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NCAA attorney says trial in Todd McNair case could be 'years away'

NCAA attorney says trial in Todd McNair case could be 'years away'
Former USC running backs coach Todd McNair talks with C.J. Gable after a practice on Aug. 20, 2009. (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times)

An NCAA attorney said Monday that former USC assistant football coach Todd McNair's long-running defamation lawsuit against the organization is in its "infancy."

"We're probably years away from a trial," Laura Ann Wytsma told the three-justice panel in California's 2nd District Court of Appeal.

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McNair sued in 2011 after the NCAA sanctioned him — along with USC — in the aftermath of the extra-benefits investigation focused on former Trojans running back Reggie Bush.

The latest detour in the case revolves around Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller. The NCAA successfully moved in May to disqualify Shaller from overseeing the case, saying in court filings the "public perceives potential judicial bias" because the judge graduated from USC.

McNair's attorneys asked the appellate court to intervene in June, arguing the NCAA wasn't entitled to ask for Shaller's removal because it previously had disqualified another judge in the case.

Each side has one challenge to remove a judge, but can be granted another challenge if a final judgment is reversed on appeal.

In front of the three-justice panel Monday, Wytsma argued that there's a "really dangerous precedent in suggesting a party has a right to a certain judge." Stuart Esner, representing McNair, countered that Shaller's removal was erroneous because there wasn't a reversal of a final judgement.

The debate stems from the case's three-year trip through the appellate court after Shaller rejected the NCAA's motion to dismiss the case in 2012. Last December, a three-justice panel in the appellate court upheld Shaller's ruling — but threw out McNair's charge that NCAA sanctions caused USC to not renew his contract. The NCAA cited the reversal in their motion to disqualify Shaller.

McNair's case in L.A. Superior Court is paused pending the appellate court's decision. Its opinion is scheduled to be filed by Jan. 3, according to court records.

Twitter: @nathanfenno

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