According to Dan Weber and Bryan Fischer of USCFootball.com, it did. Earlier today, the USC Rivals.com fan site reported that the NCAA Committee of Infractions No. M295 does in fact support USC's "claim of factual errors, misleading questions and uncorroborated evidence used by the organization's enforcement staff." The NCAA's report, which was issued two weeks ago today, reportedly has several factual problems.
In questioning Lake, the enforcement staff misstated who made a 2-minute, 32-second phone call that the Committee said it relied on as proof McNair was told of the scheme. In questioning McNair, the staff incorrectly stated the year the phone call was made as happening in 2005. In all five mentions of the year in the questioning session, the phone call is said to have happened in January of 2005, not 2006, when it actually occurred.
"If this (mistake) did occur, then I couldn't imagine they would not be jumping out of their seats about it," said Tom Yeager, former Committee Chairman and Commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association. "If it's as clear as they're trying to say, then there isn't even a finding to be made against the client.
"That's not unusual," [Michael] Buckner, [his firm represented Alabama State's successful appeal in 2008] said. "They do make mistakes."
The year may seem insignificant at first glance, but in reality, it makes a huge difference for McNair, who was called uncooperative by the COI for denying that such a call took place in January 2005. Well, he certainly wasn't lying, but the NCAA took the "evidence" and ran with it.
The Jan. 8, 2006 call that the enforcement staff had mischaracterized as to who made it and when it was made, seems to have provided the NCAA its proverbial smoking gun on McNair.
In a call that took "less time than it would take to order a pizza", as McNair's attorney described in his Response according to the Infractions Report, the Committee determined that the assistant coach learned about the scheme and then failed to report it to USC's compliance office. McNair is then accused of falsely signing a document saying he had no knowledge of any violations in order to avoid being implicated.
Well, it's no wonder McNair denied such a call took place...in January 2005.
[Richard Johanningmeier]: You place a call to Bush for one minute. Bush then returns that call and there's a 13 minute, almost a 13 and a half minute conversation that occurs.
[Todd McNair]: And this is when?
RJ: This is on January 8th, 2005.
TM: January 8th, I mean, I, I have no idea. January 8th.
RJ: Okay. You still don't know --
TM: Uh, that's two --
RJ: -- recognize this?
TM: -- that's 2005. That's the, uh, that's 2005, that's after the Orange Bowl, that's a week after the Orange Bowl. Uh, I could've, I don't know, I could, I don't know. I mean, I could be on the, on the road, I could be on the road recruiting 'cause the Orange Bowl was probably, that's the championship game, it's probably a week after the first, seventh, I'm probably on the road. I don't, I don't know.
I can't understand how a committee of so many members could mistaken such a thing as the year. Okay, the say the 8th instead of the 13th. I'll give them a pass. But an entire year later is a huge error on their part.
In three one-minute phone calls to a 619 (San Diego) area code number, the enforcement staff claimed McNair called Lake on the night of Oct. 29, 2005. A photo was provided by Lake showing Lake and partner Michael Michaels standing behind McNair and an actor-friend at a club that night.
The photo was also called into question by an expert in the USC Response to the NCAA because it was altered from its original format. Neither USC nor the Committee was able to be examine the original photo.
If USC can prove that the evidence the NCAA used to incriminate McNair for lying about his knowledge of Bush's relationship with Lake and Michaels is inaccurate, than we're going to have an interesting appeals process on our hand.
In the meanwhile, stay tuned. Paragon will have more on this tonight.
Lastly, I'll leave you with this one last note from the article...
"USC believes the Staff has pursued these weak institutional allegations in football because it recognizes that without a direct institutional link, the allegations surrounding student-athlete 1 (Reggie Bush) involve amateurism issues with no institutional violation. After 3 1/2 years of intensive public and media scrutiny, including repeated public questions as to why USC football has not been ‘brought to justice' by the NCAA, the pressure to accuse USC of having had actual knowledge of and direct connection to the alleged impermissible benefits is very real. The truth is that USC and the assistant football coach had no knowledge of the alleged impermissible benefits to student-athlete 1 and his family."