If USC, Bush cheated, should they lose BCS title, Heisman?

  The 125-year NCAA investigation (okay, that’s a SLIGHT exaggeration) into the University of Southern California football program and star running back Reggie Bush is expected to mercifully come to an end soon. There were rumblings that the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions would release its report last week but it didn’t. The investigation has been going on since 2006 so what’s a few more days? USC went before the Infractions Committee in February. In the old days they used to come up with a decision about six weeks after the hearing. Not any more.  Hey, it’s complicated and this is one of the most complicated cases ever.

This all happened a long time ago so let’s recap: Bush, the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner, allegedly received $300,000 in cash and other benefits from a two “gentlemen” (Lloyd Lake, Michael Michaels) who wanted to be Bush’s agent. But Bush stiffed those guys and went with another agency. They sued. NCAA investigators hoped that Bush would be put on the witness stand or, at the very least, have to sit for a deposition. Lying to NCAA investigators has no consequences unless you’re a current college player (ask Dez Bryant). But lying under oath gets you fitted for a striped suit and tin cup. It came as no surprise when Bush settled the case out of court rather than be compelled to tell the truth about his relationship with the two gentlemen in question.

I don’t have to tell you that a lot of people are watching this case and are handicapping the outcome. Opinions differ.  Former USC coach Pete Carroll, who got out of town (Seattle Seahawks) in January just ahead of the NCAA posse, said last week that he would be surprised if tough sanctions came down.

But elsewhere in the college football universe, this is seen as a big case test on whether or not the NCAA has the stomach to take down a high-profile football program that is not named Alabama.

If only half of what has been reported about Bush is true and USC skates on this one, there will be a nuclear eruption in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Crimson Tide program was hammered for rules violations in 2002 and the penalties came with a considerable amount of finger wagging from the NCAA. Who could forget infractions committee chairman Tom Yeager saying that the committee considered giving Alabama the death penalty? He said that Alabama was “absolutely staring down the barrel of a gun (death penalty)” but the committee settled on a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 21 scholarships over three years.

Will the NCAA have the same righteous indignation for misbehavior and lack of institutional control, if proven, that takes place on the West Coast?

It is going to get pretty nasty if USC just gets a slap on the wrist.

Here are two big questions to keep in mind as we await the USC verdict:

No. 1: The qualifications for winning the Heisman Trophy clearly state that the recipient must be NCAA eligible. What if the NCAA proves after the fact that Bush was NOT eligible when he competed and won the Heisman in 2005? Many Heisman winners have had brushes with the law after winning the award but none has ever been stripped of the honor. On its website it says that the “Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and the integrity of this award.” But would the Heisman Trust want to open this can of worms? My friend Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald suggests that if Bush cheated his Heisman Trophy should just be “vacated” or just stricken from the record books like it never happened.

Here is what I would do. If it is proven that Mr. Bush was ineligible in 2005, rather than set the precedent of vacating the award for that year, I would simply send Mr. Bush a letter telling him he is no longer welcome at any function honoring past Heisman Trophy winners. You can keep the hardware, Reggie, but you are out of the club.  Of course now that Mr. Bush has been paid handsomely by the NFL I’m sure he feels the ends justify the means. In short, shame is probably no longer part of his makeup.

No. 2: Even if the NCAA puts USC on double-secret probation and takes away a bunch of scholarships, that body cannot strip USC of its 2004 BCS national championship. That’s because the NCAA doesn’t award national championships in Division I-A football. And what the NCAA does not giveth, it cannot taketh away.

The BCS does not have an enforcement arm and really doesn’t want to get into the enforcement business. But BCS officials have told me that they would have to consider it if the NCAA proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that USC cheated.

So I’ll put it to you. If the NCAA Committee on Infractions gets the goods on USC—and I’m talking about lock-solid proof– should the BCS take away the 2004 national championship and should Reggie Bush be stripped or otherwise publicly separated from 2005 his Heisman Trophy?

And what happens if, after four years of investigating, the NCAA comes up with nothing?


JACK HAIRSTON, RIP: We lost Jack Hairston over the weekend. Jack wrote for the AJC early in his career but was best known as longtime sports columnist for the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun.  He was 81 years old. Jack was a member of the Football Writers Association Hall of Fame and is survived by his wife, Marilyn, and two daughters.  Jack was a good man and helped me early in my career. Please keep his family in your prayers.


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393 comments Add your comment


May 17th, 2010
10:08 am

O.J. was found INNOCENT. Maybe you missed it.

