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  • Former USC assistant Todd McNair's defamation lawsuit against the NCAA should provide a wealth of illuminating details about the controversial Reggie Bush case. A primer on what's ahead, plus your questions about the playoff vs. the Final Four, Andy's college stadium bucket list and the rest of this week's #DearAndy mailbag.
By Andy Staples
April 18, 2018

A big case against the NCAA is finally going to trial, and you have questions…

From Steve: What do you think will come of the Todd McNair lawsuit?

Former USC assistant McNair filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA seven years ago, and it’s finally set for trial. Jury selection was scheduled to begin Wednesday. This is a big one, because the NCAA essentially will have to defend its entire investigation-and-punishment system. Judging by how hard the NCAA has fought over the years to keep you from seeing how the sausage was made in the Reggie Bush case, the governing body is going to come out of this looking even worse than usual.

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times has covered this case better than anyone, and you should absolutely read his primer on the case. It explains in much deeper detail what will happen in the next few weeks, but the broad strokes are these:

McNair claims the NCAA, needing some USC employee to pin the Bush case on so the Committee on Infractions could issue a harsh punishment, railroaded him. His attorneys will present an email from the NCAA’s liaison to the Committee on Infractions that calls McNair a “lying, morally bankrupt criminal.” McNair’s claim also is bolstered by the fact that he was punished based on a misreading of a key piece of evidence. The NCAA claimed a call between McNair and wannabe marketer Lloyd Lake was initiated by McNair (it wasn’t) and took place in January 2005. It actually took place in January 2006, after Bush had finished his final season at USC. When this error was pointed out in McNair’s appeal to the NCAA, it was ignored and his one-year show cause penalty was upheld.

The NCAA will try to show that McNair deserved to be punished, but the problem is that if it had better evidence, it would have used it in the actual USC case. It seems unlikely that the NCAA will settle after fighting this long. Also, a settlement would cast doubt upon every other decision regard a coach the COI has made and invite dozens of similar lawsuits. So the NCAA has little choice but to fight.

The facts seem to favor McNair, and the NCAA’s strenuous fight to keep certain case records from public view suggests it isn’t confident at all that the COI’s decision regarding McNair and the investigation that produced it will hold up to a jury’s scrutiny. I wouldn’t be shocked if the NCAA’s attorneys occasionally just want to do this…

That said, this should provide a fascinating window into one of the highest-profile infractions cases in the NCAA’s history. It probably will make USC fans even madder, and it might make McNair rich.

From @augoldfinger: How close are we to eliminating kickoffs in college football? Within five years? Ten?

Judging by the stark differences in responses between this column I wrote in 2011 and this one I wrote last month, I’d guess they’re gone within 10 years.

When I first wrote about then Rutgers coach Greg Schiano’s brilliant idea to replace kickoffs with scrimmage punts and onside kicks with all-or-nothing offensive plays, the bulk of respondents considered the idea batty. When I laid it all out again in response to the proposed (and since passed) half measure of allowing any kickoff fair caught inside the 25-yard line to be considered a touchback, the bulk of the response was, “Eh, that actually seems better than the current plan.”

The steady flow of new information regarding CTE has made changes for the sake of safety much more palatable. Also, the newest “safety” measure doesn’t really even make the game any safer, since kickoff coverage team members and return team members will still slam into one another at high speed before the ball is fair caught.

We seem more open as a society to changes in the name of safety. The difference between what Schiano proposed and most of the others is that his idea would actually make the game more interesting. That isn’t usually the case.

From Dan: In this year’s Final Four, a Michigan team that lost twice to Purdue and a good story (Loyola-Chicago) that won the ninth-best conference made the semis. Is there a better argument for the College Football Playoff than that? Many don’t like it, but we get the best teams every year. 

Fans of 2017 UCF, 2017 Ohio State and 2016 Penn State would quibble with that statement. Also, I’m still waiting for a 98-year-old nun to deliver a scouting report during a team prayer before a CFP game. But yes, the CFP is specifically set up to match superpowers against one another without the possibility of pesky mid-majors knocking them off in an early round.

It would be nice if every team that played in the same subdivision had a real chance to compete for the national title, though. That could mean expanding the playoff so that teams from every conference had a real chance, or it could mean Power 5 schools only played each other and limited the playoff to their membership. The latter would make for better television, but fans of Group of Five schools would get pretty upset. The former would probably make for interesting television as well, though. An eight-team playoff with automatic bids for each Power 5 champ and the highest-ranked Group of Five champ plus two wild cards would be a lot of fun.

That said, I have truly enjoyed how mad the four-team setup makes certain Power 5 fans who think the system is rigged against their conference and for another conference. I’m not suggesting the system is rigged against any Power 5 conference. That perception shifts every time a different league gets left out of the playoff. Every time it does, a new group gets steamed, and the conspiracy theories tend to be hilarious. At this point, I’m not sure which I’d like better—the eight-teamer I described above or the constant flow of tears produced by the four-teamer.

From Mitch: Which college football stadium have you never attended that you would most like to do so?

I think the top of the bucket list is currently Michie Stadium at the U.S. Military Academy. The combination of history and scenic backdrop would make for an exquisite fall Saturday.

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