It took the NCAA nearly six months to decide the Todd McNair appeal, and the ruling against him was no surprise. Neither will the expected USC appeal decision after its hearing over three months ago.
McNair, 46, an eight-year NFL running back, was the USC running backs coach for six years, until the 2010 season. His career has been put on hold by the NCAA and the next step is legal action with a possible multi-million dollar settlement from the NCAA.
The NCAA previously violated their rules and added a phantom finding during McNair’s appeal.
They also violated their rules by publicly endorsing the Infractions Committee decision last June before the notice of appeal, and then again in December, NCAA President Mark Emmert agreed with the Infractions Committee during the Appeals Committee deliberations, even though he admitted that he has never read the NCAA report.
The NCAA so mishandled the football findings and sanctions against USC that they had no choice but to deny appeals or admit their many mistakes.
The NCAA picked Friday after the first day of the NFL draft to announce their decision to minimize the sports media reaction.
Comparing the evidence, coaches' knowledge and intent, the Todd McNair decision suggests that Ohio State’s head coach Jim Tressel’s football career is over. But, the NCAA is so arbitrary in its decisions, that anything is possible.
In its denial of McNair's appeal, the four-person NCAA panel said it did not agree with what it described as his claim that the Committee on Infractions "relied on false statements in making its credibility determinations...and that the appellate committee found that the evidence met the standard of its prior reports..."
It is bad enough that the Committee of Infractions who decided the USC case included Missy Conboy, an attorney from Notre Dame, who had an obvious conflict of interest with the Trojans. But the four person appeal committee included her Notre Dame colleague, William P. Hoye, who was Associate vice president and deputy general counsel, University of Notre Dame, 1995-2007; concurrent Associate Professor of Law, Notre Dame Law School, 1993-2007; and received his master of laws degree (LL.M) in International Human Rights Law from Notre Dame Law School.
Dan Weber and Bryan Fisher of USCFootball.com have published several reports, NCAA Missteps on McNair and Exclusive: Investigation Illustrated that detail the NCAA mistakes and faulty finding about the connection between Todd McNair, Lloyd Lake and Reggie Bush.
Below are statements from McNair’s Kansas City-based attorney Scott Tompsett as identified in Dennis Dodd's blog today. Tompsett has had 20 years' experience representing coaches in NCAA cases, and has been involved in more than 50 such cases.
"Dr. Emmert recently said it's important for the NCAA to get the facts right in an infractions case," Tompsett said.
"He's correct; the NCAA owes it to involved parties, the NCAA membership and the public to get the facts right. The NCAA should get the facts right when it ends a coach's career."
In McNair's case, which the NCAA took the unprecedented action to separate from the USC case this fall on appeal, the NCAA did not get the facts right or even attempt to do so according to Tompsett.
"Dr. Emmert apparently wasn't referring to the USC case when he talked about getting the facts right, because the Infractions Committee mischaracterized and manipulated key testimony," Tompsett said of the appeal he filed first in August and then presented in a formal hearing Nov. 14 on McNair's behalf.
"The Infractions Committee based Mr. McNair's unethical conduct finding on demonstrably false statements. The Infractions Committee based its decision on inconsistent and contradictory findings. And today, the Infractions Appeal Committee said that's OK."
Tompsett added, "Mr. McNair is now considering legal action to remedy the injustice he has suffered. This has been a very difficult and trying experience for Mr. McNair and his family. He wants to publicly thank his many supporters for their interest in his case and unwavering support."
"ESPN.com said the NCAA's handling of McNair's case was sloppy and arbitrary, and called McNair's appeal strong and compelling. ESPN.com also said the NCAA's finding offends any notion of fair play. SI.com said the NCAA's evidence against McNair was questionable at best," Tompsett said.
"These are not Mr. McNair's statements," he said. "They are conclusions of independent media outlets."
Tompsett also indicated that the issues raised in the McNair case may also be addressed outside of the courts by Congress.
"According to reports, the United States Congress is considering holding investigative hearings into the NCAA's enforcement procedures, in part because of the NCAA's mishandling of Mr. McNair's case," he said. "It appears the NCAA stands alone in believing Mr. McNair is guilty of a major violation."
The fact that it took almost four months longer than normal for the NCAA Appeals Committee to render a decision, and the limited manner that they dismissed McNair’s arguments shows that this was not a normal case.
Any reasonable person would determine that there were mistakes made by the NCAA Committee of Infractions, but admitting these mistakes would expose many of the serious problems with the NCAA.
So, it appears that the Appeals Committee decided to protect the NCAA instead of treating McNair fairly.
This is no surprise, and USC will be treated the same way. However, McNair will collect his monetary settlement some day while USC has said they will take no legal action. The Trojans can’t risk the retribution that the NCAA would likely impose so they have to walk away.
It is clear that the only way to fix the NCAA is Congress who granted the NCAA non-profit status, although it is not a non-profit corporation and engages in political lobbying.
Admittedly Congress has many pressing problems now facing this country, but it has allowed the NCAA to run unchecked for many years.
Here is a letter to the Wall Street Journal written by an attorney who won a key case against the NCAA recommending that “Congress Should Rein in the NCAA.” He makes some good points.
ESPN.com wrote last week that it is “Time to replace or overhaul the NCAA” and they certainly got that right.
P.S. Here is comprehensive information about the NCAA vs. USC for those interested in the details.
June 3, 2011: filed in Los Angeles Superior Court - Libel, slander, interference with contract and with prospective economic advantage.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association