California judge rules NCAA's scarlet letter, the show-cause penalty, illegal in state

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One of the NCAA's most significant penalties is now illegal in California. A Los Angeles County judge ruled Tuesday that the NCAA's show-cause penalty is against the law. The ruling came as part of the ongoing court battle regarding former USC football assistant coach Todd McNair.

McNair was given a one-year show-cause penalty in 2010 as part of the major penalties handed down to the USC football program in the Reggie Bush case. McNair has not worked a college job since then. Earlier this year, McNair lost a defamation suit against the NCAA.

The show-cause is basically the NCAA's scarlet letter. If any school hires that coach during the penalty window, it must appear before the NCAA and explain why penalties shouldn't be carried over to the hiring school.

The court ruling means the NCAA cannot use one of its biggest deterrents in the state of California. The Commission on College Basketball in April recommended to the NCAA the possibility of lifetime bans for coaches hit with show-cause penalties.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement last month it would be hard for the conference's schools to remain NCAA members if they follow the state law.

"If California law prevents institutions in the state from honoring such commitments, it is hard to see how the Pac-12's member universities in California could continue to meet the requirements of NCAA membership."

Judge Frederick Shaller deemed Scott's statement as well as one by Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell "completely speculative and irrelevant to the issue."

The NCAA released a statement after the ruling was handed down.

"The NCAA disagrees with the court's ruling, which is wrong as a matter of law and does not impact Todd McNair's show-cause order that expired more than six years ago. We will explore all avenues for relief to ensure that NCAA member schools in California can continue to abide by the same rules as the rest of the NCAA's membership."

The show-cause is not always the kiss of death to a career. Auburn hired Bruce Pearl as it basketball coach in 2014 despite Pearl having five months left on his penalty stemming from infractions committed at Tennessee. A year after his five-year show-cause expired, Kelvin Sampson remade himself starting over at Houston basketball.

Chip Kelly was handed an 18-month show-cause on his way out of the door at Oregon. After a stint in the NFL, Kelly jumped back into college with UCLA after last season.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, an attorney, told CBS Sports that Shaller's ruling is "a quintessential California decision. It's a little like the California legislation that it's going to regulate the internet."

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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