Pac-12: Todd McNair

Mailbag: Revisiting McNair, NCAA and USC

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
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Welcome to the mailbag.

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To the notes!

Angry USC fan from Heritage Hall writes: Would you please, please, please comment on what is going on with former USC assistant coach Todd McNair's case against the NCAA?

Ted Miller: Who the heck is Todd McNair, USC and this NCAA of whom you speak?

Kidding.

Been getting a lot of notes -- this was a less salty, self-created amalgam of them -- about Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller stating in a ruling the day before Thanksgiving that the NCAA was "malicious" during its investigation of McNair and the NCAA.

My response? Well, duh.

McNair, of course, was the linchpin for the NCAA slamming USC with a two-year bowl ban and a loss of 30 scholarships over three years.

The NCAA really, really wanted to hammer USC. But to do so it had to prove USC knew that former running back Reggie Bush and his parents were getting extra benefits from a pair of would-be sports marketers during Bush's time as a Trojan. The problem the NCAA had, as the Pac-12 blog has pointed out a few times, is there was no credible evidence that USC did. So, as the Pac-12 blog has pointed out a few times, the NCAA just decided there was evidence and McNair was it and it didn't care that it was utter malarky.

(The position USC should have known is not unreasonable. The Trojans weren't blameless. That's never been our position. If the NCAA went that way, however, sanctions wouldn't have been nearly as severe).

Yes, the NCAA railroaded McNair and USC. That's been the position of just about every neutral observer who is knowledgable about the case. Some folks in the comment section below will argue differently. And what they will do is type things that are ignorant, irrelevant or untrue.

But this was true before Shaller's broadside to the NCAA. What USC fans really want is relief, and that's not happening. USC won't get its scholarships restored in 2013 and 2014. The single reason for that is there won't be any resolution in time to make USC whole. The McNair vs. NCAA case will take a while, and then any backward looking inquiry from the NCAA, unlikely in any event, would then move at its typical glacial pace.

USC AD Pat Haden isn't interested in talking about the McNair case. Why? Through a spokesman, USC told me it reasonably views the case as McNair vs. the NCAA, not USC vs. the NCAA. USC has moved on.

Further, McNair still has a ways to go to win his case, though Shaller did note "the former coach has shown a probability he can win his defamation claims."

What would be great fun, however, is the case going forward and the NCAA getting embarrassed for its shoddy investigation and ethically dubious behavior.

From Dennis Dodd's story on Nov. 27:
Documents that the NCAA is aggressively trying to keep under seal appear to show improper involvement by NCAA staff and committee members in the landmark USC decision more than two years ago.

A judge's decision made public last week -- and obtained in full by CBSSports.com -- shows that at least three persons may have improperly tried to influence the NCAA's powerful infractions committee to find former USC assistant Todd McNair complicit in the Reggie Bush case. Lawyers for McNair are trying to show the association violated its own rules and procedures in investigating their client.

Two non-voting members of the NCAA infractions committee and NCAA staffer allegedly tried to influence voting members inside the 10-person committee. The judge's decision contains excerpts of emails that he has determined show "ill will or hatred" toward McNair.

If those documents get unsealed, I've got a $5 bill that says it will be really, really embarrassing for the NCAA. As noted by Dodd, Shaller himself already concluded that the NCAA had a "reckless disregard for the truth."

I'm no lawyer, but a "reckless disregard for the truth" sounds to me like a bad thing for the NCAA to have.

A New York Times columnist went as far to wonder if leaked documents here might turn out for the NCAA like they did for Big Tobacco.

Or the NCAA might just settle with McNair and hope he goes away quietly.


Aaron McCool from Portland writes: I keep hearing how Manziel is "the one the got away" for Oregon. I'm not disputing that he's an amazing athlete, but it seems that A) if Oregon had to rely on Mariota in the same way the Aggies rely on Manziel instead of handing the ball off a large percent of the time, their stats might be similar; B) if Mariota had played an extra 8+ quarters (instead of sitting a number of second halves), their stats might be similar; C) Mariota checks his progression better than Manziel and tends to tuck and run less as a result. Again, Manziel had a great year against some great competition, but I don't think that they can be compared based solely on stats and I don't think the talent gap is there. What do you think?

Ted Miller: Both redshirt freshmen are great players. Manziel topped my Heisman ballot for ESPN.com.

If you're asking me which player I'd rather have, I'd say Mariota. Without a pause.

Mariota is a better passer. He ranks sixth in the nation in pass efficiency, completing 70 percent of his passes with 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Manziel is 17th, completing 68 percent of his throws with 24 TDs and eight picks.

Of course, Manziel passed a lot more, throwing for 3,400 yards compared to 2,500 for Mariota.

And Manziel rushed for 1,181 yards with 19 touchdowns. Those are good numbers for a running back. Mariota rushed for 690 yards and four scores.

Further, the most impressive performance of the season was Manziel against No. 1 Alabama. Mariota had some nice games, but he was mediocre against the best defense he faced: Stanford.

There is no question who should be getting Heisman and All-American attention: Manziel.

But, as you note, Mariota barely played in the second half of games this year, and certainly didn't need to throw much when he did see a third quarter. If Oregon had played a lot of close games, Mariota's numbers would have been better.

I also think the 6-foot-4 Mariota is a better NFL prospect.


