Friday, June 11

USC Gets The Ban Hammer

While the NCAA infractions committee poured over information, records, and hearsay in the case of the University of Southern California nobody thought USC would get more than a slap on the wrist. After the penalties and report came out today, the hammer drop fell harder than anyone anticipated. The full report is 67 pages, and you can see the full version here. After the break I take out a few choice parts that caught my eye and give my assessment.

The NCAA's enforcement and infractions processes are, at best, only one avenue to police and sanction amateurism violations caused by agent involvement. These processes are often slow. The limited scope of authority also means that these processes are, at times, incomplete.

Right off the bat the report addresses the problems of agents having dealings with high profile athletes. The NCAA freely admits it is a problem that the associatoin currently is not equipped to corral. Anyone who knows college sports knows this. The problem is that no one has a solution, at least one that can be implemented.

The report first addresses the Reggie Bush situation. The list of impermissible benefits is lengthy and detailed. They involve agents that Bush was in contact with during his time at USC. They vary from the well-known rent-free house for his parents to, cash for a down payment on a new car, free limo rides to San Diego, and an airline trip to the Orange Bowl for his brother. The final one tome is the most eyebrow raising:
Prior to the institution's September 3, 2005, football contest at the University of Hawaii, Manoa (Hawaii) student-athlete 1's step-father went to agency partner A's mother‟s home in El Cajon where she provided $5,000 in cash to him.

It almost seems like something out of Blue Chips. At this point, it is obvious this was a train running straight off the tracks. Anyone could see a single item as a bad mark on the career of a college athlete, but taken all together it is gross miss conduct of which the parties involved were aware of the underhanded nature of their actions.

The report states the following about their conversation with Bush on the matter:
Student-athlete 1 consented to an interview with the enforcement staff in late April 2009. Although he denied entering into any type of agreement with agency partners A and B, or anyone else associated with their attempts to form a sport agency, he conceded that he knew agency partners A and B, and he communicated regularly with agency partner A via telephone and text messaging. Student-athlete 1 reported that he socialized with agency partner A at area clubs and at his (student-athlete 1's) parents' home. He admitted that some of the conversations between him and agency partner A were about the formation of a sports agency. He also admitted that, with agency partner A, he attended a party that was given annually in San Diego for a former NFL player. [See: Findings 1-a-(5) and 1-a-(6).] He said it was "possible" that he helped agency partner A get into the USC locker room after a football game and that it was also "possible" that agency partner B was there too.

So Bush admitted to having a relationship with them and "possibly" helped them get in contact with other USC players. He has denied all those benefits listed and entering any type of agreement with the agents.

Pete Carroll, who was at the hearing in February is now residing in Seattle. The punishment he faces for this happening under his watch is the altering of his coaching record and the black mark of public perception. Even with that said many feel Petey peace-outed before he felt the true wrath of these sanctions. The one part of the report I would like to highlight involving Carroll was his use of an old NFL acquaintance to break down film for the team. This "outside consultant" performed duties that only countable football coaches are allowed to perform. Therefore, USC exceeded their limit on number of coaches. This story was out in the press before this report, but here is the excerpt I found interesting:
The institution, the enforcement staff and the former head football coach are in agreement with the facts of this finding and that violations of NCAA legislation occurred. The institution believes that the violation is secondary because, in its estimation, it was isolated, inadvertent and neither provided, nor was intended to provide, a competitive advantage. The enforcement staff took no position as to whether the violation was secondary or major. The committee finds the violation occurred and it was major in nature.

Here was USC saying it was only a secondary violation. The problem many have had with the USC football program is their attitude that they can skirt the rules so easily. Not intended to provide a competitive advantage? They brought in a veteran coach with college and NFL experience to break down film. How is that not helping you in the field of competition? But here is the most compelling part, the report says:
The committee notes that the former head football coach did not check with the institution's compliance office before hiring the consultant. Rather, another institution's compliance office notified the compliance office at USC of the consultant's service with the USC football staff. As a result, this violation is a component of Finding B-7, lack of institutional control.

Boom. You notice that last sentence? That dread "lack of institutional control"? As an athletic department you never want to hear those words, ever. See how it states that Carroll did not check with the compliance department before bringing the consultant (who was Pete Rodriguez) in. It is not unheard of for coaches at major programs to operate with their own sense of complete autonomy but in the article I linked in the previous paragraph about the incident, this is the quote Carroll provided when asked by the press about the situation:

“To get to the point where we could have a guy be a consultant and come and see us, we did all of the homework, went through compliance, did all of the steps that you have to to make sure it’s OK,” Carroll said. “The way we understood and interpreted it, we tried to do everything exactly the right way. And that’s it.”

Right here Carroll contradicted what the committee found in the report, which I assume they found by interviewing the compliance officer at USC. Not the most egregious error ever made by a major college coach, but it goes to show laid back Pete was more than capable of twisting the truth and distorting facts while running his program.

The next section goes into detail about the OJ Mayo mess. Once again they lay out a list of impermissible benefits (my favorite was a $1400 TV). Here is the long and short of it:
From August 2006 through May 2008, representative B who was also affiliated with a professional sports agency, and representative B's associate ("representative C"), provided inducements and extra benefits in the form of cash, lodging, merchandise, automobile transportation, meals, airline transportation and services to student-athlete 2 when the young man was both a prospect and an enrolled student-athlete, to his brother ("brother"), to his girlfriend ("girlfriend") and to the girlfriend's mother ("girlfriend's mother").

