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Ten Reasons Why USC Football NCAA Sanctions are Not Fair

Bill NCorrespondent IJuly 14, 2010

Ten Reasons Why USC Football NCAA Sanctions are Not Fair

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    USC appealed its June 10, 2010, NCAA football sanctions requesting that they be cut in half. Many USC fans feel that greater reductions are appropriate based on information made public since the NCAA report.

    There is a tremendous amount of misinformation about the primary USC “infractions” which the NCAA used to justify its harsh sanctions.

    This report identifies many reasons the recent NCAA sanctions against the USC football team are not fair. These include findings that were incorrect and sometimes unprecedented, and sanctions that were much greater than other colleges have received for more severe infractions where the college benefited by paying athletes unlike USC.

    Two recent related reports discuss the following:
    Analyzing NCAA Hypocrisy - Root Cause and Solutions - examines the hypocrisy of the NCAA and how they profit at the expense of athletes, especially those from lower income families, and these archaic rules result in most major infractions.
    Is the NCAA Capable of Fair Treatment of Infractions and Sanctions? – identifies the reasons the NCAA is incapable of conducting fair evaluations of alleged infractions and sanctions.

    As stated in the NCAA report, the primary infractions were committed by the Reggie Bush family. Unlike most other colleges who received NCAA sanctions because they (or their boosters) gave money to their athletes either to entice them to attend or keep them, USC or its boosters were not involved in any payments to Bush’s family.

    Bush did not attend USC due to any payments. In fact, the payments by outside parties were designed to get Bush to leave USC, which he did a year earlier than required. The Bush related violations were to USC’s disadvantage!

    This means that USC, unlike other colleges who received less harsh sanctions and paid their athletes, did not participate in the Bush primary infraction. The Bush family may have cheated, and this may have made Bush ineligible. But, USC is receiving football sanctions that are the most severe since the SMU death penalty. This makes no sense!

    For those who continue to call USC, Pete Carroll, and others “cheaters” keep in mind the parable, “Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone (John 8:4)” because 150 other Division I colleges and one entire conference have received at least one set of sanctions from the NCAA for major infractions.

    However, the NCAA did deprive USC of a fair investigation and infractions hearing. The NCAA issued football sanctions to USC that far exceed sanctions for similar cases based on faulty and unprecedented findings. USC agrees there were some violations and sanctions for them should be appropriate based on NCAA precedent in other cases.

    The NCAA's defense of the USC decision is "every case is different" because they know that USC was treated differently and the NCAA's lack of standard sanctions allow them to do anything they want without justification.

    A core value of the NCAA's tax-exempt mission statement is to "govern fairly."  The NCAA fails miserably in this regard.

    Here is comprehensive information about the NCAA vs. USC for those interested in the details.

    This simple video summarizes the NCAA treatment of USC pretty well:  NCAA "Because we can."

    Here are ten reasons that the USC Football NCAA sanctions are unfair.

1. NCAA Errors Resulted in Finding USC had Knowledge of the Bush Family

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    Dan Weber and Bryan Fisher have published several reports, NCAA Missteps on McNair and Exclusive: Investigation Illustrated that detail the NCAA mistakes and faulty finding about the connection between Todd McNair (USC), Lloyd Lake, and Reggie Bush. This was the only connection with USC in the NCAA report.

    These reports prove that that the NCAA did not come close to meeting any burden of proof, even by the very low standards of the NCAA.

    Any reasonable person would have to conclude that USC did not know about the Bush family payments after reviewing the NCAA USC Report, USC response to the NCAA, and the Weber/Fisher reports.

    USC did not benefit from the Lloyd Lake payments to the Bush family, unlike other colleges that paid their athletes and received lesser sanctions.

    Alabama fans are still upset about the way that the NCAA has treated them, and yet they received less sanctions for far more serious violations involving multiple athletes receiving money from the school or boosters.  Here is a brief summary:

    In 2002 Alabama received five years' probation, a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 21 scholarships over three years after it was found that Crimson Tide boosters paid players (there were 10 major violations and five minor ones).

    The most publicized cases include boosters making five-figure payments to two recruits. Two boosters involved in repeated rules violations were known to the Alabama staff, coaches and fans and often were seen at the team hotel during road games. Boosters paid players. Again, boosters paid players. That's the ultimate sin in college sports because it provides a competitive advantage.

    Preventing pay-for-play is the chief reason the NCAA exists. This was done under the repeat violater rules. The violations occurred under coaches Mike DuBose and Gene Stallings. Alabama was told that if there are other violations during the probationary period, then the death penalty could result.

    Alabama was then sanctioned for infractions in 16 of 19 sports (201 athletes including 22 “intentional wrongdoers” in football, track and tennis) including football in 2009. They had to vacate 21 wins from 2005-2007 seasons and were put on three years probation. There were no scholarship losses. Alabama’s appeal was denied. They were on probation at the time from the prior NCAA sanctions, yet no death penalty was imposed as previously stated by the NCAA.