Theo from Portland writes: I am an Oregon State Beaver fan and feel disrespected by the "2012 Pac-12 regular-season wrap" post. The Beavers are not mentioned ONCE in the article even though everyone would agree that this season was unexpected and we had an incredible turnaround. I think the article should be amended or a "2012 Pac-12 regular-season wrap Part 2" needs to be written to give credit where credit is due. The comments on the original post mirror my frustrations. Please fix this oversight.

Ted Miller: I made note of Oregon State's turnaround in the video above the story, which was about the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. The Pac-12 blog tapped Stanford's David Shaw for that, but took not of Mike Riley at Oregon State and Jim Mora at UCLA.

In this week's power rankings, I also noted about Oregon State, "If it's not the best one-year turnaround in Pac-12 history, it's certainly one of the best."

In retrospect, I do wish I'd in some way noted the Beavers turnaround in the body of the article, but noting the nice performance by the third-place team in the North Division didn't fit in with the more general, big picture themes of the article.

Pac-12 chat wrap

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
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If you missed my Thursday chat, you can read it in its entirety here.

But here's a smattering of brilliance!

Matt (Los Angeles) Ted, Do you think SC can get back to a championship level next year?

Ted Miller (3:01 PM) I think USC should be competitive in the South Division, though I think UCLA is a clear favorite and Arizona State could be in the mix. USC has a lot to clean up, starting on defense with a new coordinator. But there is plenty of talent coming back, particularly if WR Robert Woods returns. I'd rate the Trojans over-under on wins at 8 or 9.

Mike Bohn (Boulder, CO) Should I even consider the names of Petrino or Tressel?

Ted Miller (3:02 PM) No... I think San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre or Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter would be good picks.

Chris (LaLaLand) What's your take on the Sonny Dykes hire? Seen some fans complain, saying his teams play no D. But hey this is the Pac 12.

Ted Miller (3:04 PM) His team played decent defense in 2011, terrible defense in 2012. A big thing for him is getting enough money to hire an A-list coordinator. I'm thinking at least $500,000. As for the hire itself, Dykes is a good choice. I knew when he was at Arizona it was just a matter of time before he got a good job. I think he will be successful.

SSgt Smyth (Afghanistan) With two QB committments at Airzona how will Coach Rod handle the starting postion for next season.

Ted Miller (3:07 PM) Pretty straight forward: Whoever practices the best will win the job. I think the incoming frosh are longshots, but USC transfer Jesse Scroggins will likely give B.J. Denker a strong challenge

Jason (Eugene) What do you think the chances are that the Ducks get sanctions due to the Will Lyles recruiting incident?

Ted Miller (3:12 PM) I think they will get sanctioned but I don't think it will be crippling. Nothing that should chase Kelly out of town or prevent him from continuing a run of BCS bowl games.

Brian Johnson (Utah) Whats your grade for me this year

Ted Miller (3:24 PM) C+... it's clear you're learning a bit on the job. But you also had a tough hand with questions on the O-line and at QB.

Reese (Atlanta) Why do you think the Pac-12 is perceived as so weak in all other regions of the Country other than the west coast? Is it because of weak defensive performances, or repeated disappointments form the leaders, Oregon and USC? Stanford gets some respect, but they tend to play more of a smashmouth style.

Ted Miller (3:28 PM) Smart people don't think the Pac-12 is weak. It's purely trash talk.

K Whitt (The Hill) The way I see it, I have at lease 2 more year like this last one before my seat gets hot. Thoughts? C'mon, I beat Bama in the Sugar Bowl!

Ted Miller (3:31 PM) It surprises me hearing folks grumble about Whittingham. The reality is the Utes made a major jump in competition. If Boise State joined the Pac-12, the same thing would happen. Would folks then question Chris Petersen? It's going to take a few years for Utah to look like a top-half Pac-12 team. But, yes, if the Utes have two more losing seasons, I'd say Whittingham's seat would be hot, and justifiably so

Goswami (NYC) Which QB starts for my Golden Bears next year?

Ted Miller (3:36 PM) I think Zach Kline will prevail. Dykes probably likes the idea of going with a RS FR who can learn the system and play a couple more years.

Go Greyhounds! (Pullman, WA) Do you see any changes to the Oregon State coaching staff this off season?

Ted Miller (3:38 PM) I think DC Mark Banker might get a few looks... perhaps USC or California.

Beavfann (Denver) Do you have any insights into why the Beavers do not do well in recruiting terms 4 and 5 star guys? I like how Riley can develop guys, but it would be nice to get a couple prospects that come in rated highly.

Ted Miller (3:40 PM) Are there any schools that are comparable to Oregon State in location, history and stadium size that get 4 or 5 star guys? Oregon has taken a step forward in recruiting due to a deeeeeeep pocketed booster, but its fans also complain about recruiting. Beavers, do you want to be Texas, that disappoints with 5 star recruits? Or Oregon State, which turns boys into men?

Engineer Mike (Switzerland) Ted, quick! Check the rulebook! Isn't there some possible way for ND and AL to both lose the national championship game? I'm so torn in deciding whom to root AGAINST.

Ted Miller (3:45 PM) We were talking about that on an ESPN conference call the other day. Lots of folks root against Notre Dame. But lots of folks don't want the SEC to win a seventh consecutive title. What do you do? Me... I'm excited about the game. I'm just rooting for a game that goes into the fourth quarter.

