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

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.