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NCAA requests to move the McCants case to federal court

Today, the NCAA filed a request to move the lawsuit filed by two former student-athletes, Rashanda McCants and Devon Ramsay, to federal court. Removal from state court to federal court is appropriate in this case based on the federal law that confers jurisdiction over class actions of this nature to the federal courts.

The NCAA believes that the lawsuit misunderstands the NCAA’s role with respect to its member schools and ignores the myriad steps the NCAA has taken to assist student-athletes in being equipped to excel both in the classroom and on the playing field.

“This case is troubling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the law does not and has never required the NCAA to ensure that every student-athlete is actually taking full advantage of the academic and athletic opportunities provided to them,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “Each year, the NCAA facilitates amazing opportunities for more than 460,000 students to participate in athletics at institutions of higher education of all sizes and missions across the country, and many of them actually do maximize those opportunities.”

A fundamental tenet of the Association to which all our member schools are fully committed is ensuring that there is a structure in place to assist student-athletes in graduating.  The NCAA membership sets broadly-applicable eligibility standards designed to assist student-athletes in progressing towards a degree. In addition to these individual academic requirements, the NCAA instituted team-wide academic requirements in order for a team to be eligible for postseason play, ensuring that both athletic and academic performance are relevant for participation in NCAA championships.

Member schools and student-athletes have, at times, attempted to violate NCAA rules. However, that behavior is not at all representative of the overwhelming majority of member schools and student-athletes who operate with integrity and a fundamental belief in the extraordinary value of a college education.  The NCAA has remained vigilant in reviewing violations of NCAA academic misconduct rules and penalizing that behavior when appropriate.  The allegations detailed in the McCants lawsuit provide a good example:  the Division I Committee on Infractions sanctioned UNC in 2012 for violations in its athletics program, including academic misconduct.

NCAA member school adopted legislation and policies related to individual and team academic standards, and subsequent enforcement of such rules and policies when they are violated, does not provide any basis for the plaintiffs’ legal claims against the NCAA in this lawsuit. 

“Courts have concluded in similar cases that standard-setting organizations cannot be held liable for the actions of their members,” said Walter Dellinger, NCAA outside counsel.  “The NCAA is not legally responsible for any academic fraud that may have occurred at UNC.”  

“The courtroom is not an appropriate place to decide the policy questions plaintiffs seek to inject into their lawsuit,” said Remy.  “The NCAA will vigorously defend against these claims.”