Thursday, the University of Southern California met with the NCAA infractions committee to dispute allegations of major NCAA rules violation which will likely go into Saturday. Even though these meetings are usually held in hotel conference rooms, they feel more like court rooms, especially for the accused.
It has been a long time coming for any college football fan that doesn't don Cardinal and Gold and maybe even more so for those that do and have a tendency to worry.
The second I heard Pete Carroll took the Seattle Seahawks job, I thought the NCAA must have notified USC of the hearing, a few days later Yahoo sports! confirmed it.
My second thought was, you know who just might be crazy enough to replace him, Lane Kiffin, unusual for me to be right twice in the same day.
While hotel conference rooms are not courtrooms and the NCAA has no legal authority that is not necessarily a good thing for USC because it's true that the NCAA cannot subpoena, but they also don't have the burden of innocent until proven guilty.
It is quite the opposite, whatever was discovered in the NCAA investigation is considered the truth and it is up to the accused to prove their innocent unlike in courts where that burden sets with the accuser to prove the other party is guily.
So, the NCAA doesn't have to prove USC did commit violations, USC has to prove they did not commit violations.
So, the silence that has rung so deafly from south-central Los Angeles will not only hurt but damn USC now if they continue it in these meetings.
It does not look to be their approach as Pete Carroll has apparently agreed to testify because he is no longer a employee of the university, he could remain quiet. While it seems admirable at first, lets wait six-to-eight weeks to get the full report before we lavish him with praise.
The worst news to date is that USC was investigated for both basketball and football and that those investigation have been combined into a single investigation which usually means that the NCAA is contemplating a lack of institutional control violation which usually comes with severe NCAA penalties.
The basics of the lack of institutional control is that the university either was incapable, incompetent or unwilling to properly monitor their sports programs and it has resulted in the death Penalty for a football school, SMU, and heavy lack of institution control punishments have taken many prominent schools over a decade to recover from.
While USC doesn't qualify for the death penalty because they are not on probation for a major violation in the previous five years, heavy penalties are a possibility if they cannot convince the NCAA of their innocence.
USC is a private school and therefore gets the extra benefit of not having to provide information due to Open Records requests; thus, we do not know exactly what the NCAA has charged against them.
However, the NCAA has had four years to do this investigation and had a ton of help from investigative reports form both ESPN and Yahoo! Sports.
ESPN did a damning report on O.J. Mayo that supplied a firsthand witness, Louis Johnson who claims to seen USC's O.J. Mayo get gift's from a man he claimed delivered Mayo to USC.
Louis Johnson, a former sportswriter, claimed to be a runner and says he had seen Rodney Guillory, whom had already gotten one USC player suspended for violations in 2000, give Mayo around $200,000 in gifts.
According to Johnson those gifts included:
• Three years prior to the start of Mayo's freshman season at USC, BDA Sports provided Guillory with about $200,000, some of it through an account set up at Citibank. Johnson said Guillory told him details about how the account was set up through an intermediary and how it worked: Each month, Guillory told a BDA official what the anticipated "expenses" would be, and that amount would be put into the account to take care of Guillory and Mayo's needs. Guillory, Johnson said, had a card to make withdrawals from the account. Johnson said he was sometimes with Guillory when he made those withdrawals, and Johnson provided "Outside the Lines" with a receipt from one $200 withdrawal that he said occurred in his presence.
• Guillory has been giving money to Mayo for years, according to Johnson, who provided Western Union receipts that illustrate how Johnson and Guillory wired hundreds of dollars to friends of Mayo while he was in high school to avoid a paper trail leading to Mayo.
• Hotel receipts and airline itineraries show multiple trips made by Johnson and Guillory. The destinations correspond with where Mayo played in high school and at tournaments around the country.
• Guillory paid for Mayo's cell phone service, which T-Mobile billed to a nonprofit foundation run by Guillory that, according to California state records, is designed to serve "the educational, health, recreational and social needs of youths and elderly citizens residing in inner-city communities."Johnson provided "Outside the Lines" with the service agreement for four separate lines on the account, set up on March 13, 2007. Johnson said the phone lines were for Guillory, Mayo, a Mayo relative and Johnson. T-Mobile sent a bill to Guillory's foundation for $558.56 for the September charges for the four lines. Of that amount, $171.17 was for Mayo's phone service and another $192.33 was for the phone service of Mayo's relative, according to the invoice and Johnson.
• In addition to several shopping sprees at the two Men's Land stores in the Los Angeles area, Johnson said Guillory provided Mayo with a flat-screen television, a hotel room and meals -- items all paid for with a credit card that belongs to another nonprofit organization, The National Organization of Sickle Cell Prevention and Awareness Foundation. The organization has never registered as a charitable trust with the California Attorney General's Office and is unknown in the Los Angeles sickle-cell charitable community.
• Guillory purchased airline tickets for a member of Mayo's family and another Mayo friend to visit Mayo at USC, said Johnson, who provided "Outside the Lines" with a plane itinerary and a receipt for those trips.