2. NCAA Failure to Control Sports Marketers is Blamed on USC

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    The NCAA held USC responsible for the actions of a sports marketer/agent even though the NCAA has done nothing to control them and there is very little a college institution can do to control them.

    College football is the minor leagues for the NFL, so the NCAA could develop a solution with the NFL to control sports marketers/agents.

    It is not fair to USC, or any other college, to hold them responsible for the NCAA’s failure.

3. NCAA Classified Michael Ornstein as a USC Booster with No Precedent

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    The NCAA also made the unprecedented finding that Bush’s $8-an-hour internship with sports marketer Michael Ornstein, which was approved by the NCAA at the time, constituted illegal benefits and erroneously classified Ornstein as a booster.

    USC was never told that the NCAA considered Ornstein a booster until the NCAA findings were issued. Using it as a finding for a major infraction shows how far the NCAA will go to rationalize an infraction.

    There is no precedent for this decision by the NCAA.

4. Conflicts of Interest Bias the NCAA Infractions Committee

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    The NCAA Infractions Committee included representatives from Miami (leader), Notre Dame, and Nebraska. The COI leader, Paul Dee, has no business participating in any infractions committee based on his past record at Miami.  Of course, this speaks to the lack of ethics by the NCAA in selecting people like this.

    This is a clear conflict of interest because these colleges are competitors for national championships, which require the best recruiting.

    Giving USC harsh sanctions by taking away 30 scholarships means that these colleges all benefit by having a better chance to get the better athletes while USC will be at a disadvantage for many years.

    For example, USC’s (and the national) No. 1 2010 recruit, Seantrel Henderson, visited Miami over the July 4th holiday weekend and has indicated that he will attend Miami. USC gave him his full release on July 6, 2010, so that he doesn’t have to sit out a year.

    If the NCAA had any ethics, you would think that none of the colleges represented on the Infractions Committee would be allowed to recruit and sign USC athletes. Of course, Miami is no better for taking advantage of the conflict of interest.

    P.S. ESPN reported on Apr. 25, 2011, that nine of the 11 members of an NCAA panel that will help decide the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl's fate attended a bowl-sponsored retreat that included free meals, resort rooms and golf outings.  Of course, the NCAA sees no conflict of interest, which demonstrates how corrupt they are. First for taking advantage of the free retreat, and then assigning the people that received these benefits to a case against the people who gave it to them.

5. No Precedent for Loss of 30 Scholarships & 2 Bowls for Reasons Given

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    Even if USC had known about the Bush family payments as the NCAA found, there is no precedent for the loss of 30 scholarships and two bowls for the reasons given by Paul Dee, the Miami rep who led the NCAA Infractions Committee. Dan Weber wrote about this in 20 questions for NCAA Infractions Chair .

    Paul Dee justified USC’s loss of 30 scholarships by stating that is how many additional recruits USC got by having Reggie Bush.

    But, USC had other Heisman players at the same time, e.g. Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, so does that mean these three brought in 90 scholarship players for USC?

    What about other high profile players like Troy Polamalu, and the fact that USC has sent more players to the NFL than any other college?

    Does this mean that USC’s storied football history, USC’s coaches, fair weather California location, and quality of the academic program had nothing to do with recruiting USC athletes?

    How did Mr. Dee come up with 30 scholarships, and what is the precedent for calculating it this way?

    How did this reflect the fact that USC was not involved in any payments to the Bush family and it was to the school’s disadvantage that this occurred, unlike other colleges who paid athletes and received less scholarship reductions (see the Alabama example in the #1 reason slide)?

    Paul Dee also said that USC received a two year bowl ban because Bush played in two bowls while he was ineligible. However, USC was also penalized by having its wins vacated and being required to return all money received.

    What is the NCAA precedent for applying the additional two year bowl ban sanction because Bush played?

    No explanation was offered for the additional unprecedented sanction that allows USC seniors and juniors to transfer without sitting out a year.  This represents additional scholarship reductions.

    Collectively these sanctions reduce the experience level and depth of the Trojans, so that it creates a more dangerous situation for the athletes.  USC will not have the depth to substitute or practice the same way as other schools, and that means that the more experienced athletes will be subject to a greater risk of injury.

    The NCAA claims they care about student-athletes, yet most of the punishments affect the Trojan athletes who were not at USC when the violations were committed.

5. Expert Says USC should have Lost 2 Scholarships

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    The article USC faces an uphill battle in appeal states “Michael Buckner, a Florida-based attorney and private investigator who has worked on NCAA cases, agreed that "most of the penalties" would be upheld.

    However, he said the loss of 10 scholarships a year "might be excessive," noting that the NCAA usually reduces scholarships at the rate of two for every one ineligible player.”

    USC had one ineligible football player according to the NCAA, but lost 30 scholarships. USC should have lost 2 scholarships.

