NCAA vs. USC

Following a multi-year investigation, the NCAA released it's findings on 6/10/2010 and accused USC of wrongdoings. USC disagreed with many of the "findings" and appealed some of the sanctions. USC did not dispute that some violations occurred. However, the Committee On Infractions (COI) attempted to implicate the University and make a mountain out of a mole hill to justify excessive and unwarranted penalties. In the process the NCAA may have made critical mistakes in the investigation, took numerous leaps of faith, appears to have broken their own rules and guidelines, and finally created several new precedents.

The following summarize why critical aspects of the Public Infractions Report (PIR) did not hold water and some of the sanctions should have been reduced following USC's hearing with the NCAA's Infractions Appeal Committee on 1/22/2010.

  1. The NCAA has the burden of proving allegations, and information must be credible, yet the COI based their findings regarding the assistant coach's supposed knowledge of the violations (by the football player) on the testimony of a convicted felon with a motive.
  2. NCAA staff appear to have made critical mistakes regarding the facts during the questioning of the accuser, may have been influenced by a critical piece of supposed evidence that may have been doctored, and McNair alleges serious NCAA misconduct, errors in appeal.
  3. The NCAA did not allow USC to attend the interview or cross examine the witness (against the NCAA's own rules).
  4. Regarding the critical accusation that an assistant coach knew about the primary infraction, the PIR states on page 4 "Further, the assistant football coach knew or should have known that student-athlete 1 and agency partners A and B were engaged in violations." The COI failed in their burden of proving that the coach knew about the violations, so they state he "should have known." But the Committee then proceeds to assume that he knew the accuser and knew about violations and did not disclose it, thus assuming facts not in evidence and fabricating additional charges based on that. If, as the report concludes he did not know but should have known, how can he be guilty of not disclosing something he didn't know?
  5. The COI fabricated the idea that the marketing agent was a representative of the University (when in fact the agent did employ high profile student athletes from another University) and they failed to inform the University of that conclusion.
  6. To justify the proposed sanctions, the PIR created new precedent without any clarification that high profile athletes require enhanced compliance, yet faulted the University for not meeting this previously non-existent and vague standard.
  7. The NCAA waved the one year waiting period for transfers, a punishment that has never been used before (made possible by the combination of the 2 year bowl ban and a recently effective rule).
  8. The NCAA argued that a booster giving a speech to recruits was an example of lack of institutional control, when logically the fact that USC terminated the activity during the period supports the opposite conclusion (that USC exercised control by terminating the activity).
  9. The fact that the NCAA needed to identify a window of over four years regarding the supposed cases of lack of institutional control logically makes the case weaker, not stronger.
  10. The NCAA argued that open practices (and granting sideline passes) were an issue and without precedent proposed USC close practices, yet offered no evidence to support the conclusion that it had any relationship with the infractions.
  11. The NCAA offered no logical justification or comparison between the scholarship limits proposed and prior comparable scholarship limit cases. How can violations by one student athlete proportionally result in 30 scholarship reductions? Further how can prior cases of penalties be reconciled with the proposed USC penalties? The following explanation by the NCAA fails to adequately answer those questions. See "Infractions committee chair addresses USC case (6/11/2010) "On how the committee determined the penalties:" - “In deciding the penalties, we have in front of us all of the penalties approved over the years by the membership for application by the Committee on Infractions. . . The committee believed this was a very serious case and dealt very seriously with the sanctions that were imposed. It took the committee a good while to go through those sanctions. Other sanctions were considered. The sanctions that were put in place we believe most properly respond to the benefits gained by the institution through the notoriety that occurred during these periods of times that led to enhanced recruiting and the ability to recruit other athletes. Consequently, we thought, at least in the area of the scholarship limitations, that would be an appropriate penalty." Keep in mind, "no institution, no matter how egregious its conduct, has ever suffered both a two-year postseason ban and a loss of 30 or more scholarships -- even for systematic and intentional violations involving an institution's coaches or staff" and "the Committee had never reduced the total number of scholarships to 75 for a single year, much less three years." (Source)

