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Former USC assistant Todd McNair reaches settlement with NCAA to end defamation suit

Former USC assistant coach Todd McNair, who currently works as a running backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Former USC assistant coach Todd McNair currently works as a running backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
(Associated Press)

More than a decade after he sued for defamation, former USC football assistant coach Todd McNair has reached a settlement agreement with the NCAA, closing the book on a long-running legal saga that began in 2010, when the organization first accused him of unethical conduct during its investigation into improper benefits received by former Trojans star Reggie Bush.

While the NCAA’s sanctions against USC had long expired and Bush was welcomed back to campus last summer following a 10-year ban, McNair’s legal battle remained the last vestige of the landmark infractions case.

That final loose end was resolved Monday when the two sides announced in a joint statement that a settlement agreement was reached via mediation.

“After ten years of litigation, both sides have come together to resolve this matter to the mutual satisfaction of all parties involved,” attorneys for McNair and the NCAA said in a statement.

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Financial terms of the settlement were not revealed.

McNair, who now works as running backs coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, presided over one of the best backfields in NCAA history as USC’s running backs coach from 2004 to 2010. It was in that role that a report from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, released in June 2010, concluded McNair “knew or should have known” that Bush and his family accepted improper benefits from two would-be sports marketers during the 2005 season.

The NCAA levied harsh sanctions, vacating 14 of USC’s victories, among them the 2004 national championship, docking 30 scholarships and banning the Trojans from competing in bowl games for two years. Bush was forced to return his Heisman Trophy and disassociate from USC.

On a day when college athletes were permitted to seek financial gain, former USC running back Reggie Bush reminded us what the NCAA unnecessarily took away.

McNair was handed a one-year show cause penalty by the NCAA, which his attorneys would later argue ended his career as a top college assistant. He sued the NCAA a year later, alleging in a California court that NCAA officials had fabricated evidence and “decided to ruin [his] career to further their own agenda.”

Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Frederick Shaller ruled in 2012 that the NCAA was “malicious” in its investigation of McNair.

When the case was heard over three weeks in May 2018, a jury ruled in favor of the NCAA. But Shaller, citing a lack of sufficient evidence and bias within the jury, granted McNair a motion for a new trial in January 2019.

An appeals court ruled in February 2021 that McNair would indeed be granted another trial.

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A few months later, as Bush began lobbying for the return of his vacated Heisman Trophy, a settlement between McNair and the NCAA was reached.


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