McNair Wins Early Victory in Case Against NCAA

Todd McNair, the coach who the NCAA enforcement staff painted as the crux of USC’s responsibility for the Reggie Bush violations, passed a major test when his lawsuit survived a motion to dismiss from the NCAA. The judge found that the NCAA’s prosecution of McNair was “malicious” and “over the top”.

McNair’s lawsuit is more or less a defamation suit, rather than the more common due process suits that have been filed (unsuccessfully) for years against the NCAA. Defamation is a tough claim, especially if McNair is considered a public figure. But the judge’s comments raise the possibility that McNair might be able to prove that the NCAA willfully disregarded the truth, which is the standard in a defamation case for a public figure.

The defamation angle is also noteworthy given the back and forth between the NCAA and student-athletes in reinstatement cases surrounding the release of information. The cases involving Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Muhammad, and the two suspended Indiana players all contain the common thread of the athletes, their families, lawyers, and/or institution being unhappy with the NCAA’s announcement. If McNair ultimately succeeds with his defamation claim, similar releases may become a new avenue for athletes and coaches to attack NCAA decisions.

2 Responses to “McNair Wins Early Victory in Case Against NCAA”

  1. John, you missed some of the most critical aspects of the judge’s opinion. For example, the point he makes regarding a COI Member, an NCAA employee and an appeals committee member exchanging emails with one another – the tone of which could be seen as “malicious” and “over the top.” The judge plans to unseal the limited record in a month or so pending the NCAA’s appeal. However, it’s probably safe to bet that these emails weren’t glowing emails regarding USC or McNair and probably were focused on how to downplay evidence that tended to exonerate McNair and how to emphasize evidence suggesting guilt. Assuming that’s right, the big issue that you seem to miss is the very fact that a COI member and an Appeals Committee member are exchanging emails in the first place is troubling and would seem to undermine the integrity of the appeals process. In other words, members, or at least a member, of the Appeals Committee was working with at least one member of the COI. That doesn’t sound like a fair process if that’s right. This colluding together by members of committees that should be independent seems to me to be a very important fact that you missed.

  2. B. David Ridpath

    exparte discussions are prohibited by NCAA rules and often the ncaa flaunts these requirements. I do agree with you Andy as you make a very important point and will be a strong lynchpin in the case. The NCAA can hide behind confidentiality but when exposed ala the Neuheisel and Cohane cases–it is even more unfair than commonly believed. Cases like this will continue to put pressure on the system to change to include the 1991 Lee Commission recommendations of open hearings and an independent trier of fact.

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