The next question is why did the NCAA COI make this one-sided attempt to rewrite history and severely handicap USC's football program going forward? Only the Committee members can answer that. While USC had no motive in the primary student athlete infractions, in fact USC was the victim (losing two high profile athletes to the pros prematurely), there is a clear conflict of interest on the part of the Chair of the Committee (representing the University of Miami) and at least one other member (representing Notre Dame). USC has been recognized by unbiased popular media as the #1 source of NFL players of all time. Guess who the press generally identifies as #2 and #3? See Exhibit 1: NFL Pipeline USC vs. Miami and Exhibit 2: NFL Factory which includes this line - "When you have as many players as they [USC] have coming into the NFL at all positions, I don't think there is any way to really combat it" (since the NFL draft began in 1936, USC has had the most individuals drafted by any University). It's now clear that the COI members think they found a creative way for their Universities to combat USC's "notoriety." Keep in mind the respective student athlete was the last of 3 USC Heisman Trophy winners during a 4 year period.

USC is the number one college football program in history for producing NFL players and the COI did not find any major recruiting violations or cases of compensating student athletes by staff and/or boosters (the violations associated with comparable sanctions in prior cases). That is completely contradictory to a claim of lack of institutional control. The number of student athletes involved represents less than 1/2 of 1% of the student athletes during the time frame. Additionally, the PIR itself even includes the following statements.

  • "In this case, USC had a thorough rules education program." (page 3)
  • "The committee determined that the cooperation exhibited by the institution met its obligation under Bylaws 19.01.3.3 and 32.1.4." (page 56)

The following links and quotes speak for themselves (for those with an open mind, the time, and interest in reading the full story) regarding the NCAA's rulings and attempts to penalize the University and the innocent student athletes that had nothing to do with the events. Sadly, by reducing USC's scholarships, that may also result in a trickle down effect on a large number of completely unrelated future prospective US college student athletes who may not get the opportunity to earn a college education. The Pac-10 is also unfairly punished via losing the revenue for the banned bowl games. We are blessed in the United States to have a legal system with checks and balances that protects against unjust actions. As always, USC will Fight On!

Links

Quotes

Consider: USC received almost the same exact penalties that Alabama did in 2002 (two-year bowl ban, 21 scholarships) for a case in which the school's own boosters made payments to recruits. . . In other words, in the committee's eyes, USC's failure to monitor a player's relationship with those seeking to cash in on his future earnings is every bit as serious as Alabama's failure to monitor supporters trying to help secure future wins for their favorite team. . . You'd be hard-pressed to find precedent for a school hit so hard over activities by parties with no association to the university.

Stewart Mandel (6/10/2010) With harsh USC penalties, NCAA sends warning to all elite programs

Here is an interesting contrast to chew on about the NCAA. Between 1993 and 1998, a woman named Kim Dunbar was an admitted Notre Dame booster who was convicted of embezzling her former employer for $1.4 million. Ms. Dunbar then took much of that money and used it to purchase gifts and trips for various Notre Dame players. At USC, Reggie Bush was the only player involved in this week’s sanctions. Back then, there were no less than eight Irish players involved, including one who eventually fathered a child with Dunbar. So for having eight players caught taking gifts and trips and who knows what else from a booster, what do you think Notre Dame’s sanctions were from the NCAA back then? Try this: The university was put on probation for two years and it was penalized ONE scholarship each for the two-year period. That’s right. For having a single celebrated player and his parents accept cash, a car and assorted other items from an agent, USC gets a two-year bowl ban, the loss of 30 scholarships and probation. For having EIGHT players accept gifts and trips not from an agent, but from an acknowledged booster, the Irish get away with sanctions that are as limp as the team’s record has been of late. The NCAA is amazing. This, apparently, is their idea of being fair and balanced.

Steve Bisheff (6/10/2010) Of Pete’s Image, ‘Baby’ Love and the NCAA’s ‘Balance’

USC can claim, with some justification, the NCAA is taking away two bowl opportunities for current student-athletes because of infractions by one athlete who left the program five years ago. That bowl ban penalty is out of line compared to other bans that usually had widespread violations in academics and benefits.

