No stone wall for National Collegiate Athletic Association

NCAA can't seal Reggie Bush lawsuit revelations

Helix High alum Reggie Bush
  • Helix High alum Reggie Bush

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has failed in its attempt to seal 400 pages of records stemming from an investigation into improprieties related to the collegiate career of football star Reggie Bush, an alum of Helix High School in La Mesa.

After graduating from Helix, Bush accepted a scholarship with the University of Southern California, where he joined a Trojans team that won a national championship in 2004. Bush collected a Heisman Trophy, awarded to the nation's top collegiate player, for his efforts. Both awards were later forfeited when an NCAA investigation concluded that Bush had received improper benefits including payoffs from prospective agents while still ostensibly an amateur athlete.

As a result of the scandal, the university fired running backs coach Todd McNair, who, in 2011 filed suit against the NCAA, seeking "unspecified damages for libel, slander, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, tortious interference with contractual relations, breach of contract, negligence and declaratory relief."

McNair claims he was effectively "blackballed" and unable to pursue a career in coaching after the fallout from the Bush scandal. The NCAA sought to block the release of hundreds of pages of documents generated during the course of the suit, including "witness interviews, hearing transcriptions and emails from the Committee on Infractions," claiming that the public release of the documents would hamper the association's attempts to conduct investigations in the future.

A three-judge appellate panel in Los Angeles disagreed with the NCAA's argument, stating:

“We conclude the NCAA failed to carry its burden to demonstrate that its interest in the confidentiality of its enforcement proceedings overrides the constitutional right of access and the presumption of openness, or how this interest in confidentiality would be prejudiced if the documents at issue were disclosed…. We are not convinced by the NCAA's contention that public disclosure of its documents will make future investigations more difficult for the NCAA to conduct.”

In addition to the vacated 2004 national championship and relinquished Heisman, USC also lost athletic scholarships and was banned from bowl game competition in 2010 and 2011 as a result of the investigation. Bush, however, has fared better, enjoying an NFL career that since 2006 has spanned stints with the New Orleans Saints (where he won a Super Bowl in 2010, the first year his college team faced sanctions for his misconduct there), Miami Dolphins, and Detroit Lions.

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