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NCAA to appeal decision granting former USC assistant Todd McNair new trial in defamation lawsuit

NCAA to appeal decision granting former USC assistant Todd McNair new trial in defamation lawsuit
Former USC running backs coach Todd McNair on the football field at Burbank High with the Village Christian Crusaders in Burbank, on Aug. 17, 2018. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The seven-and-a-half year legal struggle between former USC assistant coach Todd McNair and the NCAA is far from over.

The NCAA filed notice last week that it will appeal Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller’s ruling that granted McNair a new trial in his defamation lawsuit and a previous decision that found the organization’s so-called “show-cause” penalty violated state law.

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The expected move will return the long-running case to the 2nd District Court of Appeal — which has taken a skeptical view of NCAA positions in past years.

The appellate court has issued strongly worded opinions in previous years barring the NCAA from filing hundreds of pages of internal documents related to McNair and USC under seal, overturning the NCAA’s move to dismiss the case and thwarting the NCAA’s attempt to remove Shaller as judge.

Those detours, however, took almost four years.

This month, Shaller set the stage for an appeal when he overturned the jury’s May verdict that the NCAA didn’t defame McNair in connection with its investigation into the Reggie Bush extra-benefits scandal. The judge cited the jury foreman’s work as an attorney for a law firm that the NCAA retained during one of the earlier appeals as resulting in a “miscarriage of justice” and said the jury didn’t have “any credible basis” for the verdict.

The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions found in June 2010 that McNair engaged in unethical conduct in connection with Bush, an All-American running back, receiving benefits from sports marketers while at USC. The committee issued a one-year “show-cause” penalty to McNair and USC declined to renew his contract. He sued the NCAA a year later, alleging the punishment damaged his chances of landing another high-level coaching job.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired McNair, 53, as running backs coach this month. It’s his first college or professional coaching position since USC.

In the one-paragraph filing about the appeal, NCAA attorney Kosta Stojilkovic said the organization believes Shaller’s ruling dissolved the “show-cause” decision. The issue is sensitive as it involves one of the NCAA’s go-to punishments for rules violations and, in a court filing last year, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott warned the matter could threaten the membership of the conference’s California schools in the organization.

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