Bob Keisser (6/13/2010) Press Telegram

They gave USC a worse penalty (30 scholarships lost and a two-year bowl ban) than was given to the school where more than 100 football players were funneled more than 600 grand, the school where the Committee chairman was A.D. at one time -- 31 scholarships lost, a one-year bowl ban.

Dan Weber (6/14/2010) Just Say No

My second reaction has been one of shock, but mainly at the shoddiness with which the NCAA conducted its investigation. A closer perusal of the documents shows that, in essence, the NCAA believed the word of a convicted felon over that of USC, the institution . . . What is at question here is his status for the 2004 season and the issue of whether USC in general–and running backs coach Todd McNair in particular–knew or should have known about what was going on. To come to that conclusion, the NCAA took several leaps of faith. Under direct questioning, the principle accusers involved never actually admit to having knowledge of USC knowing anything about the situation. Nonetheless, the NCAA reverse engineers the process to reach that end, not unlike the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. First the verdict, then the trial. . . Again, USC deserves sanctions. Without a doubt. But, it should’ve gotten a one-year bowl ban (as penalty for Bush being ineligible in 2005) and a less harsh scholarship reduction. This program did not pay its players, nor did its boosters pay recruits, as we have seen in recent years in other leagues . . . I think the NCAA is acting in bad faith and has overplayed its hand.

Chris Huston (heismanpundit.com) (6/14/2010) USC Gets Railroaded

The punishment handed out to USC exceeds that given out to other recent repeat offenders, most notably Alabama, Oklahoma, and Florida State, each of whom faced questions regarding institutional control, academic integrity, eligibility, and/or payments made by boosters. Is the NCAA sending a message that if a coach or booster pays a player, or a student-athlete cheats on a test, the crime is less severe than failing to keep agents away from your players? Or perhaps the NCAA can answer why it cited Rodney Guillory’s role in the OJ Mayo debacle as an example of USC’s lack of institutional control, despite having investigated and cleared both Mayo and Guillory (at USC’s request) before Mayo even stepped foot on campus.

Mark Roberts (6/16/2010) Shades Of Grey: NCAA, Not Just USC, Has Some Explaining to Do

I don't necessarily believe the NCAA on anything and you know how I feel about the NCAA. I believe they're frauds.

Michael Wilbon (6/16/2010) PTI: Benefit of Doubt for Carroll?

The NCAA's report makes an extraordinary assertion that they've never made before - and that is that high profile student athletes and their families require more scrutiny and compliance review than other students athletes. That assertion is both vague and hypocritical.

Erik McKinney (6/17/2010) Thursday Thought

The NCAA through the actions of the COI broke its very own rule. The NCAA bylaws state that a scholarship player must not play in any games for one year after transferring from one Division 1A school to another Division 1A school. But the COI, in an unprecedented move, waved that rule for all juniors and seniors at USC, allowing them to transfer wherever they wished without penalty. That was an unnecessary and an undeserved punishment that has no other end, no other feasible objective other than dismantling the USC football program over this decade. It is a punishment that has never been levied on any other college sports program in the nation, despite far worse and more massive violations than those currently involving USC.

Paul Peszko (6/17/2010) Did Lane Kiffin's Hiring Motivate the NCAA?

I am inclined to believe Coach Carroll on this. Coming out so publicly and so strongly in opposition to the NCAA means that if he were lying about it, the potential to blow up in his face is astronomical. If he refused to comment, or gave the typical "the past is past" line, then we could start to infer his guilt. . . The NCAA calls this "gross institutional oversight." I would call it an honest account of what happens on 99 percent of college campuses with football programs across the country. It is impossible for programs to monitor the goings on of players once they leave the practice field or facility. So when Carroll says he was surprised that Bush was taking about benefits (allegedly, a house for his family), I believe him. How could he have known?

Rob Lunn (6/17/10) Pete Carroll's Story on USC Is Worth Believing

Nobody has been harder on USC, Reggie Bush, Pete Carroll and Mike Garrett the past month about running a renegade program than me. But the more you dig into the NCAA’s case against USC, the more it becomes clear that the NCAA failed to indisputably prove that USC had direct knowledge of Bush taking hundreds of thousands of dollars of improper benefits. That cannot be ignored.

