Nobody Wins in NCAA Justice

From a UW perspective, listening to Pete Carroll comment on the NCAA's penalties levied against USC was like watching a replay of 1993. To me the most significant thing he said was, "The agenda took them beyond the facts". I know David Price of the investigative unit of the NCAA and I saw the way he dealt with us.

Because of that, I know to some degree that USC was already guilty before being proven innocent.

The NCAA is a lot like military law in that way. It's a terrible system of justice and I also totally agree with Carroll that the punishment didn't match the crime.

Oh, they were obviously guilty of "lack of institutional control" a long time ago, because there were multiple sports involved. Besides football and men's basketball, women's tennis was thrown into this case when it was discovered that a foreign student-athlete had made $7,000 worth of illegal phone calls to back home on the school's dime.

Why shouldn't that girl have been charged in a real court and been told to make restitution? Why not sue O.J. Mayo in civil court and make him re-pay as least the costs of litigation? Why not seek restitution in court from Reggie Bush and the agents who violated his amateur status. Why not fine the school millions of dollars?

That's not how the NCAA works, though. The way they discharge their brand of justice, it's very much like a kangaroo court where they are the judge, jury, and executioner, and you have no rights of cross examination or discovery or anything else a regular court of law gives you. David Price has shown in the past that he really doesn't trust any sports educator or coach, and he assumes that attitude going in. You have to prove you are innocent, because with him you're already guilty.

At the heart of the whole thing is the Reggie Bush "deal", just as it was Billie Joe Hobert's loans with us years ago. In defense of the USC program, I will admit that during the course of any year we never knew where any parents were living. Once you made your home visits in recruiting you rarely, if ever, go back to those homes. How would any of their coaches know that Bush's parents had moved, let alone that agents were paying for all of it? It's hard enough keeping track of where all your players live.

The major culprit in this whole scenario is not USC, but rather the "marketers", who were agents looking to cash in on Bush and his future NFL earnings. I can tell you it is next to impossible to police sports agents and their runners on any campus, much less in Los Angeles.

These particular marketers used Reggie's family as a way to get to him. Their house "deal" with Reggie's folks basically hit a major snag when he decided to go with a different agency, leaving them out in the cold. The agents then claimed they contacted Todd McNair - Bush's position coach at USC - and allegedly told him of the situation and asked for his help. I would assume the coach immediately told them that it was their problem and he couldn't be involved. It doesn't matter now, because McNair was found guilty of "unethical conduct by an assistant coach and making false and misleading testimony" (to the kangaroo court, course).

That damning piece of evidence implicated the USC staff, and by extenuation their athletic department. Did USC have any knowledge of the Bush family home other than that phone call? I doubt it, other than the office talk that always goes around, but is rarely, if ever believed. Should McNair have turned the information over or should the coach have told the agent to get lost? I'd have told him to get lost, then talked with the kid. I'll bet that's exactly what went down. Then he should have told the head coach or compliance officer, which he probably didn't.

Now the NCAA also threw in "hiring a consultant to act like an assistant coach", which really meant that they were piling on trivial violations to prove their assumption of guilt - like us providing fruit baskets and a "Welcome to Washington" sign in our case. Once the NCAA gets their hands dirty and are in the middle of a major case like Washington or USC, they will find other things, and it doesn't matter if it's related to the main issues at hand or not.

Now it's not over until it's over, because USC will appeal and the penalties could be softened, but assuming nothing changes they are going to stay on four years of probation and USC football will be penalized 30 scholarships and be restricted to 15 initial scholarships for each of the next three years, and the team will likewise be restricted to 75 total rides instead of 85 over the same time frame.

Those penalties are severe and won't be felt for 4-5 years into the future when their talent base will finally reflect it. Those penalties are consistent with the punishments placed on both Washington years ago and most recently with Alabama.

The saddest thing is that the punishment never really matches the crime, and that's because the NCAA is simply reacting. Missing two bowl games is fair in theory, but terribly unfair to the kids at USC that had nothing to do with the crime. None of them had anything to do with Reggie Bush and transgressions of his parents six years ago. Some weren't even in high school. So if those kids win enough games to go to a bowl then they should be able to go. If you take a family analogy to football that's the same as sending everyone in a family to jail if one of the kids was caught stealing. Does that sound right to you?

Seeing USC go down is not a good thing for the Washington Huskies. It is not a good thing for the conference and not a good thing for anyone involved, especially the kids.

Now begins the constant speculation about the future of Mike Garrett. I would not be surprised to see him beheaded before next school year begins - not literally, of course, but figuratively to be sure. Certainly all of this happened on his watch and institutions are known to throw some under the bus as a way to prove they are going to clean up their ship. I've seen that sort of "institutional cleansing" done before.

They are simply paying the price for their successes, it's as simple as that. That's exactly how the NCAA works: Win a lot and they will be looking over your shoulder, assuming you probably won illegally. Check out the past 25 years, and there is a direct correlation between a national championship and shortly thereafter going on probation.

Now I'm not saying that the USC alumni, boosters and coaches are innocent, but like coach Carroll implied they (the NCAA) assume your guilt and they will dig and dig until they prove it. Unfortunately for the Trojans that agenda included dropping the hammer of guilt for the ever-infamous "lack of institutional control". For that they have been found guilty. And that's justice.

The bottom line is that the college experience is indeed an exercise in poverty for most of your players. Kids are vulnerable and most of these last few generations suffer from a sense of entitlement. They expect to get deals, they look for ways to take advantage of their position and that can include many facets of their lives.

Much of the problem comes from the expectations of becoming an NFL player and making millions and being set for life. The reality is that less than three percent of college players will even get a chance to play the game for money. Even after they make a team they quickly find out that one of the acronyms of NFL stands for "Not For Long".

Players in good programs are clearly more exposed to temptations then those at losing programs. USC had to be doing something right to make such a long and successful run in the Pac-10. This case makes it looks like they were cheating all along and that's a terrible stigma to overcome. I know because I've been there and walked in those same shoes. It's tough to prove you are honest if you're already considered guilty.


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