What to know about Todd McNair vs. the NCAA

From ESPN - April 17, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- After fighting in court for nearly seven years, former Southern California assistant football coach Todd McNair's defamation trial against the NCAA will begin Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

McNair's lawsuit, which includes claims for libel, slander, breach of contract, negligence and tortious interference, came in response to NCAA-levied sanctions against McNair and USC in the wake of an extra-benefits investigation into former running back Reggie Bush.

This whole saga dates back to 2004, when Bush started to emerge as star for the Trojans, while McNair served as his position coach. Here's everything you need to know with the trial set to begin.

Those NCAA sanctions against USC seem like so long ago. What happened, again?
On June 10, 2010, the NCAA Committee on Infractions issued a report that determined various NCAA violations had been committed by USC's football, men's basketball and women's tennis programs. For the purpose of McNair's connection, we will just focus on football. In its official report, the COI listed several violations -- mostly classified as impermissible extra benefits -- that Bush committed beginning in the fall of 2004 through December 2005, during his sophomore and junior seasons. They stem from a relationship Bush had with an aspiring sports marketer, Lloyd Lake, and plans for the formation of a sports agency. Lake and his business partner, Michael Michaels, provided Bush and his family members with cash and travel expenses and, most notably, purchased a home in the San Diego area where Bush's parents -- who were provided $10,000 to furnish the home -- lived rent free for more than a year.

The NCAA investigation lasted approximately four years and ended with heavy sanctions. USC was forced to vacate the final 14 wins of Bush's career, including its Orange Bowl victory following the 2004 season that secured the national title. The program lost 30 scholarships over three seasons and was prohibited from playing any postseason games for two years. In addition to its acceptance of USC's self-imposed disassociation from Bush -- who gave back the Heisman Trophy he won in 2005 -- it also required the school to show cause for "why it should not be penalized further if it fails to permanently disassociate" with him. There were other less significant penalties tacked on that can be found in the complete report.

Who is Todd McNair and how does he enter in to this?
McNair played running back at Temple before an eight-year NFL playing career with the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Oilers. From 2001 to 2003, he was the running backs coach for the Cleveland Browns, before USC coach Pete Carroll hired him for the same role at USC in 2004.

The NCAA's investigation came to the conclusion that McNair "knew or should have known" that Bush was engaged in violations with Lake and Michaels that negatively affected Bush's amateur status. Additionally, the COI report indicated "[McNair] provided false and misleading information to the enforcement staff concerning his knowledge of [Lake and his partner's] activity and also violated NCAA legislation by signing a document certifying that he had no knowledge of NCAA violations."

For all intents and purposes, McNair, outside of Bush, became the face of one the darkest periods in USC history. He was given a one-year show-cause penalty that impedes a coach's ability to be hired by a different university and was prohibited from contacting recruits. By the time the NCAA report was published and the sanctions were levied, Carroll already had left for the NFL to coach the Seattle Seahawks and was replaced by Lane Kiffin, who overlapped as offensive assistant coach with McNair at USC from 2004 to 2006. At first, it appeared that McNair would remain on Kiffin's staff, but when his contract expired 20 days after his alleged involvement was made public, USC did not renew it.

McNair has not coached at the college or pro level since.

How did the NCAA determine McNair "knew or should have known" about Bush's improper dealings?
The evidence the NCAA leaned on to make this conclusion is based heavily on a phone call recorded between McNair and Lake's cellphones that took place on Jan. 8, 2006, at 1:36 a.m., and lasted 2 minutes. Lake, a convicted felon, told the COI that McNair initiated the call after Bush decided to sign with a different sports agency after declaring for the NFL draft. (Phone records show it was Lake who initiated the call.) In an interview with the COI, Lake said McNair knew Bush took money from him but did not elaborate. McNair has denied any memory of the call and denied the conversation Lloyd outlined took place.

Additionally, there's also a photo that includes McNair, Lake, Michaels and McNair's friend, actor Faizon Love, in a nightclub. McNair told the COI he does not remember taking the photo and said it was common for him to take pictures with people he did not know, especially when he was out with Love.

Is that all the NCAA had to go on?
The lack of solid, documented evidence that McNair was clearly aware of Bush's dealings with Lake is why it was a popular belief, for several years, that the NCAA and McNair were likely to settle out of court.

Is it rare that it actually reached trial and what took so long?
Yes. It's much more common for cases to be dismissed or to get resolved well before trial. It stands to reason the NCAA never offered a settlement figure to McNair and his attorneys' satisfaction. One of McNair's attorneys, Bruce Broillet, has been involved in several high-profile civil cases, including a $55 million jury verdict for broadcaster Erin Andrews after she was secretly recorded naked in a hotel room by a stalker, according to his firm's website.

The NCAA fought hard to have the case dismissed and took several steps to ensure the case would move slowly through the court system. Eight different judges have been assigned to the case at various times, including Frederick Shaller, who will be the judge during the trial. In 2016, the NCAA tried to have Shaller disqualified because he attended USC, but California's 2nd District Court of Appeal determined he could remain on the case.

McNair's story is well-known in the college athletics community and he's generally a sympathetic figure. Still, why has not he landed another job?
It will be interesting to see if McNair, whose testimony is expected to take seven hours, is asked to take the jury through his job-seeking process following the COI report. There are several examples of coaches whose careers progress despite show-cause orders from the NCAA. What kind of feedback did he receive from colleagues in the coaching community or university administrators?


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