All is going according to plan.
Well, according to one plan, that is. Not the NCAA's plan, however.
The NCAA plan for the Todd McNair lawsuit, was to stall, stall, stall, obfuscate, delay and do anything and everything but open up, tell the truth, be transparent and come clean. That plan is not holding up so much after Wednesday.
That’s when the California Supreme Court said of the NCAA’s last appeal: “Denied.”
Just another failed Hail Mary as the NCAA hoped that maybe, just maybe, the Supreme Court would bail them out.
What else could they do after a State Appeals Court in LA had told them to go to trial and let a court decide McNair’s lawsuit for defamation with this comment we thought said it all: “without a finding against McNair, no penalties could have been instituted against USC for [Reggie] Bush’s receipt of improper benefits.”
That’s not the kind of language the NCAA expects to hear – or has ever had to hear when it’s gone to court.
Another case of that unofficial NCAA by-law: “Transparency for thee, but not for me.”
Todd McNair can have his coaching career, his reputation, and his life, tossed on the trash heap just because the NCAA Committee on Infractions had to connect someone on the USC staff to knowledge of NCAA violations in the Bush case so it could hammer the Trojans with the worst penalties in the modern era.
So what if there was some collateral damage. Too bad. Someone had to be the fall guy. They picked Todd to be the one to go.
Only Todd didn’t go. He fought them. And he picked the right attorneys. First came Kansas City-based Scott Tompsett, who has made a career of defending coaches from NCAA charges the last 25 years and may understand how the NCAA does what it does better than anyone.
Then Todd added as his California counsel, Santa Monica-based Bruce Broillet, as we noted last week, just off his $55 million award representing Erin Andrews against her video stalker and the Nashville Mariott for not protecting her against him.
Not only does the NCAA not have the law on its side, it’s getting badly outlawyered. Not that we can blame the NCAA’s legal representation all that much. They have a bad case. And bad clients.
And if the NCAA hasn’t had to pay the piper just yet for conspiring to steal six years of Todd McNair’s life, as the lawsuit comes back to LA and Judge Frederick Shaller to prepare for trial over the next year, it soon will.
Shaller, you’ll recall, got this started in late 2012 with his strong repudiation of the NCAA’s first call for dismissal citing how a reading of the limited discovery and NCAA emails showed the organization’s “ill will,” “hatred” and “malice” for McNair.
Not that the NCAA forgot. Now we’re learning that the NCAA last month tried to get Shaller, a USC graduate, off the case. The Court swatted that request away, the LA Times’ Nathan Fenno reports, saying it was “untimely and premature” and the NCAA had cited no “legal grounds for disqualification.”
But the NCAA did manage to cite three CBSsports.com stories with three comments about Shaller’s USC alumnus status in its lame challenge. Could they be any more desparate?
So now it’s the nightmare scenario for the NCAA. The case is back in LA. It’s in Judge Shaller’s court. And the team of Broillet, Tompsett and Co. will be figuring out just how to get transparency from an NCAA that can’t afford to let anyone see what it did in the USC case.
Start with the eight Committee on Infractions members in the USC case, seven of whom were never deposed for the 2012 hearing. We recommend good legal representation for those folks, especially the august legal minds of the law professors the NCAA brags about populating the committee, when they’re asked to explain, maybe even justify, their conduct in railroading McNair in order to take USC down.
Up until now, these people have been in a bubble. That’s no longer the case. The Supreme Court put the needle to that bubble.
And USC fans will have a ringside seat for it all starting sometime in late spring, a day many thought would never come.
The central issue going forward now would seem to be this conundrum: The NCAA can’t let this case go to trail, with all the ugly discovery material and many more emails. And then there's the gamble of what an LA jury might do to send a message to the NCAA that it cannot act this way.
But can it really settle before trial at the cost of $30 million or so, just to pull out a reasonable number for an organization with $800 million in the bank, and not give a full public explanation to the 1,000-plus member universities and colleges who will in effect have to eat that award?
Guess we’re about to find out.
The best part of all of this: Todd McNair gets his life back. And the NCAA has to pay him dearly for the use of six years of it.
You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.