Brooks Melchior (6/24/2010) Sources: Percy Harvin Part Of NCAA’s USC Report

The NCAA penalties against USC's football program were unduly harsh. If the appeals committee takes a full and fair assessment of the facts, I believe they will also come to that conclusion and reduce USC's penalties.

Ted Miller (6/25/2010) Opening the mailbag: Will USC win its appeal?

A little perspective. In 2002, Alabama was found guilty of knowingly allowing boosters to pay players to play football for the Crimson Tide over the course of two coaching regimes. The charges against USC's football program do not remotely compare. No pay-to-play, no serious recruiting violations, no boosters gone wild, a single football player. Yet the sanctions leveled against USC are more severe than those that Alabama received.

The NCAA Inquisition TributeToTroy

The NCAA seemed to take issue with USC's open practices. Why? There is nothing in the rule book that states that open practices are against the rules. There is no rule that says that any athletic practices have to be closed to the public. There is no bylaw stating who can or cannot be on the sidelines at practice or the games. . . The NCAA already looks foolish with their high profile athletes demand high profile monitoring message...I mean is that in the bylaws as well? The NCAA bylaws themselves do not require "constant, heightened and specific vigilance" on one player over others.

The NCAA has an Institutional Control Issue of Their Own (6/30/2010)

The idea that the word of a convicted felon, not subject to cross-examination and without corroboration, could convict USC offends any notion of fair play. . . consider also that Tim Floyd was not found guilty of anything in the NCAA's findings regarding the allegations surrounding O.J. Mayo. Not a single thing. . . Oh, and while we are discussing standards, does it strike anyone as peculiar that the chair of the Committee on Infractions that slammed USC is Paul Dee, the former athletic director at Miami? Dee was in charge of the Miami program when the Hurricanes' football team was hit with some of the most severe sanctions in NCAA history. Why is Dee, who presided over a cheating and scandalous program by NCAA standards, allowed to chair the Committee on Infractions, which sits in judgment of other programs?

Jay Bilas (7/1/2010) Anyone know what NCAA's standards are? (or here)

I’m no legal expert, not by a long shot, but I do believe that driving drunk, robbing a convenience store, and hitting your girlfriend are all worse offenses than dealing with an agent. Most people would agree with that I think, except, it seems, the folks in charge of college football. How else to explain the fact that the USC Trojans are currently on NCAA probation while the Florida Gators are not, even though Florida’s program has seen 27 different players arrested during the short tenure of Coach Urban Meyer. That’s right, by NCAA standards, 27 arrests merit not so much as an official reprimand. But dealing with a prospective agent prematurely, as former Trojan Reggie Bush did, gets your program punished for four years. It’s not just about USC. NCAA investigations are ongoing at the Universities of Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina for the same kind of premature conversation with agents that Bush had.

Bryant Gumbel (9/21/2010) Student/Athlete Behavior

There are surely some nuanced details in the Cam Newton and Reggie Bush cases, and it bears mentioning that the NCAA’s investigation isn’t over yet, but the point still stands that Auburn and USC – and similarly, Newton and Bush – have been held to two remarkably different standards. . . this ruling needs to bring forth litigation. From USC, one would think, and from other concerned parties who might use this decision to hammer away at and ultimately tear down this obscene pretense of amateurism which causes a Cecil Newton to be vulnerable to the advances of a vulture like Kenny Rogers. If we as a society are really interested in the well-being of young men like Cameron Newton, and if we’re really interested in the establishment, increase and development of social and economic justice for all, the NCAA’s hypocrisy, double standards, and patently unfair practices – chiefly in the case not of Auburn, but of USC and Reggie Bush – will be put to a swift and unmistakable conclusion. If this ruling on Cam Newton generates those kinds of reforms and outcomes, this day will not have been in vain. Litigators, start your engines.

Matt Zemek (12/1/2010) CFN Analysis - The Cam Newton Ruling

If a golf cart ride of $5 can result in a one-game suspension for Dillon Baxter, doesn't it appear a bit strange that an admitted violation in regards to Newton involving allegedly $200,000 results in absolutely no consequences? In case you've been asleep, welcome to the wonderful world of the NCAA.

