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College Football:  When Trojans Go Wild  Share

21 July 2010

A story that began early in June has really started resurface in the news. It involves rules violations by Reggie Bush, a former running back for the University of Southern California (USC) Trojan football team.  Here’s the thing, when you are a college football player, there are tons of rules regarding what you can and can’t do in terms of accepting gifts and money.  The Universities are supposed to protect college football players from these temptations and monitor their activities.  There are these folks called agents who represent professional athletes.  See, if they can give a few bucks to a poor college kid who can catch touchdown passes, when the player goes pro, the agent can sign him and make gobs of money.  As such, college athletes are not allowed to take money and schools are supposed to prevent it.  If not, both can get into lots of trouble.  Generally, college athletes are supposed to remain “student-athletes” until they go to the professional league (the National Football League, or NFL in this case).   

Enter Reggie Bush

While at USC, Reggie Bush led his team to a college football national championship and he won college football’s highest award for an individual player, the Heisman trophy.  Unfortunately, Bush took numerous gifts from two agents that included limo rides, a suit, and a home that his family was allowed to live in rent-free.  The agents hoped to sign him when he turned pro. 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) got wind of this and started an investigation.  They not only found out that Bush was taking money and gifts, but that the school itself fostered an environment that allowed such things to happen.  Both spelled bad news for USC.  The NCAA doled out a huge punishment.  They declared Reggie Bush ineligible for play after December of 2004.  As a result, any wins they got after that were “vacated,” or taken away from the team.  This included the National Championship USC won in 2005 and all the games Reggie played in during the 2005 season.  As a result, USC has been stripped of their National Championship title.  In addition, the NCAA imposed sanctions on the school that included a two-year ban from post-season play and the loss of 30 scholarships.  Both are devastating.  If you’re 17 and a player good enough to make it at the next level with aspirations of playing in the NFL, you may not go to USC because they don’t have a scholarship for you, and even if they do, you can’t get the TV exposure in the off-season, essential to help get you to the pros.  This equals big revenue loss for the school.

Probably more important, the level of dominance USC experienced throughout the last decade is smeared with a big swath of tar because it was with an ineligible football player.  The NCAA sanctions are very harsh and it could potentially devastate the program for years to come.  That’s only good if you are a fan of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), one of USC’s main rivals.

In addition, USC’s new athletic director is trying to erase the memory of Reggie Bush, much of which was directed by the NCAA.  First, he returned their copy of the Heisman Trophy that Reggie Bush won.  Reggie still has his copy and the organization hasn’t revoked his award yet, but it looks like that’s coming too.  In addition, the athletic director is taking down any pictures of Bush, and even his jersey, which sits in a place of prominence at the school.  USC is embarrassed and is trying to get a fresh start.
At the end of the day, college athletes can’t accept money because then they would be pros.  There has to be a line somewhere and we draw it at the college level. 

These penalties are harsh, but the NCAA is trying to send a message:  when Trojans go wild, they’re going to lay down the wood.
One Liner:  “Looks like Pete Carroll bailed at just the right time.” - referring to the USC Trojans’ football coach at the time of Reggie Bush.  Just this year he accepted the head coaching job for the Seattle Seahawks, a pro team.  Lots of people think he bailed because he saw the train wreck coming.

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