This past March, the NCAA released 500 pages of documents – including damning internal dialogue – related to the Reggie Bush investigation as part of a defamation lawsuit involving former USC running backs coach Todd McNair. The documents revealed those in The Association stepping well beyond the bounds of normal investigation protocol and seemingly showing bias against the USC football program in meting out near-historic sanctions that crippled the Trojans for years.
USC expressed disappointment in the tone of the emails contained in those initial documents. The NCAA claimed that no malice was involved in the investigation, although yet another document dump suggests otherwise.
Late Wednesday night, an additional 256 pages of internal NCAA e-mails and court transcripts were released, pages that the NCAA had fought to keep sealed. As the Orange County Register wrote, this latest document dump “further suggest[s] the NCAA broke its own rules and displayed bias toward USC and former assistant coach Todd McNair during the Reggie Bush investigation.”
Perhaps the most damning documents involved a pair of individuals who, per NCAA protocol, weren’t supposed to have a voice in or influence on the process but nonetheless did. From the Register:
They include several highly opinionated e-mails sent to COI members by Roscoe Howard and Rodney Uphoff, who were involved in the case but who, by NCAA rule, were not allowed to participate in deliberations or influence the committee. Uphoff was the NCAA’s coordinator of appeals at the time; Howard was a COI member on his first case and was supposed to only observe the proceedings.
Uphoff, who again was to have no influence on the committee, sent an email to Committee on Infractions members in May of 2010, which read in part, “[a]s you know I favor strict penalties in this case. … this case cries out for something dramatic.” In another missive to members of the COI, Uphoff wrote that he “fear[s] that the committee is going to be too lenient on USC on the football violations. I think that would be a huge mistake.’
Howard had his own apprehension as to how USC was handling the situation.
“I know not everyone agrees with me,” Howard wrote, “… but USC’s approach to this case I have found very troubling, and downright insulting. I found their general counsel close to obstructionist and I am thoroughly convinced that what they want from this hearing has nothing to do with helping us learn what actually happened.” “Lack of institutional control … is a very easy call for me,” Howard wrote in another email.
“I don’t think this committee should be chained to a staff that has seemed to have fallen short with this investigation or an institution that has no intention of having us find out what actually happened here,” Howard, again, wrote. “I was insulted by the arguments made by institution and embarrassed by the reaction of the staff.”
Again, Howard was not permitted to influence COI members.
The vitriol wasn’t just directed toward the university as Shep Cooper, COI liaison, took dead aim at McNair himself, describing the former Trojans assistant at the center of the controversy as “a lying, morally bankrupt criminal, in my view, and a hypocrite of the highest order.”
Interestingly, it was Cooper in a separate email who suggested penalties for the football program that would’ve included a one-year postseason ban, the loss of six scholarships over two seasons and a limit of 82 total scholarship players for those two years. In the end, the NCAA slapped the Trojans with historic sanctions: a two-year postseason ban, 30 scholarships stripped over three seasons and a limit of 75 scholarships over those three years.
Cooper’s suggested penalties were sent out to other COI members in February of 2010; in early June of that year, the more stringent penalties were handed out. In November of 2012, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the emails sent “tend to show ill will or hatred” by the NCAA toward USC. The fact that the penalties went to a hard slap on the wrist to a kick in the groin in a span of four months tends to lead credence to that opinion.