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Southern California Gets 2-Year NCAA Bowl Ban, Loses Funds

O.J. Mayo #32 of the Memphis Grizzlies
O.J. Mayo #32 of the Memphis Grizzlies looks on during a game against the Dallas Mavericks in Memphis. Photographer: Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The University of Southern California was stripped of football victories including its 2004 season national championship for what the National Collegiate Athletic Association called rules violations that “strike at the heart” of amateurism.

USC’s football team was barred from bowl games for two years and lost 30 scholarships for violations uncovered in a four-year NCAA investigation into its football and men’s basketball programs.

The violations, which included a lack of institutional control, “primarily involve agent and amateurism issues” surrounding former USC football player Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo.

“This case is a window onto a landscape of elite college athletes and certain individuals close to them who, in the course of their relationships, disregard NCAA rules and regulations,” the NCAA said in the report.

USC said yesterday that it will accept some of the penalties the committee handed down and will appeal “those penalties it believes are excessive.”

“We acknowledge that violations occurred and we take full responsibility for them,” Todd Dickey, USC’s senior vice president for administration, said in an e-mailed statement. “However, we sharply disagree with many of the findings in the NCAA Committee on Infractions Report. Further, we feel the penalties imposed are too severe for the violations identified.”

Possible Delay

The school has the right to appeal any of the committee’s penalties, and the penalty would be stayed until the matter is resolved. However, USC would risk having those penalties, such as a bowl game ban or scholarship loss, being pushed back to the following year.

USC must vacate all wins in which Bush competed while ineligible, beginning in December 2004. The Trojans beat the Oklahoma Sooners in the January 2005 Orange Bowl to claim the 2004 Bowl Championship Series national championship, one year after sharing the national title.

The Orange Bowl victory has been vacated, Bowl Championship Series Executive Director Bill Hancock said in an e-mailed statement. If the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee agrees to purge the result, there will be no champion for that year.

“In light of USC’s statement that it intends to appeal, we want to make it clear that no action will go into effect until the appeal is heard and decided by the NCAA,” Hancock said in the statement.

‘Shocked and Disappointed’

Then-coach Pete Carroll’s record must be adjusted to represent the vacated wins and any reference to the results, including championships, must be removed from the school’s stationary, banners, media guides and electronic media, the report said.

“I’m absolutely shocked and disappointed with the findings of the NCAA,” Carroll, who left USC in January to become coach of the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks, said in a YouTube video posted on his Twitter account. “I never thought there was any facts that supported these significant sanctions that have come forth.”

Paul Dee, chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, said on a conference call the NCAA doesn’t recognize a football champion and instead defers to the BCS and media polls.

“The only jurisdiction we have is whether a person was eligible to participate in a contest,” Dee said. “If a person was not eligible to participate in a contest, we have ruled that that game must be vacated.”

The school’s probation period runs through June 9, 2014. The NCAA said the university agreed to disassociate itself with Bush, Mayo and a representative who provided Mayo extra benefits.

Heisman Trophy

In 2005, Bush won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player, topping runner-up Vince Young. He might be in jeopardy of losing that trophy, which has never been taken from a player in its 75-year history. The Heisman Trophy Trust, a charity organization that controls the award, might review the case, its president, William Dockery, told ESPN last week.

“If and when (the NCAA) issues a decision, we will review the underlying facts and possibly do our own investigation,” Dockery told ESPN. Tim Henning, a spokesman for the Heisman Trophy Trust, declined to comment in a telephone interview.

The football teams involved in the investigation were led by Carroll, who coached USC for nine years.

As is its policy, the NCAA did not specifically mention either Bush or Mayo by name in the 67-page report, saying the football player was a “candidate for the Heisman Trophy” and the basketball player was known to be a “one-and-done” student athlete.

Bush Was Sued

Bush was sued in 2007 by San Diego sports marketer Lloyd Lake, who claimed he provided Bush and his family with $291,000 in money and goods, including a vehicle and housing, while the running back was at USC, according to a Dec. 28 California appeals court ruling.

Bush, who is now with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, settled the lawsuit last month, avoiding a deposition that could have been used by the NCAA during its investigation of the Pac-10 Conference school.

In January, the Los Angeles-based university banned its basketball team from postseason play for one year, forfeited its 21 wins during the 2007-08 season and reduced scholarships after an internal investigation determined Mayo received improper benefits during his only season at the school. Mayo now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association.

Women’s Tennis Team

“Their actions also threatened the efforts of the NCAA and its member institutions to sponsor and support amateur competition at the collegiate level,” the NCAA said.

The NCAA also upheld USC’s self-punishment of its women’s tennis team, which agreed to vacate all wins in which an ineligible athlete participated between November 2006 and May 2009 after making $7,000 worth of phone calls using the athletic department’s long-distance access code.

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