Judge says NCAA “malicious” during investigation of USC football

November 22, 2012 – 1:00 am by Ryan Phillips

Former USC running backs coach Todd McNair essentially had his career ended by the NCAA’s punishment of the school’s football program. The NCAA ruled that McNair “knew or should have known” about payments from a wannabe sports agent to running back Reggie Bush, despite a serious lack of evidence.

Now McNair is suing the NCAA, claiming the organization’s investigation was one-sided and his career was hurt by it’s report on the scandal. On Wednesday a judge in a Los Angeles court agreed, and ruled that the NCAA was “malicious” in it’s investigation of McNair and USC.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller denied the NCAA’s appeal to throw out McNair’s lawsuit, and his 10-page ruling was scathing. He claimed – among other things – that emails between an NCAA worker and a person who works in the agency’s appeals decision “tend to show ill will or hatred” toward McNair. Shaller also said he was convinced that the actions of NCAA investigators were “over the top” in this case.

McNair’s attorney Bruce Broillet claimed during the hearing that the records showed the agency knew it was relying on false statements about McNair’s conduct in an attempt to “nail” him.

Broillet continued:

“The emails proved they wanted to get McNair in order to impose the heavier penalties they wanted on USC. So they wrote the evidence the way they wanted it to be – and that’s malice. They got it all wrong on purpose.”

Essentially, Shaller agreed saying, “I think it was directed to an outcome.”

The NCAA’s attorney, Laura Wytsma, denied that claim, saying evidence showed that the committee investigating McNair (and USC) was trying to get it’s report right. That said, her quote about the process is telling: “They were struggling to get the right result.” Well I guess it depends on what your opinion of the “right result” is.

Shaller also claimed he saw no reason for the records in the case to be sealed, because the public has a right to know what went on behind the scenes. The NCAA obviously will appeal that decision because it doesn’t want the files from this case to become public.

At one point during the hearing on Wednesday Wytsma even admitted that chief NCAA investigator Richard Johanningmeier actually got certain facts of the case wrong.

For a long time it has been obvious that the evidence didn’t add up to the penalties in the USC case. It seemed like the NCAA came to its conclusion before it had actually investigated the matter. While no one associated with USC has claimed that Bush didn’t receive benefits, they have argued how much the school really could have done to prevent it if its employees truly didn’t know what was going on.

Basically the case comes down to the NCAA’s finding of unethical conduct against McNair. The organization concluded that he lied in answers to investigators, but the actual evidence may not support those claims. The NCAA contends it simply found Lloyd Lake (the multiple-felon who provided benefits to Bush) more credible than McNair. They believed one and not the other.

For those unaware, Bush received benefits from a Lake, who had no connection to USC. The school claimed the team’s coaches had no idea what had transpired in San Diego – more than 100 miles from the campus – between Lake, Bush and his parents.

This ruling is a gigantic black eye for the NCAA and vindicates what USC has claimed for years: that the organization was trying to make an example of the school before the evidence was even collected.

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