USC Football News: Reviewing NCAA’s Todd McNair Emails

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Apr 6, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; NCAA president Mark Emmert speaks at a press conference before the national championship game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly 500 pages worth of documents from the Todd McNair lawsuit against the NCAA were released Tuesday, opening a can of worms which has shed even more light on the NCAA’s handling of USC’s sanctions.

Wading through court documents and legalese is hardly fun, but the documents posted by the Los Angeles Times in full reveal the extent to which the NCAA targeted USC and McNair as examples to be sacrificed on the altar of amateur athletics.

From off references to the Oklahoma City Bombing and newly hired coaches to admissions of botched aspects of the investigations, there is plenty to chew on when it comes to the newly released emails.

To start Rodney Uphoff, a law professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, ripped into the case in a memo addressing just about everything regarding the USC infractions.

"I haven’t been able to sleep for three nights because I fear that the Committee is going to be too lenient on USC on football violations. I think that would be a huge mistake in light of the evidence against Bush. It is incredible to think that he wasn’t involved from the start. Roscoe and I both are concerned because the evidence in our view is overwhelming that he was involved in 2004 and we are surprised at the very level of proof demanded by some of the Committee members."

Uphoff, a non-voting member of the committee, was so invested in taking down USC that he lost sleep over the matter.

More concerning than that, he scoffed that the “level of proof” demanded by the committee was too high and then wrote a lengthy memo with the express purpose of influencing a decision he was not supposed to be influencing.

"USC turned a blind eye to the problem and largely just hoped that nothing bad would happen. A failure to sanction USC both in basketball and football rewards USC for swimming with sharks. Although they all talked about the importance of compliance at the hearing, winning at any cost seems more important."

The memo contains many references to USC willfully turning a blind eye, which can be argued one way or another. However, there is little talk of actual “lack of institutional control.”

Instead of hitting the Trojans with a “failure to monitor” charge which seems more appropriate, all the talk of setting an example turned that into the harsher charge.

As he says later in the document: “In light of all the problems at USC, a failure to send a serious message in this case undercuts efforts to help clean up NCAA sports.”

But more on that later.

Oct 4, 2014; Oxford, MS, USA; Alabama Crimson offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin reacts during the replay of an interception in the end zone during the second half against Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Rebels won 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Kiffin curse

"Paul Dee was brought in at Miami to clean up a program with serious problems. USC has responded to its problems by bringing in Lane Kiffin. They need a wakeup call that doing things the wrong way will have serious consequences."

Once you’ve all stopped laughing hysterically about Paul Dee cleaning up Miami, the real gem of this statement stands out: An unnecessary, unwarranted jab at Lane Kiffin, who played no part in the allegations or infractions.

There’s something exceedingly comical about Uphoff having a giggle about Lane Kiffin as a response to USC’s problems while simultaneously holding up Paul Dee as some great white knight for the Hurricanes.

More relevant, there’s something wildly inappropriate about the statement which feels like piling on for no reason other than spite.

Burden of proof

Uphoff attempts to relate the burden of proof in the USC case with that of the case against Terry Nichols as an accomplice in the Oklahoma City Bombings.

It’s a bizarre comparison considering the context but his basic argument is that circumstantial evidence was enough to convict Nichols so it must be enough to convict McNair and USC.

"But there is no question that the evidence in this case is much stronger than against Nichols in the OKC case. Just as in criminal cases, NCAA cases that involve illegal payments will almost always include key witnesses with a motive to get back at the players or coaches involved and often they will have a checkered past…Lake’s inconsistencies re dates and details about events that spanned over 15 months in an interview that occurred several years after the events in question doesn’t render his credibility “shaky.”"

Uphoff argues that USC used time and the trouble of memory to explain Tim Floyd’s lack of recollection over the events of the day Rodney Guillory claims to have received $1000 from him. Thus, Lake should be given the same benefit.

Except that the burden of proof actually did or should have fallen on Lake, whose testimony was given without cross-examination because he refused to allow USC or McNair’s lawyers to interview him.

Instead, the NCAA turned the tables on the Trojans, accusing administrators of being too casual regarding the actions of their athletes and employees rather than dissecting the story of their star witness.

Why? Because they needed his smoking gun to take down a giant.