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Larry Scott: Ruling in Todd McNair case threatens NCAA membership of California schools

Larry Scott: Ruling in Todd McNair case threatens NCAA membership of California schools
Former USC Trojans tailback coach Todd McNair watches USC team scrimmage with former head coach Pete Carroll. (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times)

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott warned that a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge’s tentative decision that the show-cause penalty against former USC assistant football coach Todd McNair violated California law “would threaten the NCAA membership” of the organization’s four schools in the state if adopted.

“If California law prevents institutions in that state from honoring such commitments, it is hard to see how the Pac-12’s Member Universities in California could continue to meet the requirements of NCAA membership,” Scott wrote in a three-page sworn declaration filed in court Friday. “Thus, the Court’s tentative ruling would place at risk the competitive and scholarship opportunities that flow from NCAA participation for the Pac-12’s California Member Universities.”

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The ominous words are the latest twist in McNair’s seven-year legal fight with the organization in the wake of an extra-benefits scandal centered on former USC running back Reggie Bush.

While McNair lost his defamation trial against the NCAA earlier this year, Judge Frederick Shaller entered a tentative ruling last month finding the one-year show-cause against McNair constituted an “unlawful restraint” on pursuing a lawful profession. The judge declared the NCAA bylaws supporting the penalty to be void.

Scott’s declaration floating the possibility of removing the nation’s second-largest market from the NCAA was attached to a filing by NCAA attorneys objecting to the tentative ruling.

The Pac-12 declined to comment further and did not make Scott available for an interview.

“Under McNair’s interpretation of California law, even if the NCAA has conclusive proof that a coach was breaking the rules — say, a video of the coach paying players or receiving money from agents — it would be powerless to sanction that coach in any way that would restrain his ability to continue unabated in his present duties and responsibilities,” the NCAA’s filing said.

In another declaration, Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell said the ruling would “force the Big West’s California member institutions to devote substantially more resources to self-monitoring and self-policing, because they could no longer rely on the NCAA’s disciplinary process …”

Scott invoked the FBI’s investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball that included the indictment of former USC associate head coach Tony Bland.

“The Court’s tentative ruling, by contrast, would render all show-cause penalties unenforceable in the state of California,” Scott’s declaration said. “Doing so would risk worsening the problems identified in the federal criminal investigation ... by removing a major deterrent to NCAA rules violations.”

Scott asked the court to consider the perspective of the conferences and schools before issuing a final decision.

The NCAA’s filing also challenged McNair’s claim that the show-cause penalty and associated stigma prevented him from getting another college coaching job — he hasn’t coached at the college or professional level since USC declined to renew his contract in July 2010.

“Simply put, there is no evidence from trial that McNair was ever ‘restricted’ — much less ‘preempted’ — from obtaining a college football coaching job after the expiration of his show-cause penalty,” the NCAA said.

McNair currently works as the offensive line coach for the Village Christian School in Sun Valley.

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