Former USC assistant coach Todd McNair is allowed to proceed in his defamation lawsuit against the NCAA, a California appellate court ruled on Monday.The three-judge panel ruled in favor of McNair after the NCAA appealed to have the lawsuit thrown out.McNair, who coached at USC from 2005-2010, was given a show cause penalty by the NCAA for allegedly being aware of violations that former running back Reggie Bush committed while at USC and lying to investigators.McNair filed the lawsuit in June of 2011, claiming libel and slander. Monday’s decision by the appellate court supported the ruling of a Superior Court judge in 2012, who also rejected the NCAA’s efforts to have the case thrown out. The panel noted McNair had a “probability of prevailing on the merits” of his defamation lawsuit.The NCAA can either ask the appellate court to reconsider its decision or appeal to the California Supreme Court.“McNair presented admissible evidence, which if credited by a jury, indicates that he did not know about the NCAA violations, in which case the operative statement is susceptible of a false meaning,” the court ruled.While the court threw out McNair’s claim that the penalty resulted in him losing his job at USC, it could reignite the debate over the harsh sanctions levied against the school’s football program as a result of Bush’s violations. If, indeed, McNair was unaware that Bush received improper benefits during his time at USC, the NCAA could not have sanctioned the school without a university employee being aware of Bush’s activity.In its ruling, the court stated that the NCAA’s investigation centered on a two-minute phone conversation between McNair and Lloyd Lake, a would-be marketer who provided Bush with illegal benefits. But the court, citing an interview with Lake, cast doubt that McNair learned about Bush’s activity from Lake.“Nowhere during Lake’s description of the two-minute call did Lake ever say that he informed McNair of, or that McNair claimed knowledge about, the agency agreement and improper benefits,” the court ruled. “Instead, Lake speculated that Bush told McNair, or that McNair knew from osmosis because ‘he was around a lot’ and ‘watched.’”In addition to a two-year bowl ban and loss of 30 scholarships over three years, USC was forced to vacate its 2004 BCS national championship and its wins during the 2005 season as part of the sanctions levied by the NCAA in 2010. Bush also voluntarily forfeited his 2005 Heisman Trophy.