The NCAA has finally spoken on the Reggie Bush & O.J. Mayo investigation. In sum, the committee was wholly unimpressed with the NCAA rules compliance efforts of the University of Southern California and actually dropped the "lack of institutional control" hammer on them.
Here is the NCAA's release which summarizes their findings.
Here is the full 67-page report.
I have now read the entire report. Good stuff. Reggie Bush's parents lived in a house provided by wanna-be sports agents rent-free for a year. Reggie got a nice Chevy Impala, with very expensive rims, stereo, and alarm system, from the same wanna-be agents. Reggie and his folks and some of his friends received various benefits of cash, airline tickets, hotel rooms, and limo service from the same wanna-be agents. Then Reggie and his family stabbed the first group of wanna-be agents in the back and started getting benefits, including a paid "internship" and some travel benefits from a second group of wanna-be agents. This really annoyed the first group of wanna be agents, who then enlisted a USC assistant coach (apparently running backs coach Todd McNair) to pressure Reggie into living up to the deal he made with the first group of agents. The assistant coach denies this ever happened and the NCAA flat-out calls him a liar.
O.J. Mayo (and some of his boys) received cash, a 42-inch flat screen T.V., travel, clothes, shoes, meals and other stuff from some scummy "marketers" who acted as go-between essentially representing O.J. in the recruiting process.
In both cases, what got USC in hot water with the committee was its utter lack of curiosity when confronted with serious clues that NCAA rules were being broken. Time and time again representatives of USC (football coaches and basketball coaches mostly) had information that would have led any reasonable person to conclude that something fishy was going on, and in every instance they chose to essentially ignore the information rather than engaging in prudent follow-up to determine whether there was a problem the University needed to address. The NCAA notes that for most of the period in question the compliance "staff" for the entire University was two people, and that at one point the compliance staff was just a single person. Given the high-profile nature of the USC athletic program and the athletes it recruits, the NCAA strongly felt that USC needed to allocate significantly more resources to its compliance efforts.
To me, the biggest message the NCAA is sending with this report is that the "ostrich" approach to potential NCAA violations by member institutions is not sufficient to shield them from responsibility. Sticking one's head in the sand when the evidence of corruption is swirling around you, so that you can later claim you didn't know anything about it, is no longer an option. I'm looking at you, Pete.
The NCAA was also disturbed by the environment and the atmosphere surrounding the football program and football players at USC. This led to one of the more interesting sanctions imposed: The ban on non-university personnel traveling with the team or being at practices, on the sidelines, or in the locker rooms before, during, or after games. College football's version of the Showtime Lakers just got canceled. Sorry Will Ferrell and Snoop Dogg.
As for the sanctions themselves, I don't think anybody will seriously argue that USC got a slap on the wrist. They are labeled a repeat-offender and the committee states that the decision on whether or not to impose a total T.V. ban was a close one. As it is, the Trojans can only award up to 15 new football scholarships (and carry no more than 75 total) for the next three seasons. They are banned from post-season play for two years. All wins in which Reggie Bush played from December 2004 through the 2005 season are vacated. This means that USC had a combined record of zero wins (all 12 wins are vacated) and one loss (The BCS title game loss versus Texas still stands) for the 2005 season. Unfortunately, USC's loss is not Notre Dame's gain, as a vacated win is not the same as a forfeit. The Irish still record the loss, although I would advocate for a giant asterisk next to the "Bush Push" game in the N.D. media guide. Those are the most significant of the twenty-five different sanctions imposed.
No word yet, as far as I know, regarding the BCS Championship USC won in January of 2005 in the Orange Bowl over Oklahoma. If Reggie played in that game, it stands to reason it would have to be vacated unless the BCS is not bound by the NCAA ruling. Also still waiting to hear from the New York Downtown Athletic Club.
Basketball got hammered as well, and even women's tennis took a hit. Cheating in football and basketball is one thing. But cheating in women's tennis is simply depraved.
It's really, really tempting to gloat. I'll admit I have gloated a little, mostly privately. But to me the big picture here is that the NCAA did something very important today. They took a stand for the integrity of college athletics, and they severely disciplined one of the geese that lays the golden eggs in college football. A cynic might say that they cut off their nose to spite their face. I am instead reminded of the biblical passage:
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.What does all this mean for Notre Dame? Well, we get to put an asterisk in the media guide, as noted above. We'll get a bit of a recruiting edge against USC for a few years because they won't be able to offer as many scholarships, and the taint of this scandal will hamper them for a while with some prospects. The bowl ban and the scholarship limits will likely hurt USC's on-field performance for a while, which should give the Irish a chance to restore the proper balance to the USC-ND series. Life for a Notre Dame alumnus in Orange County will be a little more pleasant as hopefully today's report will help to tone down the arrogance level of the many USC alumni and bandwagon fans in the O.C.
But I can't help but wonder what Charlie Weis thinks of all this? Notre Dame ended the 2005 regular season at 9-2, the only blemishes on their record an overtime loss to Michigan State (epic comeback from a 21-point deficit) and the "Bush Push" loss to USC. What would have happened if Reggie Bush, who has today been ruled ineligible for that entire season, didn't play that day? He ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns in that game. If USC hadn't played an ineligible player, the Irish probably defeat USC, ending their 27-game winning streak in what would have been one of the biggest wins in Notre Dame football history. The Irish end the regular season at 10-1. Would they have played in the BCS Championship game?
The rap against Charlie was that he never got that "signature win." A win against USC in 2005 would certainly have qualified. Nobody would have questioned his contract extension. Team confidence would have soared. Recruiting would have been even better. Maybe even good enough to prevent, or at least moderate, the disaster we saw on the field in 2007. Things might have been a lot different for Coach Weis. I think I'll probably drink a cold one for Charlie tonight.
Interesting side note: Do you remember Missy Conboy? Missy Conboy is the Deputy AD at Notre Dame and actually served as interim Athletics Director before Jack Swarbrick was hired. Well, it turns out that Ms. Conboy is also a member of the NCAA Committee on Infractions and is a signatory on today's report. I'd love to buy her a drink or two and just get her talking. I'm sure it would be very entertaining.