Jeremy (Honolulu) Am I the only one who thinks CK leaving for the NFL would be a poor decision? The teams that have slowed his offense are teams with NFL -caliber defensive fronts. I don't see this style of play working at the next level

Ted Miller (3:48 PM) Kelly isn't married to a scheme. That's what folks are missing. What NFL teams most want is as much his CEO skills as anything. Kelly will use his very big brain to adapt to the NFL. But I hope he stays. I'd miss going back and forth with him.

Julian (Sunnyvale Trailer Park) Do you see the Sun Devils taking another step forward next year with another year with the system? They also got Kelly with more experience and lots of young talent.

Ted Miller (3:54 PM) Yes... my feeling is the Sun Devils are in a nice place. Some holes to fill, particularly if Sutton bolts, but the future looks bright. It seems like he's recruiting well, too. I love the idea of both Arizona schools doing well.

GreenandGold Duck (Sacramento) If the playoffs were to start this year, how do you think Oregon would fare?

Ted Miller (3:56 PM) I think Oregon would win the national championship, particularly if the final game only featured a week or two between the semifinal.

Mike (Anaheim) Will Todd McNair take down the NCAA?

Ted Miller (3:59 PM) I think he's going to win his case, and that it's going to embarrass the NCAA... I like that it's making real what I've long claimed: The NCAA screwed over USC unfairly and knew it was doing so and did so because it could.

 

USC: No re-appeal to the NCAA

August, 24, 2011
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When news of the Miami scandal broke, USC fans immediately connected former athletic director Paul Dee's name to the man who chaired the NCAA Committee on Infractions hearing for the Reggie Bush case.

And they had a completely rational thought: How could Dee have any credibility as the judge of whether an athletic program is operating within the rules, seeing that his was allegedly awash in wrong-doing? Those USC fans then wondered -- again, rationally -- if there would be a way for USC to make another run at getting its sanctions reduced.

While there were many whispers about some sort of new, special-case appeal, it appears that the Trojans will not take action. The school released a statement from president C. L. Max Nikias:

"I have determined that the university's mission is best served by moving forward at this time, without pursuing further redress ... This decision followed an extensive review of all of our options and after consultation with many sources. We ask that the Trojan Family offer its utmost support to the student-athletes and coaches of the Trojan football team, confident that USC's commitment to the highest level of excellence in academics and athletics will not waver in the coming years."


Some Trojans fans will be angry with this, and not unreasonably. It's through-the-looking-glass unfair that Dee led the assault on USC, which concluded with what some consider unjustifiably harsh penalties, a position most familiar with the case held well before Dee was unmasked.

But word on the street is there was an earnest effort made by USC administrators to evaluate options. This decision was not arrived at without a lot of thought about potential outcomes.

With the NCAA assessing no penalties against coach Lane Kiffin today in connection to his year at Tennessee, the Trojans finally know where they stand going forward: another year out of the postseason, 30 scholarships docked over the next three years.

The message from Nikias is really the only thing USC fans can do: move on.

Oh, and they can root for former assistant coach Todd McNair to take the NCAA to the cleaners in his lawsuit.

Former USC coach McNair sues NCAA

June, 6, 2011
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Former USC running backs coach Todd McNair isn't going to just walk away after the NCAA essentially ended his career over what he allegedly knew -- or didn't know -- in the Reggie Bush case.

McNair filed suit against the NCAA on Friday, accusing the NCAA of libel, slander tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, tortious interference with contractual relations, breach of contract, negligence and declaratory relief.

You know, lots of nasty stuff.

The NCAA previously ruled that McNair, the Trojans running backs coach for six seasons under Pete Carroll, knew or should have known about extra benefits provided to Bush by a pair of would-be sports marketers and that he misled investigators. His appeal was denied in late April, so a one-year show-cause penalty against McNair was upheld, meaning any school attempting to hire him during the year period would have to seek permission from the NCAA to do so.

A "show cause" penalty makes it very difficult for an assistant coach to get a job. USC did not renew McNair's contact after the infractions committee published its original report.

You can read the entire lawsuit here.

This was not unexpected. And the NCAA has a long history of being sued -- winning, losing and settling -- over a variety of issues.

The question for us is not whether McNair ever gets some money. It's whether this ever get interesting. (My guess: No. But we'll see).

The NCAA lacks subpoena power during investigations. It can't compel witnesses to testify if they are no longer involved in college sports. Such as Reggie Bush. That won't be the case in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Ergo: Potentially a lot more information could be exposed about the NCAA's inner-workings on this case. And USC's.

A part of the lawsuit is McNair's claim that the NCAA committed misconduct in the process of its investigation. The Pac-12 blog does not have a law degree, but it feels safe saying that McNair will have a strong case on those grounds based on what already has been reported.

To quote the great American Michael Corleone: "Just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in."

Links: Recalling Ryan Leaf on draft day

April, 29, 2011
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Happy Friday.

NCAA appeals committee rules against McNair

April, 29, 2011
4/29/11
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Are we nearing an endgame in the seemingly endless tango between USC and the NCAA?

Maybe, but it isn't the one former USC assistant coach Todd McNair wanted. His appeal of sanctions was denied by the NCAA appeals committee, it was announced Friday morning.

Wrote the NCAA, "This appeal decision is separate from the university’s appeal, which has not yet been decided."

