We always thought we knew a couple of things about the NCAA Committee on Infractions that hammered USC with a vengeance nearly five years ago.
But with the court-ordered public filing of material in the NCAA's attempt to get the Todd McNair lawsuit thrown out, now we know. They were lawless, and lazy, and not above lying. The nearly 500 pages filed Friday and made public Tuesday make it clear.
These arbiters of what is right and fair and just and honorable in the conduct of a college athletic program were anything but in dealing with USC and Todd McNair. Even those of us who had the least regard for the NCAA are shocked by the way they went about this.
As the McNair brief makes clear, in the first document released, a trio of NCAA people, one a newcomer to the Committee on Infractions, "highjacked" the process against USC in ways they were forbidden to do by NCAA bylaws and were allowed to get away with it.
The depositions and emails make that case in no uncertain terms. They hated USC. They despised Todd McNair. And they feared more than anything that USC wasn't going to be penalized harshly enough. So against the NCAA's own rules, they lobbied and harangued and said don't worry about the evidence, it's OK. They're guilty. He's guilty. It's not a problem.
"McNair should have all inferences negatively inferred against him ... we need not say why we disbelieve him, we only need to let the public, or whomever, know that we do disbelieve him," said Roscoe Howard, a former U.S. attorney and the newcomer to the committee who was there only as an observer with no vote, no voice and no part to play in this. But he did. And no one said no. This wasn't a fair process. He'd prejudged it and he was neither the judge nor the jury.
"I don't think this committee should be chained to a (enforcement) 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," Howard wrote. "I was insulted by arguments made by (the) institution and embarrassed by the reaction of the staff."
But Howard had nothing on committee liaison Shep Cooper, who couldn't conceal his contempt for McNair in one email, calling the USC coach "a lying morally bankrupt criminal, in my view, and a hypocrite of the highest order."
Talk about making McNair's case for him. No wonder the NCAA has gone to such lengths and expense and made all sorts of absurd arguments to keep this from the public.
"This is the story of how such a miscarriage of justice occurred," the McNair brief opens, "and how the NCAA ruined Todd McNair's reputation and career- by the NCAA violating its own rules, procedures and bylaws, by the NCAA changing evidence to suit its purposes, and by the NCAA issuing a report that was not supported by the record -- all done to achieve a pre-conceived result. As explained herein, the NCAA committed these acts with knowledge that the facts were false, or with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the facts -- stated another way, the NCAA acted with malice."
Which is exactly what LA Superior Court Judge Frederick Schaller would decide when he saw what the NCAA did here. And just as will anyone who reads these documents.
The third member of USC's hanging judge trio, non-voting member Rodney Uphoff, the NCAA coordinator of appeals, even brought into the discussion USC's hiring of Lane Kiffin although that occurred well after any events considered in the case and was clearly irrelevant.
Uphoff's contempt for USC could not have been more obvious: "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 . . . 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. In light of all of the problems at USC, a failure to send a serious message in this case undercuts efforts to help clean up NCAA sports."
But then Uphoff proves his nonseriousness by bringing in the Oklahoma City bombing case with regard to hearsay as similar to issues raised in the Reggie Bush findings. No, seriously, he actually went there -- and at great length.
“This evidence in this [Bush] case is, for example, [is] markedly stronger than in the OKC bombing case which was built entirely on circumstantial evidence. In fact, there was no direct evidence that [Terry] Nichols was ever involved in the bombing plot,” Uphoff wrote. Of interest here, Uphoff was one of Nichols' attorneys and we're told, this is not the first time he's referenced that case with regard to the USC case.
That this could all be a problem was noted by COI member Eleanor Myers, a Temple University law professor who objected most strongly to "the botched" Lloyd Lake/McNair phone call evidence.
“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,” Meyers emailed COI members. “Further, it is not clear that everyone is equally comfortable using email in this way and I think it is important for the deliberations to be inclusive."
But for USC fans, the important conclusion might be in the nexus between McNair and the NCAA's desire to take USC down no matter what. Here's what the McNair attorneys say about how that happened.
"Why did the NCAA engage in this unceasing effort to find against McNair despite the evidence? While McNair does not need to prove what the NCAA's motives were in order to establish his claims, those motives can in fact be proven. The NCAA believed that in order to punish USC to the extent it desired, it needed to make a finding against Todd McNair. Without such finding, the only remedy which the NCAA had in relation to the Reggie Bush issue would have been a charge of a violation of amateurism legislation against Reggie Bush himself. USC could not have been charged or penalized as severely as it was. In the limited discovery plaintiff has been afforded so far, two NCAA officials have candidly acknowledged that a finding against McNair was necessary for the penalties to be assessed against USC. . . . Furthermore, as stated above, Cooper expressed his desire to ensure that McNair no longer had a coaching career at ANY level."
"This all fits in with the efforts of Cooper, Uphoff and Howard to hijack the process. As Uphoff articulated, 'I agree that this case cries out for something dramatic.' Consequently, the NCAA clearly disregarded the rights and reputation of Todd McNair to punish USC, a program for which it had clear disdain."