USC’s Penalties From NCAA Far Too Harsh *(UPDATED)

June 10, 2010 – 9:58 am by Ryan Phillips

Well it appears the NCAA finally handed down their punishment to the University of Southern California, and what the committee on infractions sent to the university regarding its football program is a total head-scratcher. Reports are saying that USC’s football program will face a two-year postseason ban, the loss of 20 scholarships* (see update below) and vacating wins from the 2005 season where the Trojans won their second consecutive national championship.

While penalties were expected and even die-hard USC fans knew something would come of the ridiculously long and annoying NCAA investigation, considering existing precedents, the Trojan football program was given far too harsh a punishment.

For reference, in 2002 the University of Alabama was given a two-year postseason ban, the loss of 21 scholarships and vacated wins because booster paid players. People directly associated with the football program paid players. Read that over for a second.

Then consider that USC’s investigation centers around the fact that former USC running back Reggie Bush and his family took money from someone with no association with the school or the football program. Did Bush take money? Yes. Should his records and wins while he played be wiped off the map? Yes. Should the rest of the program suffer a complete destruction because one kid and his parents were greedy and screwed over the people he called family for three years? That’s a tough one. The future of the program is now completely thrown into disarray because Bush was a selfish prick.

The other “violations” during Pete Carroll’s tenure have amounted to not much. Receiver Dwayne Jarrett was forced to donate money to charity after what was essentially a misunderstanding over housing rules. Running back Joe McKnight was “caught” driving around in a car that belonged to his girlfriend. One that was leased for her as a business expense by a guy who had no involvement with the football program and stood to gain nothing from any involvement with McKnight.

Again, everything that happened at USC was involvement with people outside the program doing things with players. While USC has a responsibility to monitor such activity, it’s impossible to catch everything.

Now let’s look at the actions that have been punished in a similar way by the NCAA. ESPN’s Ted Miller wrote a great blog post, comparing USC’s actions to those of Alabama before receiving its 2002 censure from the NCAA.

Here is Miller’s list of Alabama’s infractions:

-A recruit, identified in news reports and Kenny Smith, and his parents were given $20,000 in cash, lodging, and entertainment by two Crimson Tide boosters beginning in 1995. The first payment of $10,000 was made in $100 bills delivered in a grocery bag. Smith signed with Alabama but couldn’t been academic requirements.

-An Alabama booster previously identified as Logan Young of Memphis, Tenn., gave cash to a high school coach who was seeking $100,000 cash and two sport-utility vehicles in exchange for directing star recruit Albert Means to Alabama.

-An assistant coach, former recruiting coordinator Ronnie Cottrell, received two loans totaling $56,600 from Young in violation of NCAA rules. The loan was not repaid until the case became known.

-Two boosters involved in repeated rules violations were know to the Alabama staff, coaches and fans and were often seen at the team hotel during road games.

-A recruit, identified previously as Travis Carroll, was given the use of a car in 1999 for agreeing to attend Alabama. The car was repossessed when Carroll transferred to Florida.

Miller then tosses out a great quote: “Let that all swirl in your head for a bit. That’s old-school cheating in its purest form. Reading it almost makes you crave a jar of moonshine.”

He’s right. That’s as bad as it gets. Coaches and players being paid by boosters. People directly involved with the program, who were allowed to stay around when rules were known to have been broken. That’s old-school southern football cheating…or as people in SEC country call it “business as usual.”

So Alabama did that and got basically the same punishment as USC who had players doing things far away from the program. Hell, Bush and his family had all their dealings with Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels (yes that’s really his name) in San Diego, 100 miles to the south of Heritage Hall.

Miller later said that by any objective measure, USC’s violations (which you can review here) don’t even come close to measuring up to what Alabama did.

Again, I’m not absolving USC of any blame. The school has a responsibility to know what’s going on with its players. A punishment – even a harsh one – was expected. But a two-year postseason ban, which essentially punishes the future of the program – or people not connected to the violations – is way too much.

To be fair, USC was also being hung out to dry for the O.J. Mayo “incident.” Where the much ballyhooed recruit and former Trojan basketball star was paid by someone remotely associated with the basketball program. Yes, that was a horrific incident and USC’s basketball program should face something near the death penalty for involvement with such a crime, but I don’t see how that has anything to do with the football program.

Censure the athletic department and demand the resignation of athletics director Mike Garrett (please!). But don’t punish players and kids who had nothing to do with the incident just to make a point.

I’m sure USC will appeal the ruling but for years it has seemed that the NCAA was looking to nail a Trojan pelt to the wall.

UPDATE: ESPN’s outside the lines is reporting that USC will actually be losing 30 scholarships over the next three years, making this punishment WORSE than what Alabama received. Expect a full-scale assault on these rulings via the appeals process, because the punishment is definitely not equitable to the crime.

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  1. 7 Responses to “USC’s Penalties From NCAA Far Too Harsh *(UPDATED)”

  2. Probably the tip of the iceburg! Why didn’t USC cooperate with the NCAA? They did nothing to make their case better, and now everyone acts stunned when they get “kaboshed”!! I doubt the Bush thing was the only infraction. Carroll “got out of Dodge” while the going was good.

    By IBRBEST on Jun 10, 2010

  3. Carroll “got out of Dodge” because he realized he wasn’t as welcome as he had been in years past. Many of his coaches had left, the quality of his staff wasn’t what it used to be and he had a chance to get paid $7.5 million a year to coach football. Don’t act like he just left to leave, he’s getting paid WAY more to do half the job in the NFL.

    On top of that, calling the Bush thing the “tip of the iceburg (sp)” is an idiotic statement…especially because you misspelled “iceberg.” Bush was the focus of the entire investigation. Other “violations” were minor if anything.

    This is simple a case of the NCAA taking four years to do anything and knowing they needed to punish USC severely or it would all just have been a waste of time. They are making an example out of USC and it isn’t fair to the kids who are there now.

    None of them had anything to do with the allegations presented in the report, yet they get punished for what Bush did.

    By Phillips on Jun 10, 2010

  4. Homer.

    By McD on Jun 10, 2010

  5. While not exactly the same thing, Im reminded of the penalities NCAA imposed on UNLV basketball many years ago. When a program is constantly on the winning side of things, particularly if the ways of the program are less than how a boy scout would behave…you are going to make enemies and that being said people are going to do whatever they can to take said program down.

    Hindsight being 20/20, I think its funny of the timing of how Pete Carroll bounced to the NFL, and of course Bush and Mayo could care less and are laughing all the way to the bank.

    The thing is if you are a college program running itself or purporting itself to be basically a pro team(which lets face it with the ridiculous talent USC had it was), they need to accept the consequences. Although the rule is designed to punish student athletes with no connection to said infractions, and that is upsetting.

    By Branden on Jun 10, 2010

  6. The Alabama boosters are “directly associated with the football program”??

    Boosters are essentially fans who donate to the university. The football program has no control over what they do. They also have no knowledge of what they may do.

    By Chris on Jun 11, 2010

  7. Chris,
    In Alabama’s case, yes the boosters were directly involved with the program. The guys were around the team hotels, practices and locker rooms (it was proven so) AND one of the assistant coaches (as listed among the allegations) got two interest-free “loans” of $56,600. So um, yes those boosters were involved with the football program. They weren’t just random guys who were never around.

    By Phillips on Jun 11, 2010

  8. thumb.up!!

    By Reta Tosco on Nov 9, 2010

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