Joey Kaufman (12/1/2010) Quintessential NCAA in Cam Newton Ruling

Student athletes not only don't have the rights of professional players, they don't even have the rights of other college students, who are free to hold jobs and sell their services as they choose. And they don't even have the right to workers' compensation if injured. . . Despite this blatant bullying, few seem to recognize the NCAA for what it is: a monopoly in restraint of free-market trade. Or as Federal District Judge Juan Burciaga called it in a 1981 antitrust lawsuit, "a classic cartel."

Allen Barra (12/9/2010) Whose Best Interests Does the NCAA Serve? in the Wall Street Journal

Memo to the NCAA: If you are going to carry on the hypocrisy, please approach some level of consistency in 2011 . . . Pryor should have just given the items to his mother to sell. But the 'we didn't know excuse' - that wasn't good enough for USC. The NCAA knows how to make a dollar, man. Why can't it make sense?

Michael Smith (12/26/2010) Parting Shot: NCAA Hypocrisy

This has been the year when the NCAA has stopped being a traffic cop and turned into an arbitrary and capricious dictator. Think an insane Saddam Hussein at the height of his powers in Iraq. The NCAA is a totalitarian dictator, the rules are what the NCAA says the rules are. Even if, you know, honest logic dies in the process . . . We've reached a position in college athletics where there is no logic and no intelligent person can discern any element of legitimacy behind the NCAA's decrees.

Clay Travis (12/28/2010) NCAA Bungles Ohio State Ruling Along With Entirety of 2010's Rulings

Pretty much all the people I've spoken to -- coaches, administrators and players -- see the NCAA as riddled with hypocrisy. It makes the rules up as it goes along and has grown tired of being called out on it.

Bruce Feldman (12/29/2010) With Buckeyes, NCAA just keeps spinning

The agent issues of the past year at various schools have made USC's punishment in the Reggie Bush case look downright draconian. (North Carolina had an agent runner on staff as its associate head coach, for goodness' sake.) An NCAA committee will hear USC's appeal next month. Unless the Committee on Infractions is prepared to similarly hammer other programs, there is a good chance USC's punishment will be reduced . . . the Infractions Appeals Committee is well within its rights to deem a penalty excessive. If it does, it could give USC back some lost scholarships, but the most public way to lessen the severity of the punishment is to let USC play in the postseason.

Andy Staples (12/29/2010) 2011 college football predictions

The NCAA appears to believe the rules do not apply to them. They are agenda-driven. They decide the outcome, as they did with USC, and then they put together whatever they need to reach that outcome.

Joe Shell Jr. (1/2/2011) Going after the NCAA's "underbelly"

The reality is that the NCAA overreached with the penalties they put on USC in relation to the violations that occurred. This is especially true when you compare how they punished USC and how they punished some of the other schools. We’re not crying over spilled milk here and we’re not trying to maintain any kind of absolute innocence (we recognize that certain elements of the violations did occur) but there’s no way a rational person can look at the situation and say that USC got treated fairly.

Garry Paskwietz (1/20/2011) It's Appeal Time

From the day the punishment was announced, the sanctions seemed unnecessarily harsh, considering they involved the indiscretions of a single player and rogue parties with no ties to the school. It seemed the Committee was making an example out of the Trojans because of the case's high-profile nature (as evidenced by Chairman Paul Dee's "high profile players demand high profile compliance" line). Since then, we've seen numerous other cases involving "high profile players" (Cam Newton, Terrelle Pryor) in which the school paid little or no price, and that could be in the back of the minds of those on the Appeals Committee.

Stewart Mandel (4/27/2011) What USC's sanctions mean for Ohio State, plus more Mailbag

In the past six months, it has gotten much more difficult for the NCAA to justify that USC's punishment fits its crime.

Jon Wilner (5/20/2011) Another look at the Pac-12 football landscape

The uneven application of the rules is what is going to kill the NCAA one day.

Amy Lamare (5/25/2011) NCAA Rejects USC’s Appeal

It’s too bad the NCAA doesn’t realize how heartless it can appear and — given the Newton and Ohio State situations — how hypocritical, as well.