What does this mean for USC? Well, if McNair won his appeal, it certainly would have boded well for the Trojans getting back some scholarships as well as a restoration of bowl eligibility this season. But McNair's losing his appeal doesn't mean USC won't get some relief, though the reality is NCAA rules make it difficult to win an appeal.

McNair appeared before the appeals committee in November, while USC's case was heard on Jan. 22.

McNair's connection to would-be agent Lloyd Lake, who broke NCAA rules by providing money and gifts to Reggie Bush, was the centerpiece of the case against USC. The NCAA originally penalized McNair with a "show-cause" finding, preventing him from having contact with recruits for a year. McNair's contract subsequently was not renewed by new Trojans coach Lane Kiffin.

McNair's argument before the appeals committee, according to the report:
In his written appeal, the former assistant coach [McNair] asserted that the finding of violation against him should be set aside because the finding of violation is clearly contrary to the evidence presented to the Committee on Infractions and there was a procedural error and, but for the error, the Committee on Infractions would not have made the finding of violation.

Here's the gist of the findings from the appeals committee upholding sanctions against McNair:
The Infractions Appeals Committee stated in its report that, “As the committee considered the former assistant coach’s arguments, both written and oral, it became clear that the most pertinent issues devolved to matters of witness credibility.” This statement specifically related to the former assistant coach’s arguments that the Committee on Infractions allegedly relied on false statements in making its credibility determinations. The appellate committee considered all of the information presented by the Committee on Infractions and the former assistant coach. As a result, the appellate committee found that the evidence met the standard required by its prior reports, the applicable NCAA bylaw and other matters, which properly guide its decisions. The appellate committee also did not agree with the former assistant coach’s remaining arguments on appeal, which the public report further details.

McNair's attorney issued a statement, noting, "The NCAA should get the facts right when it ends a coach’s career."
... the Infractions Committee mischaracterized and manipulated key testimony. 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.

Mr. McNair had hoped the Infractions Appeal Committee would set aside his unethical conduct finding so he can try to resume his career. The decision today makes that very difficult.

The statement also adds that McNair might pursue further legal action:
Moreover, 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. It appears the NCAA stands alone in believing Mr. McNair is guilty of a major violation.

Mr. McNair is now considering legal action to remedy the injustice he has suffered.

So maybe this becomes just another chapter in this long, sad bit of theater.

Note: You can read the entire public report at the bottom of this link.

USC makes its last appeal Saturday

January, 21, 2011
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USC will meet with the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee on Saturday, and if the Appeals Committee is fair and reasonable it will significantly reduce sanctions imposed on the football program when a ruling is made public in four to six weeks.

[+] EnlargePat Haden and J.K. McKay
AP Photo/Alex GallardoUSC's athletic director Pat Haden, right, and associate AD J.K. McKay will meet with the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee on Saturday.
Of course, seeing that the NCAA Committee on Infractions was unfair and unreasonable when it clobbered USC in June, Trojans fans would be well-advised to not hold their breath.

It doesn't appear new athletic director Pat Haden is. While he turned down an opportunity to talk to the Pac-10 blog this week -- I know; why would anybody do that? -- he's repeatedly told people he's not optimistic because he's realistic.

Why? Because, in 2008, the NCAA changed its bylaws to make it incredibly difficult to win an appeal. From the NCAA website:
An appeal is not a new hearing or a second chance to argue the case. The Infractions Appeals Committee does not consider evidence that was not presented to the Committee on Infractions. The Infractions Appeals Committee will reverse or modify a ruling of the Committee on Infractions only if one of the following standards is proven:

  • The ruling by the Committee on Infractions was clearly contrary to the evidence.
  • The individual or school did not actually break NCAA rules.
  • There was a procedural error that caused the Committee on Infractions to find a violation of NCAA rules.
  • The penalty was excessive and is an abuse of discretion.

Contrary to evidence? While there's scant evidence that supports the notion that former USC running backs coach Todd McNair knew what Reggie Bush, his parents and a couple of would-be agents were up to, that scant evidence, nonetheless, became the club with which the NCAA bludgeoned USC, imposing a two-year bowl ban and a loss of 30 scholarships over three years, penalties that were worse than even the most egregious pay-for-play cases in recent years. It would be a massive repudiation of the Infractions Committee to reverse course on said evidence, and it appears USC isn't even going to venture in that direction.

NCAA rules? They were absolutely broken. Bush and his parents took all kinds of extra benefits that were not allowed by NCAA rules.

Procedural errors? That appears to have happened multiple times, but mostly with the treatment of McNair, whose case the NCAA separated from USC's. Don't expect USC to venture in that direction, either.

Penalty was excessive and is an abuse of discretion? Bingo.

"Our primary contention is given what we were found to have done, these are the harshest penalties ever handed out," USC's associate athletic director J.K. McKay told the LA Daily News.

That is the case that Haden, McKay, new USC President Max Nikias, David Roberts -- the school's vice president for athletic compliance -- and a university lawyer are expected to make in a brief presentation.

The reason Haden is not optimistic is that only one appeal out of the past 11 has been successful since the Appeals Committee bylaws were changed. The odds are not good, at least based on recent cases.

Haden also has told reporters he doesn't believe recent controversies involving preseason agent cases centered on North Carolina and other schools, the Auburn and QB Cam Newton imbroglio and the oddly ruled Ohio State case will have any affect on USC's appeal. He said it was like comparing "apples and oranges."

