My Response to the NCAA Punishment of USC

I admit that I have gone in a lot of different directions since the story broke yesterday.  When I heard the two-year bowl game suspension I just assumed that we there was a smoking gun coming that would be devastating – some kind of surprise or additional development that would devastate my understanding of what happened here, and probably my opinion of Pete Carroll’s involvement.  Petros & Money assumed the same thing (click here).  We were all wrong.   The most important thing anyone could do who actually cares about what has happened here is read the NCAA’s own report.  I read all 67 pages of it word for word.  It will dramatically change your opinions of this case.  The reasons?  It does not even come close to supporting this punishment that has been handed down – I mean, not even close.

Everyone knows Reggie is guilty.  The specifics are somewhat irrelevant.   The issue is whether or not USC knew (they didn’t), whether or not they should have (questionable), and ultimately whether or not the punishment fit the crime (no one can possibly think it does if they read the report).  I do not need to get into the details of what hotel he stayed at after what party (etc.) – I accept at face value that this guy took things that represent violations of the rules (or that his dirtbag parents did).  I therefore accept (and embrace) the idea that he should lose his Heisman now that he has {rightfully) been declared ineligible.  I even accept the idea that we forfeit those games (to the extent that if someone wants to play “make believe”, they should have every right to, regardless of whether or not they have passed the age of legal adulthood).  So there you go – David Bahnsen is saying, “fine, forfeit those games”.  We all know that is ludicrous, unless we are not yet eating at the grown-up table, but whatever.  I will pretend USC lost to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, and you can pretend Obama’s stimulus bill is working.

I was prepared to blast Carroll off the planet until I read the report today.  There is nothing – nada – zilch – that remotely implicates him.  Watch his response here.  Sorry Pete-haters, but all my suspicions of the last 24 hours are unfounded.  I will blame him for plenty, and he surely should take some blame for the parasites that were around (and they are around EVERY top program), but this is a Reggie and Dad thing – period!!

Speaking of Reggie’s “step-dad” … I will never ever ever ever ever ever forget watching Reggie make his Heisman acceptance speech, and talk (with tears flowing from his eyes) about what a “man” Lamar was – a “real man” – an “example”.  Well, if by “real man”, he meant “a piece of human garbage”, then Reggie nailed it.  My dad was a real man.  Lamar is an animal.  He is bottom-shelf, low-rent, trash.  He ought to be utterly ashamed of himself.

But do the behaviors of a player’s dad six years ago create a responsibility to punish the players of the 2010 and 2011 teams?  Does anyone actually think that?  Please.  The university’s case proving their innocence is affirmative, it is persuasive, it is actually blistering, and it will be successful in its appeal.  Read it here.   Part of me thinks we should skip the appeal and move on but the injustice here is too severe.  I think USC should take this as far as they can.  I want it done too. But the appeal is very unlikely to result in a two-year ban on bowl games.  You have to see it through.  This is a matter of right and wrong.

Stewart Mandel’s article on SI tonight said it all.  The NCAA thinks that they will sacrifice young USC players in their efforts to clean up future issues with agents and marketers.  Good luck.  The NCAA’s dilemma is unsolvable.  They are holding on to the facade of “amateurism”, and they are doing it for purely self-serving reasons.  Like when George Bush said last year that he was “violating capitalism to save capitalism”, somehow the idea that “we are going to screw a bunch of young student-athletes to save student-athletes” is, well, tough to swallow. 

I don’t have a lot else to say about the merits of this case.  I can not believe we spent five years wondering what else was out there besides the rumors and innuendo we all heard, only to get this report from the NCAA.  They do not even pretend to have any evidence other than the massively discredited testimony of a convicted felon who has never had a job, and based on what I read and heard, nearly incapable of putting together a complete sentence. 

Pragmatics first; a note for Trojans second.  I think we get the bowl game ban marked down to one year on appeal.  Alabama (football) and Michigan (basketball) were eggregiously guilty of their own boosters giving cash straight to players just to get them to come to that school.  USC is not accused of anything remotely close to that.  They are accused of facilitating something that is directly against their own interests: turning a blind eye to a fake agent trying to talk Reggie Bush into leaving their school.  Michigan was banned from post-season play for two years (and there were direct cash payments to players by boosters of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars), and that was marked down to one year on appeal.  I could be wrong, but I would bet right now that this two-year ban does not stand.  The scholarships may or may not stand.  The other stuff is irrelevant.  Sorry, it just is.  If you do not believe that we are still going to be recruiting a top class every single year, you are wrong.  If you believe that there are a flood of players about to transfer out, you are wrong.  Do your homework.  He who laughs last, laughs best.

As far as a note to my Trojan family, the best thing I can say is that I am really, really excited about the Hawaii game.  If you do not know how special of a quarterback you have leading this team, watch this video right now!  These are the times that try Trojans’ souls.  We are being made an example of, and it is not right.  But we are not falling off a cliff.  We will be fine.  And if we go 0-12 for ten years in a row, I will still be at every single game, cheering my ass off.  It is how I roll.  I would love to see some bandwagoners jump on off at this point.  We have an absolutely top-shelf coaching staff and the best recruiting class in the country.  There are still questions about the 2010 team regarding the linebacking corps and the offensive line.  But as far as the trickle-down effect from this debacle, I am not buying the doomsday predictions of the pathological pessimists.  The Bruins who are gloating about this should not bother you.  Do you blame them?   What else could they possibly be expected to do given where they are as a football program, and given the pathology that goes into something like that?  Ignore them.  You will see them in November.  If anything, UCLA fans are devastated today as they found out USC still gets to play all their Pac-10 opponents the next two years.  Most Bruins were praying that USC’s punishment would include USC being banned from playing UCLA any more.  Unfortunately, the annual ass-kickings will continue, and I mean that.  UCLA will be imposing their own permanent elimination of their football program in my lifetime (and not for disciplinary reasons; either budget, or humiliation) – you heard it hear first.  I am totally serious.

At the end of the day, I hope and pray that I have 30, or 40, or 50, or even 60 more years to watch USC football (I am 36 years old).  This day will be forgotten in the future, I assure you.  We are going to be a championship program again.  The doubters – the haters – the bastards – they do not understand the force they are messing with.  Never question the spirit that is Troy.  I am done thinking about this, and done talking about it.  A couple recruits may go away.  Obviously other coaches will try to exploit it (that is their job).  But we are going to get out on the field and kick their ass.  We have high quality kids – believe me.  We have psychopath competitor coaches – believe me.  And at the end of the day, we live the mantra, Fight on.  It is the reason we are hated.  And I love it.  Fight on, indeed.