USC hit hard by NCAA sanctions

Head coach Lane Kiffin gives instructions in the offensive huddle during the USC Trojans spring game on May 1, 2010 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.
Head coach Lane Kiffin gives instructions in the offensive huddle during the USC Trojans spring game on May 1, 2010 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Southern California has received a two-year bowl ban and a sharp loss of football scholarships in a report on the NCAA's four-year investigation of the school.

The NCAA cited USC for a lack of institutional control Thursday in its long-awaited report, which detailed numerous violations primarily involving Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Reggie Bush and men's basketball player O.J. Mayo.

“That’s one thing, if nobody knows, but because they [the NCAA] have phone records, that essentially implicates USC," said radio host Matt "Money" Smith. “I think as far as the modern era of football goes, this is about as heavy as you can go."

The NCAA found that Bush, identified as a "former football student-athlete," was ineligible beginning at least by December 2004, a ruling that could open discussion on the revocation of the New Orleans Saints star's Heisman.

Members of the Heisman Trophy Trust have said they might review Bush's award if he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA.

The NCAA also ordered USC to vacate every victory in which Bush participated while ineligible. USC beat Oklahoma in the BCS championship game on Jan. 4, 2005, and won 12 games during Bush's Heisman-winning 2005 season, which ended with a loss to Texas in the Rose Bowl.

"I have a great love for the University of Southern California and I very much regret the turn that this matter has taken, not only for USC, but for the fans and players," Bush said in a statement, according to an ESPN report.

"I am disappointed by (Thursday's) decision and disagree with the NCAA's findings. If the University decides to appeal, I will continue to cooperate with the NCAA and USC, as I did during the investigation. In the meantime, I will continue to focus on making a positive impact for the University and for the community where I live."

USC says they plan to appeal the decision. “What they’re basically appealing is, ‘you can’t take one phone conversation as linking them [McNair and Bush] as having a relationship.’”

“It’s a big, big blow for this school," Smith, host of "the Petros & Money Show," told KPCC's Patt Morrison today. When asked if the punishment fit the crime, Smith said “Yeah, it did.”

The ruling is a sharp repudiation of the Trojans' decade of success under former coach Pete Carroll, when USC won seven straight Pac-10 titles and two national championships. Carroll left the school for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks in January.

While the bowl ban is the most damaging to new coach Lane Kiffin, USC also will lose 30 scholarships over a three-year period, 10 annually from 2011-13. The Trojans received four years of probation.

The Trojans have been under a growing cloud of suspicion since Bush's apparently shady dealings with aspiring sports marketers and sketchy businessmen were first revealed. The NCAA, the Pac-10 and even the FBI conducted investigations into the Bush family's business relationships and USC's responsibility for the culture around its marquee football team.

USC is the first Football Bowl Subdivision school to be banned from postseason play since Alabama served a two-year ban ending in 2003. “You look at Alabama and it took them about four or five years to get through it and feel like they were back to being what they were," said Smith. The NCAA issued no bowl bans during the tenure of late president Myles Brand, but the NCAA reportedly regained interest in the punishment over the past year.

USC has long been known for its lenient admission policy at football practice, which during Carroll's tenure was open to almost anybody who wanted to watch. No longer: The NCAA also prohibited all non-university personnel, except media and a few others, from attending practices and camps or even standing on the sidelines during games.

While coming down hard on the football team, the NCAA largely accepted the terms of USC's self-imposed punishment on its men's basketball team.

USC banned itself from postseason play last season, stripped one scholarship for last season and the upcoming season, and reduced its recruiting abilities over the next year. The Trojans also vacated their 21 victories during the 2007-08 season under former coach Tim Floyd, who was accused of giving cash to a middleman who helped steer Mayo to USC.

"Elite athletes in high profile sports with obvious great future earnings potential may see themselves as something apart from other student-athletes and the general student population," the NCAA report said. "Institutions need to assure that their treatment on campus does not feed into such a perception."

According to radio host Smith, "They looked at it as a problem not with one basketball coach or one program, but with an entire institution, and that’s why the penalty was so severe.”

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