Six years, 11 months and eight days after Todd McNair sued the NCAA for defamation, the former USC assistant coach and 52 other people crowded into Room 500 at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse on Friday for closing arguments in the trial.
Three weeks of testimony led to the final showdown in the stuffy, wood-paneled room.
Bruce Broillet, the silver-haired McNair attorney who likes to joke about his 5-foot-2 height, faced the jury’s nine women and three men. He usually speaks in a grandfatherly tone. But this time his voice had an edge.
“The NCAA seems to have a sense of no accountability,” Broillet said. “They’re huge. They’re powerful. And they think they can do anything back in Indianapolis the way they want to and not be held accountable. ... They never thought Todd McNair would stand up.”
McNair alleged the NCAA’s infractions committee essentially ended his coaching career in June 2010 by finding him guilty of unethical conduct in connection with the extra benefits scandal surrounding former Trojans running back Reggie Bush.
The jury will start deliberations Monday on counts of slander and libel. McNair’s attorneys dropped two other causes of action — breach of contract and negligence — late Thursday.
After three weeks of witnesses, video depositions, charts, slides and other documents, Broillet all but begged the group to send a message to the NCAA for a “botched” investigation of McNair. He accused the organization, as he has throughout the trial, of changing evidence and violating its own rules to implicate McNair and use that as a pretext to increase sanctions against USC. Broillet asked the jury for $27 million in actual damages — plus unspecified punitive damages — as he took them through the nine-question verdict form.
“If this is what goes on at the NCAA all the time, your verdict needs to clean it up,” Broillet said. “They make the rules for everybody else, but when they have an agenda, they bend them and break them for themselves.”
The attorney emphasized points by repeating lyrics from the same Bob Dylan song: “You don’t need a weatherman / To know which way the wind blows.”
Broillet invoked Joe Montana, St. Paul and “The Three Musketeers.” Described the NCAA’s approach as “malarkey” and “bupkis.” Called the infractions committee a “kangaroo court.”
McNair watched from the first row, his usual spot during the trial, his right arm tight around his wife Lynette. The former coach, who testified through tears last week about sinking into depression and having to use food stamps after USC didn’t renew his contract in June 2010, remained expressionless.
Kosta Stojilkovic, the former assistant U.S. attorney leading the NCAA’s legal team in the case, spent much of his closing argument assailing Broillet.
“Their star witness isn’t Todd McNair,” Stojilkovic said. “Their star witness is counsel and that is simply not someone you can listen to.”
He later added: “When you don’t have evidence, you just start making stuff up. … They can’t meet their burden on the evidence, so they have to muddy the waters somehow.”
The attorney mocked Broillet’s request for punitive damages — “apparently $27 million is not enough” and “they should be embarrassed.” Stojilkovic accused McNair of having “selective amnesia” while testifying and dismissed a series of incendiary emails by nonvoting members of the infractions committee as a distraction.
“There’s a hole the size of the Grand Canyon in their story and the hole is why should all these [infractions committee] volunteers from across the county come together to railroad Todd McNair?” Stojilkovic said.
He put up a slide titled: “McNair Wants Special Treatment.” The attorney claimed the reason McNair hasn’t landed a college or professional coaching job is because he didn’t send out enough applications. The attorney said of the one-year “show-cause” sanction that banned McNair from recruiting: “There’s just no evidence this was a career-ending penalty.”
Stojilkovic’s voice dropped to a whisper a few minutes later as he finished with a jab at Broillet’s Dylan references.
“We’re not at a concert here, we’re in a court of law and you do need evidence before you get a dollar or 27 million of them,” Stojilkovic said. “They don’t have the evidence.”
In a brief rebuttal, Broillet assured the jurors he disagreed with each of Stojilkovic’s words. He called Stojilkovic’s assertion the NCAA has “taken responsibility” for its mistakes in the McNair case “malarkey.” He punched the air for emphasis.
“There’s one thing I want you to remember,” Broillet said. “What you do in this case will have consequences for Todd McNair and consequences far beyond.”
Follow Nathan Fenno on Twitter @nathanfenno