But it was not until the FBI got involved that Johnson made the statement which resulted in basketball coach Tim Floyd's "resignation" from USC.
Johnson told both the NCAA and federal investigators that he had seen Floyd give Rodney Guillory 1,000 dollars on valentines day actually for the implicit reason of delivering Mayo to the Trojans.
USC has since self-enforced violations on their basketball program with a post season ban and a loss of scholarships for this season and next.
While self-penalties can only help you with the NCAA, the fact that they did not act on the initial information and did nothing until the heavier allegations seems to show a lack of sincerity for cleaning up the program.
Then there is Reggie Bush, who Yahoo! Sports reported received improper benefits as a player. Plus, Joe Mcknight said during his signing day interview that he had talk to Bush and Bush told him that he would love for him to play at USC. This was after Bush's departure from the school. Because Bush was no longer a player at USC and was not an employee of the university at the time, that would make him an alumni or booster and not allowed to help the USC recruiting process in any way.
Mcknight apparently got himself into some NCAA trouble as well as he was suspended for USCs bowl game this season. The L.A. Times has reported he was driving a Range Rover registered to a Santa Monica Businessman, Scott Schenter whom owns a marketing business, runs a reggie bush website and also employs the mother of his child, Johana Beltran.
Yahoo! sports did another damning investigative report on Bush in 2006.
In their report, Charles Robinson and Jason Cole , Yahoo! Sports writers, said Reggie Bush and his family appear to have accepted financial benefits worth more than $100,000 from marketing agents while Bush was playing at the University of Southern California and that the benefits, which could lead to NCAA sanctions for USC and retroactively cost Bush his college eligibility and Heisman, were supplied by two groups attempting to woo Bush as a client.
What apparently was a battle between to two marketing agencies to win Bush as a client, is what caused the incident and what allowed Yahoo! sports to get so much information about the case.
One group apparently felt cheated when Bush choose the other as his agent.
Bush's first agent, Michael Ornstein, admits that loans may have been made to the Bush family but they were paid back.
Even if true, that would still be a major violation. The other parties involved were Michael Michaels and Lloyd Lake, known agents, who were attempting to launch their own agency, New Era, with Bush as their first client.
According to yahoo! sports,
documents and on-the-record interviews with sources close to the situation reveal that Bush and his family appear to have received financial benefits from Ornstein and a business associate. Those benefits include:
- $595.20 in round-trip airfare from San Diego to Oakland in November 2005 for Bush's stepfather, LaMar Griffin, his mother, Denise Griffin and younger brother to attend the USC-California game at Berkeley. The fees were charged to the credit card of Jamie Fritz, an employee of Ornstein. The document detailing the charges was provided by Lee Pfeifer, an estranged business associate of Ornstein's.
- $250.65 for limousine transportation from the Oakland airport to the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco that November weekend for the Bush family, charged to Fritz, according to a document. Ornstein acknowledged both he and Bush's family stayed at the luxury hotel.
Additionally, New Jersey memorabilia dealer Bob DeMartino alleges that Ornstein provided:
- Suits for Bush's stepfather and brother to wear during the Dec. 10, 2005 Heisman ceremony in New York, a makeover for his mother for the event and limousine transportation;
- Weekly payments of at least $1,500 to the Bush family.
Documents and multiple sources also link Bush and his family to receiving benefits from New Era's financial backers, including:
- $623.63 for a hotel stay by Bush at the Venetian Resort & Casino in Las Vegas from March 11-13, 2005, charged to Michaels, according to a document signed by Bush.
- $1,574.86 for a stay by Bush at the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego from March 4-6, 2005, paid for by Michaels, according to a hotel document, a hotel employee and a source.
- Approximately $13,000 to Bush from New Era to purchase and modify a car, three sources said.
- As reported by Yahoo! Sports in April, $54,000 in rent-free living for a year at Michaels' $757,500 home in Spring Valley, Calif., according to Michaels and San Diego attorney Brian Watkins.
- Also from previous Yahoo! reports, $28,000 from Michaels to help Bush's family settle pre-existing debt, according to Michaels and Watkins.
- Thousands of dollars in spending money to both Bush and his family from the prospective agents, according to multiple sources.
The hard things about the allegations is it is hard to know who to believe because crooks appear to be blaming crooks, but the paper documents make accusations much more firm and their is plenty of paper in both Bush and Mayo's cases and not necessarily the money but the receipts.
So, USC has the burden of guilty until proven innocent and they have not only eye witnesses but paper trails to contend with.
Plus Bush's actions seem to make the accusations have more merit settling with Michaels for $200,000 to $300,000 in April 2007 with a probable no-speech clause in the agreement.
Asked about the NCAA investigation, after that settlement, Bush said, "Dead subject. That's what it is." But Ron Barker, the Pac-10's associate commissioner of governance and enforcement, says, "This has not gone away by any means."
Lake also met with the NCAA in November of 2007, with his attorney saying he would provide documents and other evidence to NCAA investigators that would bolster allegations that Lake provided more than $291,600 in cash, lodging and additional considerations to Bush and his parents.
