USC, Sanctions, and Unbelievable Reactions

It finally happened.  Christmas came in June for Notre Dame fans, as well as any and all USC haters: the NCAA grew a pair and smacked Southern Cal with the heaviest sanctions since Alabama’s in 2002.  The NCAA exposed what we all had been complaining about for years: USC’s athletic program had been making a complete mockery of NCAA regulations for years and no one in the department seemed to give a damn.

The sins of Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo finally came back to haunt USC as their blatant violations prompted a NCAA investigation into the program.  The result: a damning 67-page report detailing the numerous violations of Bush, Mayo, and an unnamed woman’s tennis player that racked up over $7000 dollars in long distance calls on the USC corporate account.  If those details weren’t enough, the NCAA slammed the coaching staff and athletic department for “a lack of institutional control” that included a member of the agency representing Bush calling an assistant coach during the 2005 season (from the above linked press-release):

On January 8, 2006, one of the agency partners called the assistant football coach asking for assistance in convincing the former student-athlete to adhere to the agency agreement or reimburse the partners for the money and benefits they provided. The assistant football coach failed to alert the university compliance staff of this information and later provided false and misleading information to the enforcement staff regarding his knowledge of the violations. Based on these actions, the committee found the assistant football coach violated NCAA ethical conduct rules and violated NCAA legislation by failing to report knowledge of possible violations.

Based on their findings, the NCAA smacked USC’s football program with a two-year post-season ban (as Bush was ineligible for two of the post-season games he played in), the loss of 30 scholarships over three years, and the vacation of all wins from December 2004 through the end of the 2005 season.

That’s right, Notre Dame didn’t lose the “Bush Push” game in 2005…we didn’t win either, but a certain running back shouldn’t have been on the field to give Leinart a bit of illegal assistance.

Actually screw that, we won

However, that isn’t the whole story; in fact, it is barely half of it.  The reactions to these sanctions, mostly from the USC camp, have been a mix of shocking, arrogant, and well…some of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard in quite a while.

USC athletic director, Mike Garret, decided to fire back with what I’m sure he thought was an absolutely brilliant defense:

I’m not even joking, Garrett seriously went on record with this:

As I read the decision by the NCAA, all I could get out of all of this was … I read between the lines and there was nothing but a lot of envy, and they wish they all were Trojans.

Kiffykins even got in on the act:

We can still split a national championship if we win all our games…Regardless of what happens in [USC’s future] appeal, we know this: SC is more powerful than anything else…The university, the football program, the basketball program — no matter what they try to do to us, it won’t matter.

Yep that’s right, the NCAA is supremely jealous Southern Cal and Kiffykins will still lead them to a national title despite the NCAA holding them back.  Don’t worry it gets better.  Cheat Pete Carroll had some rather interesting thoughts as well:

Carroll says the NCAA had no basis for unfair and “really, really harsh” sanctions on USC.

“There’s nothing there,” he said Tuesday of the investigation into his program’s knowledge of former Trojans running back Reggie Bush’s improper benefits and relationship with an agent.

“Now the word’s out. You can do this,” he said. “One person can do this, go after a university and a kid. And nothing has to be true. NOTHING has to be true. They just have to make claims, and then the investigations and all that are under way.

“I just hate the thought that that can take place and we can do nothing about it.”

I can only assume Pete doesn’t have a PDF reader installed and must have Yahoo! Sports blocked because there is most definitely something there.  However, Pete starts speaking out of both ends of his mouth at the end of that very same article:

“Unfortunately, it’s about awareness,” Carroll said. “This issue in particular is not like any of the other cases that’s come along. It is about one person in a community where a kid came from who decided to take advantage of his potential good fortune. And he found a way in to make that happen — outside of any of the university issues and setting and all that.

“They didn’t want anyone else to know. And we didn’t know.”

So now it seems he is admitting-without-admitting that there just might be something-even-though-there’s-nothing, but blame Bush because poor ‘ol Pete wasn’t aware Bush’s parents moved into a brand new house out of nowhere or that his star running back all of a sudden had a brand-new, pimped-out Impala.

What Pete, Kiffin, Garrett, some members of the media, and any USC apologist is missing is that the point of these sanctions isn’t solely the fact that Bush and Mayo had improper contact and benefits from an agent.  It isn’t even about the $7,000 worth of phone calls a tennis player made.  While I very much understand USC wants to appeal, and make no mistake they (and another other school facing similar situations) should as their job is to protect and have USC prosper, these sanctions are not too harsh, unjust, or punishing the wrong people.

USC as an institution cheated, not just three individuals.  USC chose to turn a blind eye to obvious violations and did nothing about it until the NCAA finally took interest.  At that point, self-sanctioning their basketball program was not enough.  That single act did not wash away the athletic department’s awful self-policing for the past few years.

Mike Garrett and Pete Carroll may not have been named in the report as offenders; however, the blame still falls on them.  Part of their job description is to ensure NCAA regulations are followed on their watch.  I’m not naive, things slip through the cracks, but these violations were far from minor oversights.  Make no mistake, Garrett and Carroll had to try quite hard to be as oblivious as they claimed to have been.  Plausible deniability is no small task to set up in an entire athletic department as well.  An assistant coach failing to report a freaking agent representing your school’s star running back to anyone is not a huge oversight or even a “derp” move.  It’s a deliberate action that stems from either a direct order or a long-standing practice to keep such things swept under the rug.

Yahoo! Sports uncovered the Reggie Bush violations and published their investigative report in September 2006.  USC did not bother to investigate claims against their athletic programs until late 2009, finally self-sanctioning themselves in January 2010, well over four years later.  Four years in which USC was hoping everything would simply go away.  Four years in which USC continued to violate and ignore NCAA regulations.  Four years in which they somehow failed to stop yet another major star, O.J. Mayo, from having improper contact with an agent.

USC’s conduct as an institution is simply inexcusable and unjustifiable.  How Garrett has not been fired is beyond me.  How USC fans and media aren’t calling for the heads of Garrett and everyone in USC’s compliance department is mind boggling.  How anyone can claim that the sanctions are not punishing the guilty parties has missed the point completely.

The NCAA hit the nail on the head perfectly in this situation.  USC should be thankful they didn’t get a TV ban and start cleaning house internally.  Instead, they continue to perpetuate the same arrogance and devil-may-care attitude that has landed them in this situation in the first place.

Cheat on, USC! Cheat forever!