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Where is the smoking gun?

As the Todd McNair case begins to wrap up with closing arguments there is one thing that is standing out right now.

Where is the smoking gun from the NCAA? Where is the piece of evidence or statement that you can point to that says “here is why we absolutely believed Lloyd Lake over Todd McNair?” There was a lot of talk during the trial of contradictory statements and decisions that were arrived at without outside influence but a surprising lack of detail when it comes to such an important point.

For years we’ve heard that McNair, according to NCAA e-mails, was a “lying, morally bankrupt criminal” who the NCAA “begged” to tell the truth during an initial interview. What we haven’t heard is why the NCAA believed that to be true. COI member Eleanor Myers talked about the totality of the McNair record, including not believing his explanation of the infamous 1:34am phone call from Lake to McNair. Again, no details of where exactly he lied in regards to the call, just that she didn’t believe him. Never mind that the trial showed how Lake had McNair’s number on his cell phone (Reggie told McNair his phone was dying and told him to call Lake’s phone so that Reggie could meet up with recruit Percy Harvin) but no indication that Lake and McNair had talked before that night. McNair’s lawyers also asked Myers on cross examination if it made sense for Todd to get a call that allegedly was so damning, yet he didn’t place a call to Reggie until 12 hours later. Myers still offered no specifics and eventually said “we did the best we could”. That’s not exactly the most resounding statement considering your ruling on the phone call helped tie McNair and USC to the case, which resulted in a severe increase in the sanctions.

With the lack of a smoking gun the NCAA has focused a lot of attention on McNair’s job search, or lack thereof according to the NCAA, in an apparent attempt to minimize the damages of what they are going to have to pay McNair. What they won’t be able to minimize is how well prepared McNair was on the stand, and that included multiple times when the NCAA tried to impeach him on various statements, to catch him lying, yet McNair was able to point to other parts of the NCAA’s own transcripts to show statements in support of his case. Those were powerful moments.

Don’t get me wrong, the NCAA has made some points too but not nearly enough to satisfy any USC fan. Instead, all the trial did was reinforce the belief that the NCAA tied together some loose facts that were connected through the word of a convicted felon who was believed over a coach who held a high-profile position at a high-profile school, and not a single NCAA witness was able to provide any hard facts to show why they did it.

Garry Paskwietz

A 1988 graduate of USC with a degree in Sports Information. Worked in sports marketing for LA Lakers and Miller Brewing Company. Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

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