Lake had already filed a civil lawsuit against Bush in a San Diego court. In February of 2008, Lake walked out of a disposition claiming Bush's Lawyers were trying to intimidate him by having security present. Bush failed to show for the disposition.
Lake himself was in prison at the time the Yahoo! Sports investigation occurred and it is unknown whether he actually ever supplied any proof to the NCAA.
Bush has unsuccessfully tried twice to get the courts to compel the case to confidential arbitration. The case has still yet to be resolved.
Bush and Mayo will not be at the hearings, they have nothing to gain but USC has a lot lo lose.
A national championship and a Heisman trophy for starters. However, if you look at the recent punishments doled out by the NCAA there is definitely the possibility to lose a lot more.
Memphis Basketball had all the money they received from post-season tournament stripped from them for violations of an ineligible player that cheated on his entrance exams and had an associate travel on a team trip without charge. That is nothing compared to USC's alleged violations.
Seeing how the Reggie Bush allegations date back to the 2004-2005 season that could mean millions as USC was in the BCS National championship both years.
So, it could hit USC hard in their pocketbook, not just their prestige.
The other recent violations to look at is Oklahoma, Alabama and Florida State all who had to vacate wins, due to having ineligible players on the field, all three appealed the decision and only Oklahoma who self reported the violations and penalized themselves won their appeal.
The last violation to really look at is Dez Bryant, he was suspended for the majority of the season for simply lying to the NCAA and his lie was about something that was not even a rules violation.
So, it is safe to say the NCAA is trying to show its teeth over the past few years.
USC has not exactly done any favors for itself to help either, in this day and age the NCAA expects universities to investigate themselves.
If you are serious about investigating yourself you can certainly do it in under four years because you can pressure all employees to tell you everything they know.
While Mayo and Bush certainly wouldn't talk to USC about it, I think it is safe to say ESPN and Yahoo Sports would provide the university with all the information they could from their investigations.
Not to mention the people they talked to would be willing to talk with you as well in most cases.
Hiring Lane Kiffin also can in no way help you in the NCAA investigation, the thing the NCAA wants to see most is that you have learned from past mistakes and you are trying to correct them.
In Lane Kiffin's, short tenure as a head coach he has caught the NCAA's eye numerous times. While all seem to be smaller violations, there is little doubt that he is no stickler for the rules and there is nothing in Kiffin's past that makes you think he would try and do things by the book and clean house in Los Angeles.
All this adds up to USC having a huge burden to lift in showing that they are not guilty of these accusations.
If the NCAA wants to show it still has bite, this is their last chance because a slap on the hand for a big school in a big TV market will send a message that the most popular schools will take to heart.
Do absolutely anything to win, and then apologize later.
A strong message to USC sends a strong message to every university that no one is above the law.
So, if USC does get penalized heavily does the 2004 National Championship find its way to Oklahoma and can Bush's 2005 Heisman end up in Vince Young's hands? Well the answer may come down to semantics.
As far as I know, there is no precedent for either of these scenarios though there may be rules and by laws.
However, every school punished recently due to ineligible players has had to vacate wins, the word vacate is key.
Forfeit means the other team wins the game and you automatically lose, vacate means you lose the win but the other team keeps it as a lose on their record.
Would the NCAA want to leave a year without a champion? Would USC? It would definitely be an embarrassing trivia question from here on out if they did so.
Technically the NCAA doesn't recognize a national champion in Division I Bowl Sub-Division football.
Only the BCS and the polls, do. Would the BCS name a new national champion and if so, would it not have to be Oklahoma, who finished number 2 in the final BCS poll of 2008? The BCS does not release a poll after the bowl games.
So it would definitely be an awkward situation if on the record books it shows Oklahoma lost a game 55-19 but were still the national champion.
However, that used to be common place because the national championship was given before the bowl games. So it definitely wouldn't be the first time someone lost their final game of the season and was awarded the championship.
But as an Oklahoma fan, would you even want it? It would be awkward for years to see it up there on the scoreboard with the seven other years but it would add another odd twist of fate to the Sooner legacy.
As the Sooners have had a history of NCAA violations themselves to have another national championship delivered to your door because of NCAA violations would definitley be ironic.
The Heisman, awarded by the Downtown Athletic Club, is just an interesting as they are not affiliated with the NCAA and are in no way bound by its rules.
However, they do state to be eligible for the Heisman you have to be eligible by NCAA standards and if USC were to have to vacate wins do to Reggie Bush being ineligible than that would no longer be the case.
I am sure the Downtown Athletic Club could not allow an award as prestigious as the Heisman to go vacated in the history books, nor would they want the continual reminder of that bad press.
They would have two options, ignore their own rule and let Bush keep it or strip it and give it to the number two finisher in 2005, Vince Young.
USC meeting with the NCAA should wrap up this weekend and then it should be six-to-eight weeks before we know both their punishments and the full extent of the NCAA allegations and investigation. As far as the National Championship and Heisman, who knows how long it could take to sort out that mess.
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