That there may have been cash payments and perks provided to the Bush family is bad enough. If true, the apparent brazen attitude in which these alleged acts were committed appears to show a total lack of respect and a total disregard for the standards that both USC and the NCAA have set forth. I will have more on that later.
According to Scott Wolf the NCAA wants to use the deposition of Reggie Bush, in New Era's upcoming fraud and breach of contract lawsuit, as part of their investigation of whether or not Bush broke NCAA rules on receiving gifts from outside sources in possible exchange of representation.
Watkins said he intends to file a "fraud and breach of contract" lawsuit against Bush in the next few weeks, which would require Bush to attend a deposition and answer questions from Watkins.
"The deposition will be one of the absolutely keys," Watkins said. "(The NCAA) can't get him to talk but I can. They can't get his side of the story. But he has to answer questions under oath.
"The NCAA is kind of stalled. We can't give the NCAA our documentation right now because they would have to turn it over to the Bush family, which would hurt our case. But we are keeping them abreast of the situation."
This seems a little odd to me. First, if there were a deposition this would mean that someone from the Bush camp has put his or her story on the record. If they do that then that's the starting point for the NCAA. It would seem to me that Bush would try to settle that way none of the details can be discussed.
USC is not some school in any town USA. It's a high profile institution with many resources. Los Angeles, like Miami, is a hotbed of celebrity and glitz. Agents and sports marketing wanna-be's are everywhere and they are always looking to bag the elephant. They will use any tactics they can to get close to a player. As is discussed in this article also by Scott Wolf of the Daily News.
USC's compliance office and Trojans coach Pete Carroll are aware of the situation, and changes could be made for the next home game. Carroll said he favors rules preventing agents (or their workers) from being able to talk to athletes.
Because of situations like this schools like USC need to be more stringent in monitoring not only their players but also those who have access to the team. If you are going to have open practices and invite top recruits to games then you better be prepared to have some unscrupulous characters lurking around and they need to be put in check.
It's really quite simple to fix. If an agent or other sports marketing person wants access to school grounds or school sponsored events then they should have to get permission in writing to be on the campus or in the area where the event is held. No letter, no admittance. It's the schools property so they should be able to control who is or who is not allowed on campus or at school sponsored events. I realize that this may be a huge undertaking but with what is at stake it is well worth it. Of course what happens off campus is another issue but if the school shows they mean business players might think twice about these types of contacts off campus.
Of course the bigger concern to me is if someone in the coaching ranks knew about it and did nothing to stop it. This is where the loss of institutional control comes in. We can never know what is truly in someone's heart. But if this were true, what would compel a member of the coaching staff to want to keep silent on something that could be so damning to the program? The best example I can give is in military terms: if the Captain is asleep in his bunk and the Officer-on-Deck runs the ship aground the Captain is still responsible for the actions of his crew and can be relieved of his command. The same holds true here, the NCAA could punish the school and put the blame squarely on the athletic department, at that point s**t rolls down hill.
If the NCAA does not find any wrongdoing by USC but wrongdoing by Reggie Bush what happens then? They have no control over the BCS or the Heisman. So it's unclear as to what they could do there. Could they make USC forfeit games? That would then nullify their Pac 10 titles and potentially erase any records that were set during that time.
What then happens to Bush? He may lose his Heisman and have his records expunged. But what can really happen to him? He is now in the pros and any punishment that is doled out can't affect him. My friend Jon over at the SBN Nebraska Blog Corn Nation has a pretty interesting take on this situation. This article by Billy Witz also of the Daily News takes up the same theme.
"There's certainly going to be some damage if it's proven that Reggie and his family did something inappropriate," said Dean Bonham, chairman of The Bonham Group near Denver. "If USC loses a national championship, literally hundreds of thousands of fans would be pretty upset, an awful lot of sportswriters would come down pretty hard on him and that's not going to endear him to companies that are going to use him for endorsement purposes.
"It will more than wipe out all the work he's done. It will create a deficit in the goodwill bank."
Maybe, maybe not.
Some sports fans are not concerned about the college game and they may not care about what Bush may or may not have done in his college career. They only care about the Pro team that they root for. Those fans also spend a lot of money on those products that he's paid to endorse. If they feel Bush is getting a raw deal by the companies he represents they could boycott those products and that wouldn't be conducive to rebuilding the local New Orleans economy that is so vital to that city.
But here is the bigger question and this one will rub a lot of people the wrong way; if it is found that infractions were committed and that the school knew USC should voluntarily give up the title and the Heisman. Here's why; would anyone in their right mind want to keep a title that may have been won by someone breaking the rules? Those titles and awards would be considered tainted in my eyes. I know that to some that this is also punishing the other players but unfortunately that can't be helped. No body more than me wants to not be true. We, as USC fans, have enjoyed and witnessed one of the great runs in college football history. This run was so extraordinary that the national media put USC on a pedestal that was both unrealistic and unfair to the program.
We hammer Bonds, McGuire, and Sosa for their "alleged" use of performance enhancing drugs and consider those records hollow and marked in the record book with an asterisk. So USC and Bush should expect to take a lot of heat if it's PROVEN that there were improprieties. USC needs to get out in front of the situation and address it sooner rather than later. SC's image on a national level is too important not to. By getting out in front of this now we can restore USC's good name that is so important in luring top recruits that will continue the success of this proud program.