With all due respect to Haden, I'm not sure that's correct, particularly with the Trojans going with the "harshest penalties ever handed out" defense. Members of the Appeals Committee will be well-aware of the current climate as USC pleads its case. There's a lot of sordidness out there that makes using USC as a benchmark for serious violations dubious and problematic.

The Trojans are going to ask that the scholarship penalties be reduced from 30 to 15 -- so five per season over three years -- and the bowl ban be reduced to one year, which means the Trojans would be eligible for a bowl game in 2011.

Again, not likely. But not impossible. And there could be a middle ground, where the Appeals Committee splits the difference.

What it will take for USC to get its sanctions reduced is simple: A fair and reasonable assessment.

Todd McNair vs. NCAA: Plot thickens

December, 16, 2010
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Ever get into a debate with someone, and they keep changing the subject because they know they are wrong?

Welcome to the world of USC and Todd McNair vs. the NCAA.

USC fans might want to hold off reading this until Dec. 26. It might ruin your Christmas. While this is obviously from a USC-oriented website -- and it uses documents coming from the former Trojans assistant coach's side of things -- it does demonstrate the uphill battle against an entrenched foe that USC faces when it meets with the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee next month.

The gist:

The former USC football assistant [McNair] says the Committee has made a flawed case far worse by bringing in, contrary to its own rules of procedure and evidence, new, mistaken, immaterial, irrelevant, contradictory and false allegations against him, even to the point of inventing quotes and making a first-ever "phantom finding."

A "fundamental violation of due process," is how McNair describes what the NCAA has done here.

The Infractions Committee's response "confirms that the findings against McNair are clearly contrary to the evidence," McNair and his attorney, Scott Tompsett of Kansas City, say in a November rebuttal to the Infractions Appeals Committee that was obtained by USCFootball.com.


It's worth a read, in large part because it shows how sloppy and arbitrary the NCAA has been in its handling of the entire USC case. Trojans fans have a right to wonder if other recent cases involving agents and pay-for-play schemes will get the same aggressive, take-no-prisoners treatment.

This final portion is pretty darn amusing, though. Remember that notorious 1996 Impala that was one of Reggie Bush's improper extra benefits provided to him by would-be agents? There apparently was some discussion of just how rocking cool this car was. The NCAA took a dim view of McNair for not being properly impressed, even though the car was not dudded up with fancy features until after Bush declared that he would enter the 2006 NFL draft a year early.

So ingrained was the misguided mythology of the Bush Impala in the mind of the Infractions Committee, former USC head coach Pete Carroll had to interject himself at the end of his Tempe hearing testimony to correct a comment from COI member Missy Conboy, Notre Dame's deputy AD.

Carroll said this: "Okay I just wanted to say we left something out there, that Missy [Conboy] said that the car was a cool car. It was not. It was not a car that kids really cherished and all that. That is - anyway, the kind of car that everybody would covet. It was kind of 'Why would you get that one?' It was really more so. You kind of left it out there like it was a hot-shot car and it really wasn't."

McNair's rebuttal finishes off the Committee's car silliness with this comment: "The COI has wide latitude in making credibility determinations. But that latitude does not extend so far as to denounce a person's credibility for voicing his personal opinion about a 1996 Impala."


This is a 1996 Impala. The Pac-10 blog now rules that all members of the NCAA Infractions Committee must drive one for two years.

Opening the mailbag: Anger, outrage, a nine-game schedule

December, 2, 2010
12/02/10
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Howdy folks. Lots of Cam Newton outrage from you guys -- particularly USC fans -- but we take it from another angle in the mailbag.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter.

Aba from Berkeley, Calif., writes: Before the Pac10 became the Pac12 it justified its 9 game conference schedule as a necessity in order to implement a round robin system so that a true league champion may be crowned. Well that is no longer the case as the champion is now decided by the championship game between the two division winners. So why does the conference decided to continue playing 9 games, instead of 8 such as the SEC, thereby guaranteeing the league 6 extra losses? How are we going to help ourselves financially, not to mention the perception of the leagues' strength as viewed by others, by cannibalizing each other out of bowl games and national rankings?

Ted Miller: The nine-game conference schedule has been a hot topic in the Pac-10 in the past, and it will be an even hotter topic in the Pac-12.

As you noted, the biggest reason for it in the past was crowning a "true" Pac-10 champion. With 12 teams and two divisions starting in 2011, that's no longer true. So now the less feel-good reason comes to the fore: It's easier on athletic directors trying to fill out their schedules in a way that attracts fans. While fans -- and the Pac-10 blog -- often talk about the advantages of playing four nonconference games, particularly how it helps pad won-loss records, athletic administrators would counter that the Pac-10 doesn't operate like the Big Ten or SEC: It's not loaded with 90,000-plus-seat venues that can offer big payouts for teams willing to take a whipping.

And if, say, UCLA schedules the Northwest Tech Slimy Slugs, Bruins fans likely will opt to chill in the park and enjoy the beautiful Southern California weather instead of going to the game. LSU, Alabama or Ohio State fans would show up to watch their team make toast.

