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USC's Reggie Bush scandal is now the NCAA's problem

The NCAA has a reputation for making up punishments as it goes along, but the unsealing of USC documents and emails could reveal a more malicious side of the organization.

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

A California appellate court ruled on Friday that the NCAA cannot seal hundreds of documents and emails in the defamation lawsuit filed by former USC running backs coach Todd McNair. The released emails will likely further the NCAA's reputation of being a power-hungry entity with little concern for justice or consistency.

McNair sued the NCAA in 2011 for "ruining his career" after sanctions were filed against the coach for his alleged involvement in the Reggie Bush scandal that resulted in severe punishments for the USC Trojans football program. McNair was given a one-year "show cause" penalty that restricted his access to recruits -- whether with USC or another school -- which severely hurt his ability to get another job after his contract with USC expired in 2010.

In a 16-page opinion, the California 2nd District Court of Appeal said that it was not sold on the NCAA's argument that unsealing the documents would jeopardize future investigations done by the organization.

"We are not convinced by the NCAA's contention that public disclosure of its documents will make future investigations more difficult for the NCAA to conduct," the court said. The NCAA previously argued that unsealing the documents would make promises of confidentiality less credible in future investigations.


The coach claims the sanctions resulted in him essentially being blackballed, and he hasn't coached since. Prior to joining USC in 2004, McNair was the Cleveland Browns' running backs coach for three seasons.

During McNair's time as running backs coach for the Trojans, the school found plenty of success running the ball with players such as Bush, LenDale White, Joe McKnight and Chauncey Washington. McNair made his name with his recruiting, earning the distinction from CBS in 2007 as one of the top five recruiters in the nation.

That all came down when an NCAA investigation concluded that Bush was given improper benefits from prospective agents before and during his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2005. Bush was stripped of the trophy, USC was forced to vacate its championship from the 2004 season, and the Trojans are just now recovering from scholarship restrictions.

What's next?

With the ruling, the NCAA is now primed to have egg on its face with the release of the documents, especially after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge said in 2012 that the emails "tend to show ill will or hatred" toward McNair and the investigation was "over the top" and "malicious."

This also hurts the NCAA's chances in the lawsuit itself, as Conquest Chronicles notes: "This would allow witnesses to be specific as opposed to relying on gossip while addressing critical points in the examination process."

a Los Angeles Superior Court judge said in 2012 that the emails "tend to show ill will or hatred" toward McNair

The damage of the sanctions have already been done, meaning the unsealed documents will have little impact on anything other than the reputations of McNair and the NCAA. The organization's reputation is already shaky after the handling of sanctions given to Penn State following an investigation of the school's handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, among other issues.

The choices made by the NCAA regarding Penn State only showed that the organization cares about power, not justice, and that it's making things up as it goes along.

If the unsealed emails and documents about McNair are truly as malicious as they were described by a judge in 2012, it will only validate that reputation.

McNair is seeking damages for libel, slander, breach of contract and negligence, among other charges filed against the NCAA.