I know many of you out there are just plain happy that USC has been hit hard by sanctions. Naturally, it will give your school a competitive advantage if the most successful program of the last decade gets knocked down a peg or two.
The details of why USC is getting hit hard probably doesn’t interest many of you. I doubt that you read the NCAA report on the investigation, or the USC response to it. Why should you? All you need to know is that USC got put on probation and that’s good enough for you.
Much of the media, I think, feels the same way. Many of those who for eight years enjoyed extraordinary access to USC’s program and who enjoyed the openness of its practices and the personal, up-close nature of Pete Carroll are now saying it was an out-of-control situation that was begging for sanction. Typical.
There are some notable exceptions out there, however, who understand that, while USC clearly deserved sanctions, the actual penalty as enacted by the NCAA probably doesn’t fit the crime.
I’m one of those in that boat.
Over the years, I’ve criticized USC a lot. Probably more than most in the media. When Lane Kiffin was hired, I don’t think anyone offered a harsher criticism of that move, especially in the context of the pending NCAA investigation.
My first reaction upon hearing of the penalties was to not be shocked, as I knew something like this was coming down. However, my second reaction has been one of shock, but mainly at the shoddiness with which the NCAA conducted its investigation.
A closer perusal of the documents shows that, in essence, the NCAA believed the word of a convicted felon over that of USC, the institution.
As everyone agrees–including USC–Reggie Bush took money and was clearly ineligible for the 2005 season. What is at question here is his status for the 2004 season and the issue of whether USC in general–and running backs coach Todd McNair in particular–knew or should have known about what was going on.
To come to that conclusion, the NCAA took several leaps of faith. Under direct questioning, the principle accusers involved never actually admit to having knowledge of USC knowing anything about the situation. Nonetheless, the NCAA reverse engineers the process to reach that end, not unlike the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. First the verdict, then the trial.
Do I believe that Pete Carroll ran a loose ship that encouraged all kinds of unsavory characters and actions to take place in the last few years? Yes. I do.
Was USC arrogant about what it was doing? Yes. We are hearing that word a lot, and deservedly so.
But…there’s no NCAA rule against arrogance.
And it doesn’t–or shouldn’t–mean that the NCAA should be able to come in and enact harsh sanctions without some sort of proof to back it up. I understand that the NCAA does not follow the rules of a court of law. But its bylaws do require a level of evidence to its charges. If the NCAA has the goods on something happening, they should do something about it. But if you look at the documents of this investigation, four years of digging didn’t really produce much outside of what was reported by Yahoo in the first place. In the end, the NCAA decided to believe Lloyd Lake’s version of the story and that was that.
Again, USC deserves sanctions. Without a doubt. But, it should’ve gotten a one-year bowl ban (as penalty for Bush being ineligible in 2005) and a less harsh scholarship reduction. This program did not pay its players, nor did its boosters pay recruits, as we have seen in recent years in other leagues. This was a hard-to-manage issue with a would-be agent who was an ex-con who, for all we know, was trying to extort the Bushes along the way. The charge is that USC should learn to police its high profile athletes. Well, hell. Seemingly every athlete at USC these past eight years has been high profile. Does a school have the resources to know what Reggie Bush is up to when he’s not on campus, much less Matt Leinart, LenDale White, Dwayne Jarrett, Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson, and so on and on and on?
This is all I’ll say on the issue and then we’ll go back to talking about the coming season. I think the NCAA is acting in bad faith and has overplayed its hand. I’ll leave you with this rather interesting video that leaks the actual testimony by convicted felon (not sports marketer, as many in the media report) Lloyd Lake:Powered by Sidelines