Ramblin Wrecker

May 17th, 2010
10:11 am

I think the issue here is not whether Reggie Bush was ineligible…because he was. The guy took the money, chose a different agent, got sued and settled with the guys who paid him $300k. If he didn’t take the money, he wouldn’t have settled the lawsuit. So he’s guilty of violating NCAA rules and therefore was ineligible.

The issue is what did USC know and how much of it is their responsibility. Regardless of what Pete Carroll says publicly, he knew USC was in trouble. Why else did he take the Seahawks job? He had way better NFL job opportunities (i.e. Atlanta or San Francisco) before this year. So methinks that points to vulnerability on USC’s part in regard to Bush’s extracurricular activities and a desire on Carroll’s part to not be in town when it gets burned down.


May 17th, 2010
10:12 am

Phil Fulmer took down Alabama, then got his half-ton butt run out of town.


May 17th, 2010
10:14 am

I am sure Cushing didn’t start taking ROIDS until he left USC too.


May 17th, 2010
10:16 am

Then UGAg would have to give up their one and only 1980 NC.


May 17th, 2010
10:16 am

The NCAA should take this opportunity to regain contol of some of it’s more morally questionable institutions by delivering USC a death blow…Maybe it will snap some of the other gray-area dwellers back into line.


May 17th, 2010
10:20 am

There is absolutely a lack of institutional control because they either knew and did nothing, or ignored glaring issues. Taking wins and championships away is silly, as would be recinding the heisman. Vince Young deserved it… but it’s ancient history now and he got the National Title which is better anyway. Ron Dayne still has Joe Ham’s Heisman too. It happens.

They should probably be forced to pay for independant NCAA staffers to oversee all athletic department operations not unlike the US government does with corporations who screw up. They should definately be garnished a ton of scholarships.

As for TV and Bowls… that just hurts the players and the institutions ability to make money… I’m not sure if that’s appropriate or not. What they need though is serious hulking oversite that they have to pay for. They shouldn’t be able to sneeze without asking and those same guys should be looking at every single coach in those programs who have moved on in that same manner.


May 17th, 2010
10:23 am

Bootsie..OJ was found “not guilty” of murder…that does not mean innocent. It simply means the prosecution did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt to that particular jury.

OJ was found guilty of other crimes recently in Las Vegas and is in prison right now.

Mr. Obvious

May 17th, 2010
10:24 am

With no professional football teams in the Los Angeles area, combined with the school’s proximity to Las Vegas, I would be shocked and surprised if there WASN’T a cheating/gambling/point-shaving/prostitution/pay-the-players epidemic at USC.

USC makes all the collective illegal activity at Alabama look like a church choir picnic, minus the booze.

If people in Alabama were as educated and wealthy as the people in Southern California & Nevada, the Crimson Tide would likely be on par with the “quality” of cheating at USC.



May 17th, 2010
10:25 am

so if a booster gives a kid $100 its a potential sanction but if a businessman gives a kid $300,000 its no big deal

Bush, McKnight, Mayo sounds to me like there is a lack of institutional control at USC


May 17th, 2010
10:29 am

Tony: several things bother me about this whole situation. If Reggie gets away with this, then any college football player can cheat in the future, pay off the agents to keep quiet and not testify against him, and go free. If this happens, the IRS ought to investigate Reggie Bush, his family, and the agents who supplied his family the money. They should not only be punished by the NCAA but by the IRS because I’m sure they did not pay taxes on the benefits they received. The agents along with Reggie and his family should be tried and if they will not testify, they ought to be placed in jail for contempt of court until they testify. This is a farce if nothing happens. If USC goes free, Alabama as well as any other institution that has been penalized by the NCAA ought to go after the NCAA. I’m still disgusted that the NCAA placed a slap on the wrist to Notre Dame several years ago after a woman provided the athletes with extra benefits and gifts. It shows the NCAA truly plays favorites.


May 17th, 2010
10:34 am


yes, that’s how NCAA works. It’s all about class and status.

If it’s Texas taking on anybody else, you have no chance. Just ask SMU.

If you are perceived as a redneck college, you have no chance. Just ask BAMA.

If you are perceived as a princes, you will be treated with manner and respect. And you may get away with anything. Just ask USC.


May 17th, 2010
10:37 am

If USC is guilty of infractions then put them on probation just like other teams have been. Taking away championships and heisman trophy awards is a dangerous territory though. Especially for the BCS who basically is only out for money anyways. They have no business in deciding things of this nature and are better off staying out of it.

Delbert D.

May 17th, 2010
10:38 am

“They should force USC to vacate their wins for that season. That will force the BCS to strip their title from them.”

Good thought, but who says the BCS has any responsibilities for after-the-fact NCAA problems, just as the NCAA has no BCS concerns.

