Three men, ranging from 25 to 66, belong to an exclusive, performance based fraternity. Even at this swanky, members-only club, the comrades always have a private table reserved for their party. For all their similarities, though, the three exist in completely different worlds.
One lives in Nevada, one resides in California, and one spends the better part of the year in the Louisiana bayou.
One wears a state ordered jump suit. One owns a wardrobe filled with sharp, custom tailored double breasts. And one dons an authentic NFL jersey with his surname emblazoned on the back.
The eldest oversees one of the most powerful collegiate athletic programs in the country. The middle member spends his days as an inmate at a Nevada maximum security prison. The 20-something-year-old is one of the biggest names in pro football.
One might be the most hated man among his fellow alumni. The other might be hated by the students, administrators, and donors he represents. And one might be the most despised former athlete in America.
Mike Garrett, OJ Simpson, and Reggie Bush are brothers on the gridiron.
They are forever linked by their tremendous individual success as key pieces of the legendary USC football program.
All three men know how it feels to cross the goal line, time and time again, at LA Memorial Coliseum. All three know what it's like to cut left, dodge a hard charging linebacker, and gallop into the open field while 90,000 strong fans shout their name.
All three have won the prestigious Heisman trophy award, a treasured piece of individual hardware to share with the boys back at SC.
They’re three of the most decorated athletes in the program’s spectacular history. Yet they’re also enemies of the state at their distinguished university.
Bush isn’t allowed on the premises, Simpson isn’t allowed to set foot in the free world, and a sea of critics can’t believe Garrett keeps plugging away at his high profile job.
The three men represented USC beautifully on the football field, but have created different nightmares for the school off of it.
Bush, Simpson, and Garrett were once the main attractions at SC pep rallies but all three would get booed off the stage this afternoon.
The three running backs traveled down extremely different life paths. No matter how far those paths separate, they’ll always share USC’s pigskin glory.
Unfortunately, Bush, Simpson, and Garrett are responsible for some of the university’s darkest hours.
For Simpson, the bullet points are easy.
Any blended mix involving the words Ford Bronco, poorly fitting gloves, court room, and mayhem will do. Every US citizen over 35 harbors an opinion about the man, one way or the other. The up to the 33 years (with a parole possibility after nine) Simpson received in 2008 embarrassed his alma mater further.
Only this time, the verdict warranted little discussion. His botched robbery, or whatever it is he tried to pull off, provides a lesson in absurd reasoning. The fact that Simpson thought he could get away with carrying a weapon in a Las Vegas casino, where you’ll find cameras everywhere except in the towel dispensers, defies rational thought.
USC can distance themselves from Simpson and his legal troubles, which they wisely have. But Simpson’s rise to pop culture icon status evolved from his football accolades and accomplishments. He burst onto the national scene with the Trojans.
Try as they might, SC remains a key part of OJ’s past.
While Simpson’s actions never altered the program, his affiliation brought little good to the school from 1994 on.
Bush and Garrett, on the other hand, are two of the biggest names behind USC football’s suddenly testy situation.
Reggie, who according to NCAA reports couldn’t turn down big, under the table bucks while at the school, may soon have his picture plastered next to the no trespassing signs spread around campus walls.
At his peek, where he broke off benchmark runs about once every three carries, Bush was the single biggest athlete, Kobe Bryant included, in America’s second largest media market.
He combined world class speed with Barry Sanders’ creativity. Bush trumped every college athlete not named Tim Tebow in mass appeal over the past decade. The remarkable achievements are grounds for a statue, a plaque, or at least a lifetime press pass.
Reggie won’t get any of those from USC.
Keyshawn Johnson and Marcus Allen can yuck it up on the sidelines all they want.
Bush can’t even tailgate in the parking lot.
The SC brass has grown cold on their old meal ticket. Reggie owns a Super Bowl championship, but the Trojan community wants nothing to do with him. He’s one of the most recognizable faces in USC history, and school administrators can’t stand it. At least one of the higher-ups feels Bush’s pain.
In the school’s ongoing NCAA violations saga, Garrett serves as both a co-defendant and the head janitor. He helped create this mess and it’s his duty to mop everything up.
Following a rough 18 month period, where investigations claimed several prominent USC athletes, including Bush, received illegal financial benefits, Garrett must spearhead a serious PR shift for a department headed in the wrong direction.
Garrett oversaw the day-to-day operations while student-athletes enjoyed unauthorized perks. The extent to which he truly knew of the unacceptable interactions is anyone’s guess.
Either way, when scholarships and postseason privileges disappear, and one of the most admired teams in the country endures such a substantial hit, finger pointers eventually lock in on the top guns.
Garrett controls his own destiny at USC. How he sails through the trying times ahead will heavily shape the athletic director’s legacy.
Bush and Simpson don’t have that luxury. Due to the personal choices they made, their days as the BMOC are ancient history.
Although O.J. embarassed himself more than anyone, he's not welcome at any charity events, galas, or honorary dinners if he ever leaves prison. Bush possibly made a mistake as an overwhelmed college kid, but that doesn't soften the blow for university boosters, believers, and fans.
USC boasts seven Heisman winners. At the moment, they’re whole heartedly proud of three.
Yes, all three embattled players had their number retired. But raise your hand if you’d enjoy shooting the breeze with OJ Simpson. Alone.
These former superstars embarrassed Tailback U and fellow alumni in different capacities.
Now it’s USC’s time to fight on through the rough patches.