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Todd McNair's credibility questioned during testimony at trial

The four-paragraph email Eleanor Myers wrote in March 2010 has been a frequent exhibit during the first two weeks of testimony in former USC assistant football coach Todd McNair's defamation trial against the NCAA.

"On the other side," Myers, a member of the NCAA infractions committee that sanctioned McNair and USC, said in the email to the rest of the group, "we have a botched interview in which McNair did not have a good opportunity to explain the call since the date staff questioned him about was wrong."

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During testimony Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Myers defended the email and the committee's handling of the case against McNair and USC. Myers, a Temple law professor, said McNair's answers to the infractions committee about the disputed phone call with would-be sports agent Lloyd Lake in January 2006 undermined the coach's credibility.

"We gave him all these alternative possibilities," Myers said of McNair's appearance before the committee. "We were begging him to tell us the truth and I thought he had ample opportunity to explain the call at the hearing, so we cured whatever problem there had been during the investigation."

Though she questioned the infractions case against McNair in a handful of emails as the committee deliberated in early 2010 — "I am not comfortable with charging him with lying," she wrote in one — she remained adamant Tuesday that the coach wasn't credible and knew "well before" the January 2006 call that Lake provided extra benefits to Reggie Bush.

Eleven attorneys and staff members representing the NCAA, including chief legal officer Donald Remy, watched the afternoon session of Myers' testimony in a stuffy room at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.

Under cross-examination by McNair attorney Bruce Broillet, Myers adjusted her language about the March 2010 email, saying "the interviews weren't botched" but that two questions investigators asked were "mistaken."

The most heated exchange came late in the day when Broillet pressed Myers about whether Rodney Uphoff, a nonvoting member of the committee, and fellow nonvoting member Roscoe Howard participated in deliberations about USC and McNair in violation of NCAA rules at the time.

"Whatever your definition of an active role is, he did not take it," Myers said of Uphoff.

Broillet asked if emails were part of the deliberations, then displayed an email Myers sent the committee in March 2010 saying she was "increasingly uneasy with conducting our deliberations via email."

After a back and forth about whether emails which included Uphoff constituted deliberations, Myers finally allowed, "I believe some people were attempting to conduct deliberations by email."

Uphoff, who wrote a lengthy memo to the committee assailing USC, previously testified that he tried to influence the group "to reach the right decision."

Myers testified that sanctions against USC weren't increased after the group found McNair guilty of unethical conduct — she blamed a delay in reaching a decision on the belated production of the transcript from the committee's hearing — but instead stemmed from not banning the school's football games from television.

"We basically increased the scholarship [penalty] to basically satisfy [committee chairman] Paul [Dee] and not have a TV ban," Myers said.

Closing arguments will start Thursday or Friday. Two economic experts are the only remaining witnesses expected to testify.

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Twitter: @nathanfenno

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