As of now, the Pac-12 appears committed to the nine-game conference schedule. Just this week, Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandell wrote about the Pac-10's odd, apparently top-heavy season, and he asked commissioner Larry Scott about the nine-game conference schedule.
"We really had a chance this past year to shine a light on [scheduling] with expansion issues," said Scott. "Our discussions revalidated the importance of keeping the competition within the conference, not padding the schedule or buying wins, even though the way the system is set up, there are some potentially negative consequences."

Scott says this now, but count on the issue being revisited, particularly if the other BCS conferences continue to play eight-game schedules. More than a few Pac-10 coaches have been grumbling about it of late, too.

The Big 12 -- with 10 teams -- will start playing a nine-game schedule in 2011. The Big Ten has talked about playing a nine-game schedule in the future, though that might not be for a few years. The SEC and ACC don't appear to be eager to change from an eight-game schedule.

The nine-game schedule in the new Pac-12 means six extra losses in the conference and then the championship game will add a seventh. It will be interesting to see what effect that has going forward.

Michael from Auburn writes: Wow....you are an idiot. You want to compare the USC case vs the Auburn case? Maybe that's why there is such thing as the "I'm not a rocket scientist" saying because damn you don't have the slightest clue how to think. How does someone who was paid, there is proof, under the schools knowledge compare to someone who was not paid and zero evidence suggests he even knew about it. How? The beautiful thing about this country is the innocent until proven guilty rule and as a rocket scientist in your military I would like to tell you, without hesitation, that you are an absolute disgrace to everything my uniform represents. Everything. It is a damn shame everything you take for granted and I dearly hope one day that reality punches you straight in the face. Until then, I really wish people like you did not live in this country. Learn to think.

Ted Miller: Without hesitation? Really?

There is, er, so much here, starting with Michael, who claims to be a military rocket scientist, questioning my rights to citizenship: I am "an absolute disgrace to everything my uniform represents. Everything. It is a damn shame everything you take for granted and I dearly hope one day that reality punches you straight in the face. Until then, I really wish people like you did not live in this country."

Ouch.

This is my story on the NCAA ruling Wednesday on the Cam Newton-Auburn case that Michael believes should get me deported. He does not point out any specific passages that so offend him. He only notes that I introduced the USC-Reggie Bush case and for that he is outraged: "How does someone who was paid, there is proof, under the schools knowledge compare to someone who was not paid and zero evidence suggests [Newton] even knew about it."

You mean other than NCAA rules violations involving star players taking place in both cases?

But before I take on the specifics here, let's go big picture just for a moment. How come when you disagree with someone these days, they instantaneously become, well, just about evil? And how come we are willing to whip ourselves into an absolute frenzy over issues due to our unquestioned loyalty to an entity, no matter the facts of the matter or the facts of what a perceived foe is saying? Michael, is the foundation for your most colorful outrage your perception that I have violated "the innocent until proven guilty rule" or is it that you are an Auburn fan?

First, to cool things down. I want to point out a couple of my sentences.
  • "...the parallels between Bush and Newton are not exact."
  • "It’s critical to understand a couple of things: 1. To this point, there is no evidence that Auburn has done anything wrong."

That said, your "zero evidence" is not completely true, even now. And the investigation has only really begun. Further, please, don't pretend there are no grounds for being suspicious of Newton. Beyond what has been reported thus far, he has not demonstrated high character during his college career -- see here and here.

So why did I introduce the Bush-USC case? Well, because USC athletic director Pat Haden thought the ruling was worth talking about. And Haden's point made to the LA Times is relevant and valid:
“I was always told the parent is the child,” Haden said. “That’s what we’ve been telling our kids. If the parent does something inappropriate the child suffers the consequences.”

As many, many folks noted, splitting the responsibility -- guilt and innocence -- of a parent (or relative) and an recruit is a massively dangerous loophole in college sports. That was the basis of my introductory portion. It wasn't about Newton. It was about the ruling, which even the NCAA admitted is controversial.

As of today, the NCAA has found that no money changed hands and that the solicitation was not part of Newton's recruitment at Auburn. Ergo, the NCAA's impossible position.

But Michael, if you cool down for a moment, you might want to check in with some USC fans. No one ever disputed that Bush and his family took money from agents -- Trojans fans would interrupt here to note to SEC fans that we're talking about a player getting paid to leave his school as opposed to attend it -- it's always been about USC's institutional knowledge.

And the NCAA's evidence on that was always scant and ambiguous. If you'd like to read about it, there are several stories here to consider.

But, you reply, the NCAA found USC culpable. Exactly. Which is why Auburn should be worried about a long-term investigation. The NCAA didn't prove assistant coach Todd McNair knew of Bush's dealings with agents. The evidence it used against McNair would never hold up in court. But the NCAA opted to believe the McNair knew AND that USC should have known.

The issue, for me, has never been that USC wasn't guilty of NCAA violations and shouldn't have been sanctioned. It was always that the football program didn't merit the most severe sanctions in decades, particularly when pay-for-plays schemes do far more damage to the sport than star players accepting gifts from individuals who want them to turn pro.

Introducing the Bush case after the Newton ruling is relevant because USC expects to appear before the NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee next month, and the USC AD thought it was relevant to their case.

Michael, I feel like I think pretty clearly, though I'm certainly no rocket scientist.