USC is one of the most highly ranked academic institutions, just ahead of U. Mich. and UNC, and just behind UVA. That otherwise excellent institutions can allow careless, deceitful and corrupt activities is shameful. Ultimately, who is responsible for the character of recruits and what off the field criminal, ethical and moral issues these students engage in? It has to be the school and its agents, the coaching staff. The NCAA is not an on-the-scene police force. Any wrongdoings should have repercussions to the school, its agents at the time, and the student. Carroll and his staff at the time should be sued by the university, along with Bush. The NCAA should punish the school severely for this egregious offense, the payment of athletes, which is perhaps the most antithetic act that can be committed against fair competition.


May 17th, 2010
10:41 am

It’s simple. If the NCAA has proof on USC, then they should get punished. Same as anywhere else. It shouldn’t be one set of rules for one school and another set of rules for someone else.

In my opinion the NCAA has become a joke when trying to enforce athletics. It’s a joke as long as Alabama gets hammered with one set of sanctions while Tennessee (Tee Martin getting paid by a booster) gets off scott free. But my expectation is that the NCAA will give USC a slap on the wrist.

It should be fair for all schools.

Mark "Crimson Crier" Ingram

May 17th, 2010
10:42 am

Time to strip the teflon off of USC and make them pay the price!


May 17th, 2010
10:49 am

Vince Young should get the heisman trophy since Reggie Bush got payed before his final season in LA. As for the death penalty for the trojans NO!! Just take a bunch of Schloarships away and they have to give back the national championship in 04. The main reason the trojans will not get nailed
to the wall is because no secret witness like Phil Fulmer and Roy Kramer letting Fulmer tell lie after
lie to NCAA against the crimson tide!! Yes Bama was gulity of paying for Albert Means but Fulmer
told many lies to the NCAA protecting his own dirty program!! RTR


May 17th, 2010
10:52 am

In addition to Reggie Bush, don’t forget about Jarrett having his rent paid by Matt Leinart’s father. The NCAA let USC off with having Jarrett to pay the back rent due despite not having a job. The racist facebook page with a burning swastika and “arrest black babies before they become criminals.” Ohh, and former USC coach Dave Watson, who Pete Carroll knew was addicted to pain medication, using 31 school doctors to acquire every narcotic known to man while coaching the team. Joe McKnight saying he was talking to Reggie Bush while in high school then denying it 10 minutes later…and his Land Rover he was cruising in while attending USC.

Lack of institutional control.

Reality Check

May 17th, 2010
10:55 am

How can they punish anyone with what is being allowed to go on and has gone on for a while in Gainesville, Knoxville and Tuscaloosa?

J T Guy

May 17th, 2010
10:55 am

Vacate the wins, take back the Heisman and give it to the runner-up.

As far as lack of institutional control, if it’s proven, it had better be as stiff as Alabama’s or the SEC should sue.

As to the BCS, I think that they should just declare that there was not a BCS title winner that year.


May 17th, 2010
10:56 am

As I have said many times before, the only true championship in college football is the SEC Championship. The BCS is proving more and more to be more bs and less bcs. I’m sure Reggie Bush will be heartbroken if he has to give up his Heisman and not allowed to go to the Downtown Athletic Club.

Note to ACC fans: I know you have a championship, but it like having a contest to find the tallest midget.

USC Trojan

May 17th, 2010
10:57 am

SEC folk would love nothing better than to see USC fall. Won’t happen, so might want to direct your wishes to something more constructive like Tennesee and their flooding.

Chase Foster

May 17th, 2010
10:59 am

If USC and Mr. Bush are found guilty of the serious allegations then yes, both should be stripped. Pete Carrol running to Seattle makes one believe heknos they are guilty. If the NCAA does not bring harsh punishment then other schools will do as USC. In 2004, Auburn had the 5th toughest schedule ahead of USC and Oklahoma and were told their game with Citadel was the deciding factor. But USC cheated for two years and they have the right to play for the title? I say crown Auburn with the title and take it away from USC and collect any hardware that was given including rings.


May 17th, 2010
11:09 am

How is the USC program guilty because of unknown, individual, off the field actions of a player? Did they take action upon learning of the payment to Bush, like notifying the NCAA?


May 17th, 2010
11:11 am

When you are on top everyone wants to see you fall. I’m not sure that the heisman can be physically taken from Bush, but you can do as Barnhardt suggests. The Heisman and National Championship can recieve astricks for the year that USC won it when Bush was ineligable. The NCAA will not allow a student athlete to recieve a used laptop from the wrong person; it is completely valid that USC will be punished for bennefits that Bush received. USC has already begun to punish itself by hiring Lane Kiffin. The NCAA should respond with a reasonable ammount of probation and scolarship reductions.

