Todd McNair, former USC assistant, asks for $27 million in defamation trial against NCAA

NCAAF


LOS ANGELES — Former USC assistant football coach Todd McNair’s defamation trial against the NCAA is now in the hands of the jury.

During closing arguments Friday, McNair’s attorney, Bruce Broillet, called for an award of roughly $27 million in actual damages. The figure does not include potential punitive damages and was scoffed at by his opposing counsel, Kosta Stojilkovic, who argued McNair had not met his burden and should not receive anything from the NCAA.

In a civil trial such as this one, the plaintiff’s side (McNair) presents its closing argument first, the defense follows before the plaintiff gets a rebuttal.

Broillet took about two hours to methodically resurface what he deemed to be the NCAA’s most damning missteps during its investigation into McNair’s involvement in the Reggie Bush impermissible-benefits scandal and the hearing and appeals process that followed. Bush was provided with hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits, including a house for his parents, during his career at USC by an aspiring agent, Lloyd Lake, and his business partner.

Among other things, Broillet chose to focus on factual mistakes by NCAA investigators during separate interviews they conducted with Lake and McNair about a short phone call Lake made to McNair in the early morning hours of Jan. 8, 2006. During their interview with Lake, a portion of which was played twice for the jury during the trial, investigators incorrectly represented it was McNair who called Lake. And when they asked McNair about the call, they told him it occurred a year earlier than phone records show it did.

The call is important, because without the record of its existence, it would have been highly unlikely the NCAA could have justified any unethical conduct findings against McNair. Lake, a convicted felon, said of the call, “I think that was like [McNair] trying to resolve it. Reggie’s wrong, he should make it right.” McNair has always maintained he has no memory of the call.

Perhaps the most inflammatory behavior by the NCAA revealed since McNair filed his lawsuit in 2011 was private email communication between three supposed observers to the Committee on Infractions — Shep Cooper, Roscoe Howard and Rodney Uphoff — who, in violation of the NCAA bylaws, discussed plans to influence the COI.

Cooper, then a liaison to the COI, notably called McNair “a lying, morally bankrupt criminal, in my view and a hypocrite of the highest order.”

The conduct Cooper displayed during the process ultimately led to him being passed up for a promotion, NCAA president Mark Emmert testified earlier in the trial, which Stojilkovic argued Friday was proof that the NCAA has taken responsibility for his behavior.

“I’d like to call them the Three Musketeers,” Broillet said of Cooper, Howard and Uphoff, “but that would be a compliment, and I’m not going to do that.”

It was one of several moments he got the jury to laugh.

“If this is what goes on at the NCAA all the time, your verdict needs to clean this up, because people’s occupations are at stake,” Broillet said. “And university programs are at stake, and the kids who play in those programs are at stake, and our integrity as a people is at stake.”

When it was his turn to address the jury, Stojilkovic said Broillet acted as his own star witness throughout the trial, and because McNair didn’t have evidence to back up his defamation claim, Broillet started making things up.

“There’s a hole the size of the Grand Canyon in their story,” Stojilkovic said, “and the hole is, why should all these volunteers from across the country come together to railroad Todd McNair?”

Broillet made the case the NCAA targeted McNair as a way to allow for harsher sanctions against USC. Before the COI decided on including an unethical conduct charge against McNair, penalized with a one-year show-cause order, it had discussed docking the football program six scholarships over a two-year period and a one-year postseason ban. Once McNair was included, those sanctions jumped to a 30-scholarship loss over three years and a two-year postseason ban.

As expected, Stojilkovic highlighted the fact that McNair spoke with only a few college or pro teams since his contract was not renewed at USC in 2010. He suggested that was because if McNair had landed a job, it would have hurt his chances in court.

“There’s just not evidence this was a career-ending penalty,” Stojilkovic said.

Jury deliberations will begin Monday morning. It is unclear how long it will take for a verdict to return.



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