7. NCAA Archaic Rules Responsible for Most Major Infractions

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    The NCAA report cited the “NCAA Principle of Amateurism” to justify the findings against USC.

    But, the “non-profit” NCAA has net assets of $397M and is adding $40-50M per year, which far exceeds its management and administrative budget of $29M. Why does the NCAA need all this money?

    College coaches make millions of dollars. Conference expansion is all about money.

    However, athletes are deprived of their right to become professional until three years after their college class and their time commitment to sports keeps them from making extra money like other students.

    The athletes from lower income families are the ones who commit the most major infractions due to lack of money, yet the NCAA won’t allow colleges to give them a stipend that would eliminate most major infractions.

    A recent Ithaca College study proved that athletic scholarships do not cover an average of $3,000 per year in education related expenses.  This puts low income students, mostly African-American, in a difficult situation since they do not have family to make up the difference and the sports and academic commitments make a part-time job impossible.

    The NCAA has plenty of cash from their TV revenues to fund this shortfall for the low income athletes instead of punishing them.

    The Olympics solved this problem many years ago.

8. NCAA Ignored the Character of Witnesses

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    The NCAA believed the testimony of a convicted felon when it suited their purposes.

    The Infractions Committee did not review illegal telephone tapes recorded by Lloyd Lake but considered them evidence that he was telling the truth about Todd McNair. However, none of the tapes had anything to do with McNair.

    Lake lied about the party that he said he met McNair and talked about Bush, and the NCAA recognized that and didn’t include it as evidence in their finding about McNair.

    Lake presented a doctored bitmap photograph to attempt to prove he knew McNair, but the NCAA accepted it without question even though it proved nothing.

    The NCAA knew that Lake has a criminal record, and yet they still believed his ridiculous story about a 2.5 minute cell phone call at 1:34am after Bush finished playing football at USC to claim that Todd McNair knew about Bush family payments.

    Of course, no one can prove what was discussed but Todd McNair is far more credible than Lloyd Lake.

    Todd McNair should sue the NCAA if the appeal process does not clear him, and get $millions like Jerry Tarkanian.

    The NCAA did not give USC credit for the character of Pete Carroll who is nationally known for “A Better LA”, a charity devoted to reducing violence in targeted urban areas of Los Angeles. He also launched CampPete.com to bring his unique Win Forever philosophy to kids all over the country. Of course he also received multiple national coach of the year and Pac-10 coach of the year awards. In 2007 his effect on the college football landscape was named one of the biggest developments over the past decade by ESPN the Magazine. In 2008, ESPN.com named Carroll the coach who did the most to define the first 10 years of the BCS Era.
    There was also no credit given USC for its many community service programs, and how much it means to the local kids to see and be part of something special.

    The NCAA also ignored the excellent academic record of the USC football team in the NCAA June 4, 2010, report placing it in the 70th-80th APR percentile, and awarded diplomas to 31 football seniors in May 2010.

    The NCAA noted USC conducted an excellent NCAA rules education program for its athletes, but then did not appear to take that into account when making findings and issuing sanctions.

9. Wrong People Are Punished

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    These sanctions mostly penalize athletes who were in junior or senior high school at the time the Bush family committed violations. Unfortunately, the NCAA does not care about penalizing innocent athletes, and failed to penalize the individuals responsible.

    Others who get penalized include:
    • Potential recruits who decide to play at an inferior program due to the USC sanctions
    • Ten current players per year who will not get scholarships
    • The fans who pay all the bills
    • The Pac-10 who loses revenue from an extra bowl game for 2 years

    Reggie Bush is the most responsible, and he has his millions and NFL career which is not affected. Of course, Bush's step father and mother took the free rent and nothing happens to them.

    Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels knew they were breaking NCAA rules and they received no punishment.

    Todd McNair received penalties affecting his career, but the evidence did not support the NCAA finding.

    Pete Carroll, who didn’t know about the Bush family payments, also received no meaningful punishment. Of course, he didn't deserve any except for one violation when he assume a part-time consultant does not count as a coach.

    If USC is guilty of lack of institutional control, then you would expect the Athletic Director to be held accountable, yet Mike Garrett received no punishment.

    So, the NCAA punishes the wrong people and doesn't seem to care about it.

10. NCAA Appeal Process Designed to be Unsuccessful

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    The NCAA has upheld only 1 of the 11 appeals since January 2008 when the NCAA changed their rules to make appeals more difficult to be successful (see USC faces an uphill battle in appeal by Baxter Holmes, LA Times).

    The offended party must now show "the penalty is excessive such that it constitutes an abuse of discretion" by the NCAA Committee on Infractions.”

    But, this is extremely subjective and the NCAA appeals committee can merely conclude that they don’t feel there was an abuse of discretion.

    Appeals are heard by a NCAA appeals committee including representatives that are peers of the Infractions Committee with existing relationships. Naturally they don’t want to offend the representatives on the Infractions Committee.

    So, the NCAA has assured an unfair process from beginning to end!

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