Tony from Austin, Texas, writes: As a Stanford grad/fan and a Pac-10 supporter, I really liked your post "Why Stanford is Better Than Your Team."Inspired by that and frequent discussions with NCAA football fans here in Texas, who constantly emphasize on how much better the SEC and other conferences are than the Pac-10, especially on defense, I decided to do some analysis of the numbers. Essentially, I wanted to see how conferences as a whole performed against out-of-conference AQ teams in their matchups, the assumption being that this would be a worthwhile indicator of the relative overall strength of each conference.Interestingly, the Pac-10 has by far the greatest success on average vs. out-of-conference AQ opponents in 2010, with an average margin of victory of 10.4. The next closest is the SEC with an average margin of victory against out-of-conference AQ teams of 4.7. In my analysis, I ranked all conferences. There's a lot to it, but I really thought you might like to take a look at the numbers.

Ted Miller: What! Do you think I'm a rocket scientist? Is there a rocket scientist in the house? Oh, never mind.

Good stuff.

Kevin from Portland writes: I keep seeing references to USC's lack of depth (e.g. your chat today was another reference). They got 20 kids for the 2010 recruiting season which is in line with past years for them. With that in mind, can you explain the so-called lack of depth? Is it that given they've been signing fewer kids it's catching up with them?Lots of commentators and ESPN pundits keep talking about it. Yet the talent (if you believe recruiting rankings) is top notch (or 2nd to Florida) over the past 5 recruiting seasons.Is it really a lack of depth or the combination of poor coaching and the fact that few teams get put on probation and keep it together like Auburn once did?

Ted Miller: Yes, it is fair to say depth is an issue for USC. It's been an issue since fall camp, when coach Lane Kiffin adopted a "no tackle" policy because of injury concerns.

USC presently has about 70 scholarship players, 15 below the NCAA limit even before it begins scholarship sanctions, which dock the Trojans 30 scholarships over the next three years.

Kiffin, in an effort to keep as many bodies around as he can over the next couple of years, is trying to redshirt 11 players. So that means he has 59 available players each weekend. Toss in a few injuries, and you see how depth can get hit. Kiffin told reporters the Trojans only played 41 scholarship players vs. Oregon.

The Trojans will be limited to 15 scholarships in this recruiting class. To slightly offset this, Kiffin is trying to offset that by signing as many January enrollees as he can: nine. But count on depth being a major issue for the Trojans over the next three or four years.

Benjamin from Spokane, Wash., writes: Have you come across this video entitled "Oregon State Fan Experience." It is really quite good and professionally made.

Ted Miller: Well-done. I'll be there Saturday to measure its verisimilitude.
Former USC assistant coach Todd McNair is appealing the NCAA's rulings against him, claiming misconduct by investigators as well as factual inaccuracies used in the Committee on Infractions' report.

And his 85-page appeal is compelling. Consider this from USCFootball.com:
The most serious charge leveled by McNair was of post-hearing misconduct by the NCAA. According to the appeal, the committee [COI] had ex parte communications with the enforcement staff by sharing a draft of the committee's infractions report in order to correct "factual errors." NCAA bylaws 32.8.8 and 32.8.8.1 prohibit such ex parte communication.

"That kind of communication is strictly forbidden," former committee chairman Tom Yeager said. "The committee has so many attorneys on it that would raise all kinds of red flags; they just wouldn't go down that way. In my years on the committee, the conversation with any NCAA [staff] is almost exclusively with the committee's own staff people. They just don't talk to the enforcement staff."


It's been fairly well established that the NCAA's investigation of USC was sloppy. The bigger issue for McNair and USC is whether pointing out any of these flaws will matter to the Infractions Appeals Committee.

The Appeals Committee is not allowed to consider new evidence. So McNair and USC are basing their appeals on process and precedent and hoping that a new set of eyes will see a two-year bowl ban and loss of 30 scholarships over three years as too harsh based on the already presented evidence -- and, in McNair's case, a "show cause" penalty against him which prevents him from having contact with recruits for one year because he provided "false and misleading" testimony.

McNair and USC have strong cases. If they presented their cases in front of a judge and jury, they'd win. But the NCAA doesn't work like that, so USC fans should still see any potential mercy from the Appeals Committee as a long shot.

Pac-10 lunch links: Debating USC vs. UCLA recruiting

July, 2, 2010
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Happy Friday.

Report: McNair's USC contract not renewed

July, 1, 2010
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USC won't renew the contract of running backs coach Todd McNair, the LA Times reported.

McNair, of course, is not just the Trojans running backs coach. He was the key figure in the NCAA's investigation of USC football program, as he was the lone connection between the program and a pair of would-be agents who were providing money and gifts to former running back Reggie Bush.

You can get some background on McNair here and here and here.

McNair has been at USC for six years. The Times reported that he's not been in the Trojans coaching offices "since the NCAA handed down sanctions against USC that include four years’ probation, a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years."

“Todd McNair’s contract expired on June 30, 2010,” coach Lane Kiffin told the newspaper. “We have no additional comment.”

Website obtains infamous McNair-Lake photo from USC-NCAA case

June, 30, 2010
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USCfootball.com has published a photo that was considered a key piece of evidence in the NCAA's case against USC.

The photo apparently shows USC running backs coach Todd McNair and his actor friend, Faizon Love, posing at a nightclub with would-be agents, Michael Michaels and Lloyd Lake, who were providing money and gifts to former Trojans running back Reggie Bush, which is a violation of NCAA rules against extra benefits.

