As we’ve discussed over the last couple days, Todd McNair’s defamation case against the NCAA has picked up some steam, but its long-term impact is uncertain. Now on top of the judge’s comments about the NCAA’s “malicious” proseuction, McNair has presented evidence of how that malice may have affected the case:
[Judge Frederick] Shaller said that evidence provided by McNair’s attorneys show the NCAA had a “wreckless disregard for the truth.” Emails between Cooper and committee members Rodney Uphoff, a Missouri law professor, and Roscoe Howard, a former U.S. attorney, were circulated “covertly” in violation of NCAA rules according to the document.
Shallers’ decision uses only last names “Cooper” “Uphoff” and “Howard” but the document identifies by their NCAA duties and titles relevant to the case.
If McNair can prove the NCAA went above and beyond its procedures in order to nail him, he stands a pretty big chance of winning a recovery. And it would open the NCAA up to having to defend defamation suits regularly, as anyone who suffered a bad result would file the lawsuit simply to get to discovery and see whether the NCAA made a mistake or someone said something out of order.
But NCAA critics are not waiting for someone to prove the NCAA messed up in the USC case. Unless USC is prepared to reverse course and sue the NCAA, the long term impact of McNair’s case could be minimal. He will walk away with a nice chunk of change, the NCAA will not be affected financial to any degree, and life will go on.
The holy grail would be for someone to prove that the NCAA did everything by the book and still be able to win a defamation case. That would open an avenue for courts to review and pass judgment on NCAA procedures themselves, not just whether they were followed. A class action lawsuit would not be far behind.
As the case stands now, McNair is likely cruising toward a settlement in the not-to-distant future. The only question remaining is whether this is about principle and McNair refuses to walk away from the case without his name cleared, or whether he takes the money and the NCAA walks away without admitting anything.