A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge has ruled that the National Collegiate Athletic Association was “malicious” in its investigation of Todd McNair, a former assistant football coach at the University of Southern California, allowing the coach’s defamation suit against the Association to proceed. The coach had been linked in a report to a scandal surrounding former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush.
McNair sued the NCAA in June of 2011. McNair claimed that the NCAA’s investigation, which concluded that he had lied about his knowledge of gifts that had been given to Bush’s family by two different sports marketing companies in violation of NCAA rules and regulations, was flawed. McNair claimed that the NCAA’s investigation was biased and one-sided and that his future earnings as a coach were hurt by its report on the scandal. The NCAA prohibited McNair from having any contact with recruits. McNair’s coaching contract at USC later was not renewed.
The NCAA had sought to have McNair’s action dismissed, but the Superior Court disagreed. Judge Frederick Shaller ruled that the actions of NCAA investigators were “over the top.” In addition, the decision states that emails between an NCAA investigative committee member, an NCAA worker and a person who works on the NCAA appeals division “tend to show ill will or hatred” toward McNair. Judge Shaller further stated that McNair had shown a probability he can win the defamation claims in his lawsuit.
McNair’s attorney declined formal comment following the ruling, but stated during the hearing that the NCAA knew it was relying on false statements about McNair’s conduct and that the NCAA wanted to “nail” the coach.
Despite objections from the NCAA, Judge Shaller intends to unseal the entire inquiry into McNair. NCAA attorney Laura Wytsma argued that the records in the case should not be unsealed because it would hurt future NCAA investigations inasmuch as the NCAA lacks subpoena power. The NCAA announced it will appeal the decision and release of the records will be delayed for a month pending that appeal.