McNair contended throughout the investigation that he doesn't know Lloyd Lake and therefore didn't know about his relationship with Bush. The NCAA ruled that it didn't believe McNair was being truthful, and the photo was one of the reasons why.

In its original response to NCAA allegations, USC questioned the photo's authenticity, or at least that it was cropped in a misleading way.

From the story:
USCFootball.com contacted an independent photography expert, who asked not to be identified, to examine the photo.
"I would not say it's been doctored significantly using something like Photoshop," the expert said. "The uniform darkening in the background is one thing that gives me pause because there is nothing in the background to line the people up with. As far as cropping the photo, that is a definite possibility, but I couldn't say for sure unless I saw the actual file. The pixel size of the photo is not typical, no camera has that as an original size. That is the first sign that the image was re-sized and possibly cropped."

And there's this, which asks, "So what?" about the photo.
In their Response to the NCAA Allegations, USC also noted the "absurdity" of the Committee's reasoning that because McNair and Lake were in a photograph together, they spoke about the sports agency and improper benefits to Bush and his family. As one way to dispel the Committee's stance, USC provided a photo that made national news to illustrate the point.

That photo was of Vice President Joe Biden posing for a photo with a couple that notoriously crashed a state dinner at the White House.

What's -- again -- interesting about USC's response to the NCAA allegations is that USC administrators make no effort to hide how flabbergasted they are over the flimsy nature of the evidence the NCAA was using to make its case over a McNair-Lake connection. While that outrage is understandable -- the evidence is flimsy -- it also speaks to USC's attitude during its defense: combative.

And combative can come off as arrogant and unrepentant. That doesn't wash well with the NCAA, which prefers meek and mild and apologetic.

If you don't think that's a significant part of the reason USC got smacked with a two-year bowl ban and got docked 30 scholarships over the next three years, you don't understand how the NCAA works.

Does any of this mean USC is going to win its appeal? No. But it is undeniably interesting.

USC makes its case against NCAA's 'factual errors'

June, 24, 2010
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USC didn't make its defense against alleged NCAA rules violations public before it was hammered by the infractions committee. It appears the school won't make the same mistake before its appeal.

USCFootball.com reviewed documents from both the NCAA and USC and makes a compelling case that, well, USC has a compelling case.

Yes, the article is from a USC-centric website. But there's plenty of meat. Consider:
In questioning [would-be agent Lloyd] Lake, the enforcement staff misstated who made a 2-minute, 32-second phone call that the Committee said it relied on as proof [USC running backs coach Todd] McNair was told of the scheme [between Lake and Reggie Bush]. In questioning McNair, the staff incorrectly stated the year the phone call was made as happening in 2005. In all five mentions of the year in the questioning session, the phone call is said to have happened in January of 2005, not 2006, when it actually occurred.

"If this (mistake) did occur, then I couldn't imagine they would not be jumping out of their seats about it," said Tom Yeager, former Committee Chairman and Commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association. "If it's as clear as they're trying to say, then there isn't even a finding to be made against the client.

"The committee would have turned to the enforcement staff for an explanation. If they're making a finding on a call that didn't even occur, that's strange credibility. I can't see all eight of those guys missing that."

There's also this:
The NCAA enforcement staff questioned Lake about the early Sunday morning call, which was the day before [Reggie] Bush was to sit down with USC head coach Pete Carroll, McNair and others to qualify a list of agents seeking to represent Bush. [NCAA assistant director of enforcement Richard] Johanningmeier mistakenly stated twice to Lake that the call in question came from McNair.

Just 10 days from returning to prison at the time of the Jan. 8 call, Lake did not admit that the call had been made from his phone, as telephone records showed. He answered the question as if it accurately reflected the situation, recounting why McNair had called him even though that was clearly not true.

The Case Summary does not show that NCAA investigators asked Lake to explain this discrepancy or his detailed answer about a phone call that the assistant coach did not make.

That's relevant because the NCAA's case against USC in the Bush matter -- almost entirely -- hangs on its believing Lake and not believing McNair.

It's hard to imagine the the NCAA's failure to get critical facts correct after a four-year investigation won't be relevant when USC files its appeal.

A Trojans defense?

June, 14, 2010
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One thing everyone can agree on with USC versus its alleged NCAA violations is that USC lost the PR campaign in large part because it never mounted its own during a four-year investigation.

The Trojans' positions were never publicized. Counter arguments were never leaked to the media. It was all prosecution, no defense.

Don't underestimate how much that cost the Trojans, by the way. The severity of the sanctions are due in large part to the NCAA's desire to make an example out of USC and to re-establish its authority amid the doubters who thought the Trojans might get off easy.

A review of USC's 2009 response and the final NCAA report certainly yields grounds for a person to go, "Hmm," which is why USC is going to appeal.

Why did USC sit quietly? Lots of reasons, but the chief one was a lack of savvy leadership. Athletic director Mike Garrett has not distinguished himself during or after this investigation.

That's why this is interesting. Somebody with access to what appears to be a hard copy of the interview transcripts from the NCAA investigation has made a couple of videos that attempt to show how flimsy the connection was between a would-be agent and USC running backs coach Todd McNair, who's alleged knowledge of the extra benefits Reggie Bush received became the almost singular linchpin of the NCAA's severe sanctions against the football program.

Watch and you decide.

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