The lesser known third party in these findings was a girl on the women's tennis team. Her violations seem to stem from her fondness of the telephone.
From November 2006 to March 2009, a former women's tennis student-athlete ("former women's tennis student-athlete") used an athletics department long-distance access code to make 123 unauthorized personal telephone calls to family members in another country. The total value of the calls was $7,535.

I mean damn, you have to be calling your foreign home quite a bit to rack up that much of a phone bill. Are international calls usually that pricey? I guess it depends how long she was talking but that is $61.26 a call.

The next section hits on that dreaded "lack of institutional control" point again. The report goes into detail about each section but this is the summary of it:
From December 2004 through March 2009, the institution exhibited a lack of control over its department of athletics by its failure to have in place procedures to effectively monitor the violations of NCAA amateurism, recruiting and extra benefit legislation in the sports of football, men's basketball and women's tennis.

There are 25 items on the penalties list. Some of them were imposed by USC in light of the situation with men's basketball. This of course was a faint attempt at showing the NCAA they were cleaning up things in house, but with the list of transgressions the committee had to impose tougher sanctions and they did.

Some of the highlights from the penalties:
1. Public reprimand and censure.

2. Four years of probation from June 10, 2010, through June 9, 2014.

4. The institution's football team shall end its 2010 and 2011 seasons with the playing of its last regularly scheduled, in-season contest and shall not be eligible to participate in any postseason competition, including a bowl game, following the season. Moreover, during the two years of this postseason ban, the football team may not take advantage of the exceptions to the limit in the number of football contests that are provided in Bylaw, with the exception of a spring game as set forth in Bylaw

5. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaws and, the institution will vacate all wins in which student-athlete 1 competed while ineligible, beginning in December 2004.

6. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaws and, the institution will vacate all wins in which student-athlete 2 competed during the 2007-08 regular seasons. (Institution imposed)

7. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaws and, the institution will vacate all wins in which the women's tennis student-athlete competed while ineligible between November 2006 and May 2009. (Institution imposed)

9. Limit of 15 initial grants-in-aid and 75 total grants in football for each of the 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years.

10. Limit of 12 grants-in-aid in men's basketball for 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years. (Institution imposed)

A few others of note: The school will have to "disassociate" with the 3 former student-athletes mentioned. That means Bush, Mayo, and the tennis player have to get the OJ treatment. Also, with the vacating of wins for the sports (including their 2005 Orange Bowl BCS national championship win), they are also taking away all of their records on the field/court.

The report goes into full detail about the size of the eraser the USC sports information department will need.
Regarding penalties C-5, C-6 and C-7, the vacations shall be effected pursuant to NCAA Bylaws and and shall include participation in any postseason competition, including football bowl games, conference tournaments and NCAA championships. The individual records of student-athlete 1, student-athlete 2 and the former women's tennis student-athlete shall also be vacated for all contests in which they competed while ineligible. Further, the records of the head coaches of the affected sports shall be reconfigured to reflect the vacated results. Finally, the institution's records regarding football, men's basketball and women's tennis shall be reconfigured to reflect the vacated institutional, coaches' and student-athletes' records in all publications in which records for football, men's basketball and women's tennis are recorded, including, but not limited to, institutional media guides, recruiting materials, electronic and digital media, and institutional and NCAA archives. Any reference to the vacated results, including championships, shall be removed from athletics department stationery, banners displayed in public areas, and any other forum in which they appear.

That last part reminds me of Judge Dredd, when Sly is found guilty of killing the reporter in front of the tribunal.

"Let the betrayal of the law be taken from our courts. Let his armor be taken from him. And all his garb of justice. Let him be stricken from our hearts and our memories, forever!"

That may be a bit of a dramatic example and considering the horrible movie that Judge Dredd was, not an appropriate analogy.

So where does USC go from here? When Miami got a one year postseason ban and reduction of scholarships in 1995, it took them about 3 years before Butch Davis righted the ship [Interesting note: Paul Dee, who was the AD at Miami when they got their sanctions, was the chair of this NCAA infractions committee]. However, college football is a different animal these days. With super-conference realignment looming as a possibility and 24-hour media, USC could lose a lot of their recently signed athletes as well as established players. Some say the program will take 5-10 years to recover, others think Kiffin will have things back to order after the 2 year postseason ban is lifted. No one knows for sure so if they tell you they do call them an idiot and walk away.

One last note on this. Mike Garrett, the athletic director who had these violations occur on his watch, was at a booster function in San Francisco last night. He wasn't exactly apologetic for what had happened. His priceless quote #1 of the night was this:

"As I read the decision by the NCAA," he told the group, "… I read between the lines and there was nothing but a lot of envy. They wish they all were Trojans."

He went on: "Today I got a purpose for really wanting to dominate for another 10 years."

And then the final big kicker. After acknowledging his position as AD might be in trouble, he fired a salvo across Pete Carroll's bow: "Probably. I'm sure Pete Carroll knew a few things that were going on too. That's why, after all those years of teams pursuing him, miraculously he's in Seattle."

I understand the Trojan nation thought they were impenetrable. They thought that no force could bring them down as long as they stood behind their high walls. They became wealthy and powerful in the land of college athletics but through their own arrogance and belief that they could not be touched by the rules, they were burned from within. The good thing about USC as opposed to the actual Trojans is that they can rebuild their city and reclaim their prominence, but for now their empire has crumbled about them.

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