USC Football News: Reviewing NCAA’s Todd McNair Emails

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Oct 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of the Southern California Trojans logo at midfield before the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Creating a smoking gun

"Assuming that McNair failed to monitor and/or ignored a number of indications that Bush was receiving improper benefits, is that a basis for an unethical conduct finding or a lack of institutional control finding on behalf of USC?"

If the NCAA wanted to hit USC as hard as they could, Eleanor Myers, an associate professor of law at the University of Temple, asked the right question.

Suffice it to say, yes, the NCAA likely needed to find McNair guilty in order to hit USC with the LOIC finding they ultimately landed on.

She goes on:

"To make an unethical conduct finding, I think we would need to be pretty confident that we know the content of the Jan 8 call from Lake to McNair and that it was a threatening call and McNair lied about it."

Did the NCAA ever produce “confident” evidence about the content of that call or that McNair was not truthful regarding it? If simply deciding that Lake was being truthful while McNair was lying is evidence enough then sure they did.

Why bother explaining?

Roscoe Howard, an observing member of the committee, unloaded on the McNair credibility issue in jaw-dropping fashion.

"McNair should have all inferences negatively inferred against him. Credibility determinations are for this committee and this committee alone. As with all tribunals or fact finders, we need not say why we disbelieve him, we only need to let the public, or whomever, know that we do disbelieve him."

This is the NCAA’s idea of transparency.

In a matter of he said-he said, Howard believes that there is no need to explain the reasons by which the NCAA came to a conclusion that Lake was credible while McNair was not.

It’s the classic, “Because I said so.”

Moreover, it falls in line with the rest of the four-page ranting email which terms McNair as “the only witness or hearing participant that we undoubtedly know has lied to us” because he neglected to mention legal trouble involving dog fighting (McNair’s lawyers maintain that McNair was never convicted with a crime and thus had no reason to disclose the situation).

Yet Howard makes no mention of Lake’s falsehoods, including the origin of the smoking gun call. Lake and NCAA officials referred to said call on multiple occasions as being from McNair to Lake, but cell records show the call was from Lake to McNair.

Here, Howard admits that the investigation into USC was sub par, but seems to argue that USC should be hammered simply on the basis that he believes them to be guilty, just as he believes McNair to be a liar, regardless of evidence.

"“If I can be a little more frank than I have been, I don’t think this committee should be chained to a staff that has seemed to have fallen short with this investigation or an Institution that has no intention of having us find out what actually happened here. I was insulted by the arguments made by institution and embarrassed by the reaction of the staff.”"

The tone of his email, which repeatedly paints McNair as a liar and USC as “obstructionist,” is undoubtedly biased against both McNair and USC.

The most troubling part of that is that Howard was a meant to observe only. Yet he vehemently argued his position that USC and McNair should be punished in emails which were sent to and might have influenced voting members of the committee.

Record worries

"“I am becoming increasingly uneasy with conducting our deliberations by email. I am concerned about confidentiality both because I do not know the California open records law and because several of us use our institutional email accounts at public institutions.”"

This excerpt from an email from Eleanor Myers looks disturbingly like worrying about having records of conversations which could come out in public documents later…which is exactly what has happened.

What’s in a name?

"My recollection was while I didn’t find him credible, on most issues it was his word against Lake’s word. And Lake’s transcript was really choppy on his relationship with McNair, and as I recall he had difficulty being able to come up with his name until staff prompted him… It is challenging for me to make the finding when there is no allegation that he personally was involved in any rules violations, or even had specific knowledge of any. That’s why this is a tough one. But I will defer to others on it."

Britton Banowsky, the Commissioner of Conference USA, expresses concern over charging McNair with such murky evidence as presented by the NCAA and Lake.

That there is no real allegation of wrongdoing by McNair besides possibly being aware of Bush’s connection to Lake is a pretty big thing to admit. That Lake could not recall McNair’s name in the first place is a nice tidbit as well, considering the phone calls the two were supposed to have engaged in were initiated by him.

Ten years out and there seems to be no end to the drama surrounding Reggie Bush and the USC sanctions.

With McNair’s lawsuit still in the courts, don’t expect that to end anytime soon.

What should USC do next regarding the NCAA?

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