Todd McNair slipped into the front row in the fifth-floor room at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon, rested a foot-thick sheaf of documents on his lap and yawned.
The seventh day of testimony in the former USC assistant football coach’s defamation trial against the NCAA looked much like the six days before it.
McNair chewed gum, occasionally whispered to one of his attorneys, shifted in the cramped seat and didn’t betray much emotion as videotaped depositions from NCAA President Mark Emmert and infractions committee member Jo Potuto played on a big-screen television.
On Thursday, McNair will move from spectator to witness.
The former coach’s testimony could be a pivotal moment in the trial examining the enforcement process that led to wide-ranging sanctions against McNair and USC in the Reggie Bush extra benefits case.
McNair’s attorneys have used the first seven witnesses — three live, four via videotaped deposition — to build toward the testimony. The attorneys allege a flawed investigative process led to the infractions committee’s issuing McNair a one-year “show-cause” penalty for unethical conduct that essentially ended his collegiate and professional coaching career and led to a spiral of depression and heavy drinking.
Almost seven years after McNair sued the NCAA — he’s kept a low profile during the legal wrangling — the former coach will tell his side of the story.
One clue to McNair’s testimony resides in excerpts from a deposition in the case taken in November 2017. In it, he described an unnamed USC administrator telling him the school wouldn’t renew his contract after the infractions committee’s finding in June 2010.
“They were saying since the finding, you know, I couldn’t recruit, and you can’t have a lame duck coach,” McNair said. “You can’t recruit. You can’t — all I remember is they weren’t going to renew my contract and I was mad.”
McNair eventually settled with the school but struggled to find a job. That’s a key point of contention in the trial. Multiple NCAA-linked witnesses testified McNair’s punishment was relatively minor. One of his attorneys, Bruce Broillet, argued the penalty ruined his career.
During the deposition, McNair discussed then-Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians trying hire him as running backs coach in 2013. Team President Michael Bidwill asked McNair about the NCAA case and allegations he mistreated dogs in the 1990s.
McNair didn’t get the job.
He tried for a similar position at Temple, his alma mater, in 2014. In the deposition, he described a phone call from then-Temple coach Matt Rhule: “After he said it wasn’t going to work, I think he specifically said somebody in the administration blocked it or something, and after you’ve done your case or whatever maybe we can …”
In the courtroom Wednesday, McNair listened to Potuto repeatedly say she didn’t recall sending an email to Shep Cooper, NCAA liaison to the infractions committee, after watching a television show about the Bush case in January 2008. Broillet said the email showed she had made judgments about the case before joining the infractions committee.
The defendants produced the email the night before Potuto’s deposition in January.
The email described would-be sports agent Lloyd Lake, a key figure in the investigation of USC and McNair, as “quite credible.”
“I have no idea what I’m talking about,” Potuto said of the email. “I don’t remember it.”
McNair watched without a word. His turn comes Thursday.