USC does not deserve to be given the death penalty nor to have its championship and trophy given to another school. It does deserve to be punished in a fair and consistent manner. If for some reason the investigation does not turn up the necessary evidence then the NCAA should be punished for being inept and unable to show due diligence.


May 17th, 2010
11:14 am

http://www.bighairyblawg.com has best offseason DAWGS breakdowns


May 17th, 2010
11:17 am

USC Trojan- Get off your high horse! Us “SEC folk” don’t give a rats hind parts about USC. We play real football in this part of the country son. USC can take their cheating ways and fall into the pacific for all I care. In fact, the entire cesspool that is LA can cease to exist, what a disgusting place. Obviously this isn’t the “mighty” program that everyone makes it out to be. Has to cheat to win the Pac-1, what a shame. Put USC in the SEC and they are a 3 loss team perennially.


May 17th, 2010
11:20 am

Thanks for confusing the facts as usual Reality Check. Alabama did not pay Means’ parents or those two idiot coaches in Memphis. A rogue booster, Logan Young, did. Albert Means never set foot on Alabama’s field, and because of some idiot that never went to Bama, but was a Bama fan, did something stupid, the entire Alabama community has to suffer the NCAA fingerpointing and the crap all other fans in the country like to spew at Alabama. Is that fair? No, and I know that it’s so much fun to call Alabama a bunch of cheaters that no one will listen to the facts. It’s funny that most of us think the NCAA is full of BS but everyone is so quick to back them when they are chastising Alabama. Such is life I guess.


May 17th, 2010
11:20 am

The NCAA is a big joke…run by a bunch of self-indulgent, pious acting hypocrites that believe they are the gods of higher education. All they really care about is a large stack of dead presidents and who’s kissing their backsides.


May 17th, 2010
11:29 am

Obamination – Your handle tells me all I need to know about you. You have no clue what you’re even talking about, but your bias against (perhaps jealousy) of UGA clouds your thought process. First of all, these are 2 totally unrelated issues, one of which was 30 years ago. But, since you have nothing intelligent to contribute to this blog, you just try to take a jab at UGA. Classy..


May 17th, 2010
11:29 am

Why no article about the acc’s tv deal. Almost as much as the sec per team payout. Much higher than you said they would get Tony.



May 17th, 2010
11:30 am

if USC is found to be guilty of the violations, they should have to admit that they lost to Notre Dame.

Reptiles Rule

May 17th, 2010
11:32 am

The one reason I think you may see some current sanctions after all this foot dragging by the NCAA is that USC had the “nerve” to go out and hire Lane Kiffin after Carroll bolted. Of course, that would never be discussed publicly or even suggested or anything, but I don’t think the NCAA took too kindly to Kiffin’s shenanigans during his brief tenure at Tennessee. All those secondary vilations and then his bogus claims that it was all for publicity smacked in the face of college football’s governing body. Look for maybe a little subtle”payback”.


May 17th, 2010
11:33 am

Call us rednecks or call us cheaters…..I like to refer to us as BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONS.RTR


May 17th, 2010
11:36 am

Reality Check:

Let those without sin (UGA) cast the first stone!

Bob/ Okeefe

May 17th, 2010
11:37 am

Give them the Death Penalty or abolish it.Alabama wasn’t hit hard enough either.SMU was a scape goat to show that the NCAA had some power.Now, however they are GUTLESS.Abolish the death penalty if it not going to be used.


May 17th, 2010
11:37 am

the ncaa will do whatever it wants. deal with it.


May 17th, 2010
11:38 am

USC should be stripped of its 2004 national championship and it should be given to the true national champs-Auburn. Auburn got screwed out of playing for the national champion after going undefeated in the SEC.


May 17th, 2010
11:42 am

No need to strip something away that has already been awarded its years after he left that they are now sayin something he is now a millionare and a superbowl champion….. I say take away scholarships from the program perhaps for the nxt 2 yrs….


May 17th, 2010
11:43 am

You can’t retroactively award the Heisman trophy to the runner up and you can’t retroactively name someone else as the BCS champion for 2004. All you can do is take them away from the player and team that broke the rules in their quest to win them.


May 17th, 2010
11:53 am

How can you talk about lying and cheating and completely ignore UGA? Eventually the NCAA has got to look at what’s happening at UGA with all the player arrests.

