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Judge drops ex-UNC athletes' lawsuit over sham classes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A judge dismissed a lawsuit Friday in which two former University of North Carolina athletes alleged the school failed to provide them and other athletes a quality education by directing them toward sham classes.

Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin sided with arguments from attorneys representing UNC-Chapel Hill. They said the statute of limitations and sovereign immunity prevented former football player James Arnold and former basketball player Leah Metcalf from pursuing their case.

UNC-Chapel Hill became embroiled in an academic scandal beginning with an NCAA investigation in 2010. That probe led to the firing of coach Butch Davis, a one-year postseason ban and 15 fewer football scholarships.

Eventually, the school hired former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein to look into irregularities in the formerly named African and Afro-American (AFAM) Studies department. The study found more than 3,100 athletes and everyday students took no-show classes in the department for nearly two decades, resulting in artificially high grades while faculty and university administrators either missed red flags or looked the other way.

Arnold attended from 2005-09, and Metcalf was there from 2001-06. Attorneys for the school said they didn't file their lawsuit until a year ago and pointed out that shortly after they arrived, they felt UNC didn't live up to its billing.

Cyrus Mehri, an attorney for the athletes, said he would take the case next to the N.C. Court of Appeals.

"We feel like the fate of student-athletes at North Carolina, and nationwide, are at stake in what happens with the Court of Appeals," Mehri said.

UNC spokesman Rick White said the school was pleased with the ruling and has long acknowledged the sham classes.

"We've addressed those very thoroughly, very forthrightly, very transparently," he said. "And we've taken accountability for those things."