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SC NOTEBOOK: USC A WINNER IN COURT.

Byline: Scott Wolf Daily News Staff Writer

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has dismissed nearly all of a lawsuit brought against USC by a former tutor supervisor, who alleged impropriety within the school's Student Athlete Academic Services department.

Four of the five charges in the lawsuit filed by Dr. Christopher Cairney, the former director of tutoring services, were dismissed.

Cairney sued USC last May, alleging breach of contract, wrongful termination, fraud, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

His allegations drew widespread publicity last season, and the university's subsequent investigation often overshadowed the Trojans' on-field performance.

Every claim but ``breach of contract'' was dismissed.

``They really stripped his claim,'' said Cairney's attorney, Anthony Gordon. ``We believe the judge was wrong. He completely emasculated the case.''

Cairney has little hope of recovering damages under the breach of contract claim, since punitive awards are usually minimal in those cases.

Cairney was fired by USC last spring, after a lengthy investigation considered his claims of impropriety regarding tutors and athletes. Instead, USC said Cairney ``engaged in academic fraud and lied repeatedly to the investigating committee.''

``We're pleased with the judge's decision. It vindicates what we've been saying all along,'' said USC interim general counsel Todd Dickey. ``The allegations brought by Dr. Cairney have no basis in fact.''

Gordon said Cairney intends to appeal the judge's decision.

Claiborne makes the cut: Linebacker Chris Claiborne was named one of three finalists for the Butkus Award on Thursday, which honors the nation's top linebacker.

The other two finalists were Dat Nguyen of Texas A&M and Jevon Kearse of Florida. Claiborne has 88 tackles, five sacks and four interceptions this season. Kearse has 46 tackles, 7.5 sacks and one interception. Nguyen has 101 tackles, two sacks and one interception.

``I found out Wednesday and couldn't tell anyone. That was kind of eating me,'' Claiborne said. ``The (No.) 55's before me have never won the award. That definitely makes it special.''

No USC player has ever won the award, and Claiborne was referring to his predecessors that wore No. 55 - Willie McGinest and Junior Seau.``It also makes it special to represent the Pac-10,'' Claiborne added. ``But it's about winning games right now.''

One benefit to being a finalist is that Claiborne earns a free trip to Orlando on Dec. 11 for the awards ceremony. There he will visit his best friend and former teammate, Brian Kelly, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

``He's going to get to show what he can do, and we're going to show what we can do in the next two games,'' said USC coach Paul Hackett. ``He's the impetus of our defense. You figure with all the great players to be here, the opportunity for him to be a finalist is really fabulous.''

Scout-team scrimmage: USC ended practice with a scrimmage between the scout-team offense and defense. Among the stars were former Notre Dame wide receiver Troy Garner, Alemany tailback Miguel Fletcher and Muir tailback Sultan McCullough, who all had long gains.

``That's the fun part,'' Hackett said. ``Just letting the guys go out there (and play).''
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 13, 1998
Words:520
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