hudson said McAdoo ‘will not likely suffer irreparable loss if the injunction is not imposed or issued’”. UNC had appealed McAdoo’s ineligibility within the NCAA structure—the appeal was denied. However, at the state court hearing, state attorneys representing UNC argued the “university sought the restoration of the plaintiff’s eligibility, advocated for it and filed an appeal on his behalf”, but “in the end, the university lost. As an NCAA member institution, UNC-Chapel Hill now has no choice but to respect the NCAA’s determination or face what the plaintiff concedes are `harsh and draconian’ consequences.” According to ESPN.com, UNC “offered McAdoo the opportunity to continue as a scholarship student and serve as a student coach this season”.
In an earlier blog post, the Michael L. Buckner Law Firm noted McAdoo’s lawsuit would face a high bar. Based on our research, courts hold that participation in athletics is a privilege and not a right. Courts will intervene in the decisions of athletics associations in limited instances. For example, an athletics association cannot dispense with a student-athlete’s privilege to participate in athletics arbitrarily and irrationally. Thus, the Hudson decision was not surprising.