Jeff Miller (5/25/2011) NCAA strong-armed tactics comical

The sanctions -- two-year bowl ban, a 30-scholarship reduction over three years -- were not fair based on historical precedent. They weren't fair based on the flimsy evidence against the program. They weren't fair even if all the findings were true.

Ted Miller (5/26/2011) Rant and rage, USC fans, then move on

Did the NCAA base their judgment on flimsy evidence against USC athletic officials? In my opinion, yes. Were they too harsh in applying penalties against USC? Yes. Have subsequent rulings by the NCAA against member schools seemed favorable to those schools and too light? Yes. Did the NCAA take too long in rendering judgment of the USC's appeal? Yes.

Clifton Blevins (5/26/2011) Thursday Roundtable

What’s wrong is that the NCAA can’t seem to apply the same rules across the board. In this case it wanted to keep paddling USC, and it did.

Pete Fiutak (5/26/2011) USC paying for NCAA's inconsistency?

[USC] could have argued for similar penalties imposed upon Miami in 1995 -- where the man responsible for USC's penalties, Paul Dee, was athletic director at the time -- with a one year bowl ban, 31 scholarships over three years and a limit of 80 total scholarships. Miami, by the way, was found to have direct responsibility for providing more than $630,000 in extra benefits over four years to more than 140 student-athletes in four sports. USC didn't provide any benefits, and had just one athlete ineligible . . . Does the punishment of a two-year bowl ban and 30 scholarships fit the crime? Absolutely not.

Bryan Fischer (5/26/2011) Trojans never stood a chance after taking NCAA's best shot

No matter how logical its arguments, no matter how many precedents it cited, USC wasn’t going to win its NCAA appeal. Why? Because the NCAA can dispense its version of justice however it sees fit. . . The point here is that institutions have virtually no recourse to dispute sanctions because the appeals process is a farce. . . I do feel bad for the players who can’t participate in the postseason, and for the 30 high school athletes robbed of the opportunity to earn college scholarships between 2012 and ’14. I’m bothered by the NCAA’s way of doing business because it’s illogical and undemocratic.

Michael Lev (5/27/2011) Little is appealing about NCAA’s brand of justice

The appeals committee decision in the USC case may lead to widely inconsistent and arbitrary decisions—which could be seen by the membership, media and the public as the committees using favoritism for certain schools or coaches. The recommendation also could serve as a basis for litigation between aggrieved parties and the NCAA on due and fair process grounds.

Michael L. Buckner Law Firm (5/31/2011) Ignoring Case-Precedent: NCAA Appeals Decision in USC Enforcement Case

I believe USC was treated unfairly by the NCAA. I have yet to read a reasoned account -- from the media or from the NCAA -- that makes a convincing argument otherwise.

Ted Miller (5/31/2011) Opening the mailbag: USC got what it deserved

I think this NCAA that we're currently involved with is so far out of touch with the integrity of the sport that it's just amazing.

Bob Knight (6/7/2011) Bob Knight dubs NCAA as 'out of touch'

almost everyone who follows college sports acknowledges the following:

  1. The NCAA is Corrupt
  2. The NCAA Makes Up The Rules As It Goes Along
  3. The NCAA Is Selective and Biased In Its Enforcement

Chris Huston (heismanpundit.com) (6/9/2011) The NCAA’s Lack of Institutional Control

The NCAA opted instead to be unfair and arbitrary and pounded the Trojans with a loss of 30 scholarships and a two-year postseason ban. There was no way to justify what the NCAA did

Ted Miller (6/10/2100) Kiffin will chat with NCAA this weekend

The NCAA’s disciplinary process has been revealed as a sham, and its chief cop a fraud. The USC situation itself presents a sort of triple-whammy problem for the NCAA. Not only was Dee inherently compromised (if technically “conflicted” under NCAA By-laws), his punishments diverted from all established precedent of severity and, indeed, were based (as Dee conceded) on the punishment his own program had received 15 years earlier. This is simply not the way an organization can conduct itself if it wants to maintain any semblance of credibility.

Amerigo Chattin (8/25/2011) The NCAA Must Vacate All Penalties Handed Down by Paul Dee and Start Over

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Mark Twain

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