LOS ANGELES - The NCAA threw the book at storied Southern California on Thursday with a two-year bowl ban, four years’ probation, loss of scholarships and forfeits of an entire year’s games for improper benefits to Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush dating to the Trojans’ 2004 national championship.
USC was penalized for a lack of institutional control in the ruling by the NCAA following its four-year investigation. The report cited numerous improper benefits for Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo, who spent just one year with the Trojans.
The coaches who presided over the alleged misdeeds — football’s Pete Carroll and basketball’s Tim Floyd — left USC in the past year. USC reacted with uniform outrage to the harshness of the sanctions, promising an appeal.
“I’m absolutely shocked and disappointed in the findings of the NCAA,” Carroll said in a video statement produced by the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, who hired him in January. “I never thought it would come to this.”
The penalties include the loss of 30 football scholarships over three years and vacating 14 victories in which Bush played from December 2004 through the 2005 season. USC beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game on Jan. 4, 2005, and won 12 games during Bush’s Heisman-winning 2005 season, which ended with a loss to Texas in the 2006 BCS title game.
Bill Hancock, the executive director of the BCS, said a committee will meet to consider vacating USC’s 2004 championship. While no action would go into effect until USC’s appeals are heard by the NCAA, Hancock said there would be no 2004 champion if USC’s victory is vacated.
“I take the same stance as our university,” new football coach Lane Kiffin said. “There is some guilt, but the punishment is too severe. That’s why the appeal process is taking place.”
The rulings are a sharp repudiation of the Trojans’ decade of stunning football success under Carroll, who won seven straight Pac-10 titles and two national championships before abruptly returning to the NFL.
The NCAA found that Bush, identified as a “former football student-athlete,” was ineligible beginning at least by December 2004, a ruling that could open discussion of the revocation of the New Orleans Saints star’s Heisman. Members of the Heisman Trust have said they might review Bush’s award if he were ruled ineligible by the NCAA.
“I have a great love for the University of Southern California, and I very much regret the turn that this matter has taken, not only for USC, but for the fans and players,” Bush said in a statement.
“I am disappointed by (Thursday’s) decision and disagree with the NCAA’s findings. If the University decides to appeal, I will continue to cooperate with the NCAA and USC, as I did during the investigation. In the meantime, I will continue to focus on making a positive impact for the University and for the community where I live.”
USC plans to appeal some of the football-related penalties, but with no resolution of any appeal expected until next spring at the earliest, that won’t help many of the current Trojans.
“It does stink to possibly not play in a bowl game,” said USC quarterback Matt Barkley, a freshman starter last season. “But at the same time, I came here to get a degree from one of the best universities in the country and to win football games. If we play 13 instead of 14, then we’re going to try to win all 13 of those.”
The NCAA took no further action against the men’s basketball team, which had already banned itself from postseason play last spring and vacated its wins from Mayo’s season. Floyd, now coaching at UTEP, resigned from USC last June, shortly after he was accused of giving cash to a middleman who helped steer Mayo to USC.
“As Coach has wanted to say publicly for a long time, ’It didn’t happen,”’ Floyd attorney Jim Darnell said in a statement.
The bowl ban is the most damaging to Kiffin, who will have to ratchet up his formidable recruiting skills to entice players with no hope of postseason play before 2012. USC also will lose 10 scholarships annually from 2011-13, but Kiffin believes he’ll still land a large share of the nation’s top talent.
“I don’t think it’s going to have an impact on recruiting,” said Kiffin, who doesn’t plan to sign additional players this year before the scholarship sanctions take effect. “We’ve talked to a lot of people, from our team to our signees to recruits, and we do not feel the impact at all, because USC is still USC. We’re still going to play an extremely high level of football. They’ll still get a great education as they come to USC.”
The women’s tennis team also was cited in the report for unauthorized phone calls made by a former player, but the NCAA accepted USC’s earlier elimination of its wins between November 2006 and May 2009.
“The general campus environment surrounding the violations troubled the committee,” the report said.
The report also condemned the star treatment afforded to Bush and Mayo, saying USC’s oversight of its top athletes ran contrary to the fundamental principles of amateur sports.
“Elite athletes in high profile sports with obvious great future earnings potential may see themselves as something apart from other student-athletes and the general student population,” the NCAA report said. “Institutions need to assure that their treatment on campus does not feed into such a perception.”
CFT: The University of Miami has come under scrutiny for alleged NCAA infractions, but one unnamed Hurricanes assistant coach says the SEC gets away with far more unreported violations.
June 11, 2010: Former USC coach Pete Carroll claims there was no wrong doing by the university and any illegal actions were committed by outside sources.
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