A North Carolina appeals court rejected former UNC football player Michael McAdoo’s appeal of the dismissal of his lawsuit against the NCAA. Like most courts who have considered the question of the fairness of NCAA decisions before, this one struggled with finding an injury for which they could award McAdoo damages:
Though McAdoo argued the decision to kick him off the football team hurt his potential for future earnings, the appeals court panel said those were hypothetical situations.
Arguing that losing eligibility caused an athlete to lose future earnings has normally been considered too speculative for courts to award damages. In McAdoo’s case, he had been drafted and signed a contract, so he was attemping to argue that he lost out on even more potential earnings than he has received. That was an even tougher argument to win than claiming that you lost out on a professional career entirely.
Critically, the court noted that McAdoo’s scholarship was not taken away. Student-athletes generally do not have a property right that a court will recognize in their future earnings. But courts have been willing to recognize a property right in a scholarship in some cases. Had UNC revoked McAdoo’s scholarship after the honor court cleared him but the NCAA did not, he might have been able to win a judgment for the value of his scholarship.
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