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Complications affecting the NCAA investigation
Rich Linde, 26 May 2010;
Updated 31 May 2010
It has been nearly 14 weeks
since the NCAA's hearing on the Trojans' case. What's
holding up the findings? For one, it's a complex case.
severity of the sanctions levied by the NCAA will be determined by: (1) did the
know about the Bush affair, (2) should they have known about it,
regardless, or (3) they didn't know about it because of privacy and
profiling issues, a third option no one is considering.
If USC officials
(coaches, administrators) were aware of the extra benefits allegedly
given to former running back Reggie Bush by a fledgling sports agency,
during a portion of his stint of play at USC, then USC could face the dreaded sanctions associated with a "lack of
institutional control," which might include a ban on post-season play
and the loss of scholarships.
In my opinion, the
levying of these sanctions centers around running backs coach Todd
McNair. Evidently, sources have told Yahoo! sports that "USC running
backs coach Todd McNair knew of Bush's involvement with the marketing
firm before (the) national championship game against Texas."
According to the Los Angeles Times, Bush was worried that coach Carroll
might find out about the relationship.
NCAA sets Troy on fire, it might self ignite if it fiddles around and
isn't cautious. Its case is complex, featuring:
Questionable witnesses -- One of the sports agents has a criminal
background. Since Bush denies the allegations of impropriety, the
case takes on the appearance of a he-said/he-said situation. The
NCAA is faced with obtaining information from secondary and tertiary
The NCAA can't issue subpoenas for testimony given under the threat
Limited investigative tools -- The NCAA was counting on
receiving court-ordered depositions in lawsuits brought against Bush
by the marketing agents. Since Bush has settled these lawsuits out
of court, the NCAA is left with its he-said/he-said argument and
Compensation for story -- Since one of the sports agents has a
criminal history, his use as a source for Dan Yeager's book,
"Tarnished Heisman" --
coach Todd McNair's alleged familiarity with the Bush/agency
relationship -- comes into question. "The compensation wasn't for
the tapes, the compensation was for (the source's) story. That was a
decision made before I got involved with the project," Yeager says.
Yeager says he has secondary sources for his material. The NCAA is
faced with obtaining secondary sources as well.
The NCAA is
leery of potential lawsuits in light of its Rick Neuheisel debacle
back in 2005, which cost itself $2.5 million, mainly as a result of
blindsiding Neuheisel in violation of its own bylaws.
Lawyer present at NCAA query -- Todd McNair, a central figure in the
investigation, had a lawyer present with him during his questioning
at the NCAA probe, which took place in February, according to Ted
Miller in his ESPN blog.
Invasion of privacy and racial profiling issues -- Answering the
"should have known" allegation (number 2 above) brings up the data
base argument: is the athletic department supposed to maintain a
data base of home addresses belonging to parents of student
athletes along with the automobile-registration information
pertaining to the automobiles driven by its student athletes?
Self sanctions on basketball program -- Playing chess with the NCAA,
USC's athletic director Mike Garrett opened the game with a gambit,
sacrificing his basketball team in what appeared to be a brilliant
move. Responding to the gambit, the Los Angeles Times'
T. J. Simers countered, "There
is talk about how the basketball program is assuming the role of a
sacrificial lamb in the hopes its slaughter might mitigate any
football punishment, but that also takes the blame off Garrett, who
deserves it all."
- Pressure levied on the NCAA by the media to find USC guilty of high
crimes and misdemeanors -- Media pressure takes two forms: (a) Since
Mike Garrett has questionable competency, as determined by a given
columnist, USC would have known about the Bush affair given a
competent athletic director, and (b) certain members of the media
wonder aloud if the NCAA won't go soft
on USC because of the Trojans' high profile.
If the NCAA let's USC off with minor penalties, certain members of
the media are likely to say that money talks; members of the NCAA infractions
committee are well aware of this potential charge and how it could
affect their future investigations. I think it's fair to say that
most football fans across the country -- including those from UCLA,
Notre Dame, and the SEC -- would want to believe that USC is guilty
of an LOIC, providing they knew the difference between an LOIC and
an FTM. The NCAA is aware of that also, being in what could be an
untenable position if it goes with the lesser failure-to-monitor
charge. See Pat Forde's article,
Is NCAA selective enforcement real?
This case is far
different than the sanctions handed out to
Alabama, its case involving boosters.
No apt precedent to follow -- In general,
by their very nature, sports agents are inimical to an athletics
program, whereas boosters, who are involved in typical NCAA
infractions, are attempting to further the aims of the athletics
department. This a
unique case, involving a fledgling sports agency, questionable
witnesses, a he-said/he-said, media pressure, compensation for a
damaging story, self-sanctions, a Heisman Trophy, a national
championship, potential lawsuits, and
potential privacy and profiling issues.
A zany three-ring circus --
On Feb. 12, one of the
plaintiffs walked out of a deposition because of alleged
intimidation from an armed security guard retained by Bush's
lawyers. One of Bush's representatives said he felt the need for
protection because the plaintiff was a convicted felon and
documented gang member.
Los Angeles Times' timeline of USC's troubles.
reference Yahoo Sports, "Cash
"Lake walks out of Reggie Bush deposition"
and the dreaded LOIC"
Alabama violations in 2002.
Richard Linde can be reached at