The California Court of Appeals has denied a motion to seal records relating to former USC running backs coach Todd McNair’s defamation lawsuit against the NCAA. The decision opens the door for records of alleged NCAA misconduct towards McNair and USC to be made public.
We conclude the NCAA failed to carry its burden to demonstrate that its interest in the confidentiality of its enforcement proceedings overrides the constitutional right of access and the presumption of openness, or how this interest in confidentiality would be prejudiced if the documents at issue were disclosed.
Therefore, we deny the NCAA’s motion to seal the appellate record lodged conditionally under seal.
The records will remain sealed for the time being, as further appeal could be made through the California Supreme Court, but the ruling is a major blow to the NCAA, who are deeply invested in keeping the details of their investigations of schools for rules violations behind the curtain.
A judge in 2012 refused to throw out the lawsuit at the NCAA’s request, calling their treatment of McNair “malicious” and determining the blackballed assistant coach had grounds to prove he was falsely defamed.
Since then it has been a fight to keep the details of that “malicious” behavior under wraps, though the NCAA has lost at every turn.
While USC has little direct stake in the decision, with sanctions relating to the Reggie Bush scandal and McNair’s involvement in it already completed, unsealing these records could go a long way towards shedding light on the way the investigation by the NCAA was handled.
The fervor with which the NCAA has fought to keep the documents from seeing the light of day suggests it could have even more far reaching implications as the public get a birds eye view of exactly how the NCAA’s enforcement arm operates.
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