Now that we’re officially in the off-season, wouldn’t this be the perfect time to take an in-depth look at UGA and have a free-ranging discussion about the problems at UGA and why the arrest rate of players is the highest in the country? it’s common knowledge that UGA is a party school, but have any football players every actually graduated with a real degree? Jan Kemp exposed the school and the coaches almost three decades ago, but there is no sign that anything has improved; if anything, the arrest rate shows that things are getting more outrageous every year while Mark Richt – a decent fellow with no coaching skills – has no clue what to do.

UGA has become a major embarrassment to all Georgians, and we want some answers starting now.

gt gartor fan

May 17th, 2010
12:00 pm

3 an 17 against the gators this year? go gators.

even gt doesnt have a rival that we do so poorly against unless you would consider the ugagers. but hey….. ugag recruits top 5 talent year in an year out in almost every sport they participate in. ugag is the state flagship university *sic*. ugag is 4 times the size of gt. 90% of ugag’s students are in-bred an raised in the state of georgia.

with all those advantages one would expect that ugag would have a decided edge over gt. as it stands gt does a pretty good job in most areas and is closing the gap in fb. ask cpj and reverend richt. (thank god that gomer gailey is gone)

so my question is…… what is ugag’s excuse wrt florida. CHOKE! maybe all that kneeling that mark richt is teachin them boys is all about ‘choking’ and preperation for jail time. GAG!

as far as reggie bush and usc goes i say nail them to the wall. all games bush played in should be forfeit. bush should no longer be considered a heisman trophy winner and i agree with tony. ban him from ever attending any future events. bar him from voting. also usc should be barred from having any heisman candidates for say 20 years. they knew he was a cheater and they allowed him to accept that trophy under false pretenses

all this begs the question…. usc cheated an won nc’s and heismans. bama cheated and won nc’s and heismans. ugag cheats an their players go to jail.and they are perenial also rans. And it looks like they may win the recruiting nc this year again….

and yet again they will choke against florida every year even with all that talent. tooooooooo funny.

this is the stuff movies are made of.

larry curly moe an ugag play football
dumb dumber and ugagers
florida does athens
rudy goes to jail
urinating in the library for dummies
drunk an disorderly in athens
midnight football players in athens
deep richt

gt gator fan

May 17th, 2010
12:02 pm


May 17th, 2010
12:07 pm

Tony writes: “Hey, it’s complicated and this is one of the most complicated cases ever.”

It’s not about being complicated that slowing down the (flawed) process, it’s about who and what is at stake. The who is a star-studded cast that includes Southern Cal, one of college football’s great programs; Pete Carroll, thought to be a genius college football coach, Reggie Bush, the Heisman Trophy award winner; Mike Garrett, the former USC star who returns as athletic director. The what includes national championships, Heisman Trophies, wins that become losses, scholarship reductions that hobble the program, etc.

The NCAA had not problem hammering SMU, a private school with fewer than 15,000 students and a small alumni base. The NCAA was a little kinder pounding what it probably considered the redneck hicks in Alabama. Will the NCAA have the courage to dish justice equally or will it demonstrate that who you are is more important than what you did wrong? If it follows the latter path, it will confirm that the enforcement system is flawed and probably broken beyond repair. At that point, we should consider dismantling the NCAA and constructing far better and less clubby organization.

– -
“Art will always be Art.” – Goethe


May 17th, 2010
12:08 pm

I don’t think anybody who commented on this story knows the details of the case. The two “gentlemen” (convicted felons) are supposed to have paid the rent for Bush’s parents on an expensive apartment in San Diego. How the USC coaches or athletic department could’ve known about this is beyond me. As Carrol said back in 06, “We watch the kids. Are we supposed to watch their parents now too?”

If the investigating committee is fair, USC will not be punished. And that will lead to howls of indignation from fans of schools who have been on the receiving end of NCAA sanctions. But if you look closely at the case, you’ll know that howling isn’t warranted.

Gil Yard

May 17th, 2010
12:20 pm

I wonder if the NCAA is stalling because they are waiting for a day when their announcement may not be the top news story.
The NBA & NHL championships are coming up as well as the French Open and NASCAR’s All-star events in Charlotte.


May 17th, 2010
12:21 pm

If USC cheated then Auburn will have the national championship they deserved.



May 17th, 2010
12:23 pm

NCAA sanctioins? Should they? YES. Will they? NO. USC is LA”s pro football franchise, money rules so nothing will happen to USC that will hurt. Few if any scholarship losses, No bowl sanctions beause the Rose Bowl folks won’t allow that. No TV sanctions (to much money involved).


May 17th, 2010
12:27 pm

Throw the book at USC!

Special K

May 17th, 2010
12:31 pm

Reality Check! Include Athens in your cities please.