The battle between former USC assistant coach Todd McNair and the NCAA is finally over.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury found that the NCAA did not defame McNair, a suit he filed back after he was found guilt by the NCAA infractions committee for “unethical conduct” in connection with the case against former USC running back and Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush.
The jury didn’t make it past the third of nine questions on the verdict form, per the LA Times, which asked if statements the NCAA infractions committee and appeals committee about McNair were false. The group voted 9-3 against McNair on that question.
“We appreciate the time and care the jury devoted to this case,” Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief legal officer, said in a statement. “After seven years of litigation, we are pleased the jury found clearly that the NCAA’s actions did not defame Mr. McNair. We hope that the decision will allow the NCAA, USC and Mr. McNair to move on from the case.”
McNair filed his lawsuit in 2011, after he was sanctioned with a one-year show-cause penalty for his role into the investigation into extra benefits given to Bush. That penalty was part of wide-ranging sanctions given to the Trojan football program, including a bowl ban and scholarship reductions.
McNair has not held another coaching job since being sanctioned by the NCAA. His testimony lasted two days in the three-week trial.
From the LA Times:
[McNair] told the nine women and three men on the jury about sinking into depression after the infractions committee’s decision, drinking heavily, taking out loans from friends and family, using food stamps and driving an Uber to make ends meet.
McNair’s claims against the NCAA
McNair claimed that the NCAA infractions committee and appeals committee libeled him in their final reports in the Bush investigation by printing information they knew to be false.
He also accused NCAA president Mark Emmert of slander after comments he made to USA Today in December 2010 — just a month after he became president.
“Everybody looks at the Reggie Bush case and says, ‘It took them a long time,’ But they got it right, I think,” Emmert said in 2010.
A series of emails between members of the committees were a big part of McNair’s argument, including one email from NCAA infractions committee liaison Shep Cooper in February 2010 that called McNair a “lying, morally bankrupt criminal and hypocrite of the highest order.”
After that and hundreds of other internal NCAA emails were unsealed in 2015, USC issued a statement saying it was “evident” that the NCAA had “bias against McNair and USC.” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was also critical of the NCAA after reviewing the documents, saying he and the conference share “USC’s serious concern regarding the process undergone” by the committees.
NCAA attorney Kosta Stojilkovic said in the trial that the emails were just a distraction, and that McNair was rightly penalized by the NCAA committees. Stojilkovic also said that McNair’s problems landing another job “stemmed from not sending out enough applications,” according to the LA Times.
McNair also alleged a breach of contract and negligence, but withdrew those counts before closing arguments began. He asked the jury for $27 million in damages.
The judge came close to declaring a mistrial earlier this week. The judge said the deliberations included “more than just gentle disagreement,” and the jury had asked him what to do if they were deadlocked after a day and a half of deliberations. One juror was dismissed midway through the deliberations because she was “struggling to understand English,” even after a translator was called to help.
McNair coached at USC from 2004-2009 — a stretch where the Trojans lost only 10 games. They won the 2004 National Championship in 2004, though that title was later stripped from the school. Bush, who won the 2005 Heisman Trophy, later returned the award as a result of the scandal.
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