Mailbag: Revisiting McNair, NCAA and USC

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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?


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.