Professor hired by NCAA defends his role in USC sanctions during McNair trial

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The first week of testimony in former USC assistant coach Todd McNair’s defamation lawsuit against the NCAA concluded Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court with Rodney Uphoff defending his role in sanctioning McNair and the Trojans.

“Was there anything unusual with what you did in the McNair case?” Rakesh Kilaru, one of the NCAA’s attorneys, asked.

“What I did in this case I did in every case,” said Uphoff, a Missouri law professor who served as a nonvoting member of the committee.


The professor wrote a seven-page memo in February 2010 — eventually emailed to the eight voting members of the committee as they continued to debate whether to punish McNair — excoriating USC. Uphoff also expressed strong views about the case in emails to voting and nonvoting committee members.

Under examination by McNair attorney Bruce Broillet a day earlier, Uphoff said he tried to influence committee members to “reach the right decision” about USC.

NCAA bylaws barred nonvoting members from participating in deliberations or otherwise influencing the committee.

Kilaru asked Uphoff if he believed he violated any bylaws.

“Absolutely not,” Uphoff said.

Kilaru spent part of the three-hour session emphasizing the gap between the distribution of Uphoff’s memo and the committee reaching a final decision on McNair and USC about three months later.

Uphoff reiterated sanctions against USC increased not because of the eventual unethical finding against McNair, but rather the committee compromising by not banning the Trojans from television.

During the cross-examination, Broillet pointed out none of the 18 penalties proposed against USC in February 2010 before the McNair ruling included a television ban.


Uphoff wasn’t clear when the ban was introduced or discarded, but attributed the idea to committee chairman Paul Dee in a May 2010 email. That was a month before they issued the final decision.

“There was zero connection between Todd McNair and the ultimate penalties on USC,” Uphoff testified.

The professor described the one-year “show cause” punishment issued against McNair as “one of the lighter penalties” the committee hands out.

Follow Nathan Fenno on Twitter @nathanfenno