Saturday, July 24, 2010

USC's Shady Dealings: A fan's rant

Lots going on in the City. And as I am forced to watch the Lindsey Lohan foolishness play out on all media everywhere, my angst and attention goes toward the unfolding drama over at the University of Southern California... The effects of being banned from bowl games and other severe sanctions as a result of the school's violations of NCAA rules were a bit shocking and disappointing. Mike Garrett "retires" after 17 years as Athletic Director. All references, salutations and commendations to Reggie Bush and basketball player OJ Mayo on campus are wiped away. Including the return of  Reggie's 2005 Heisman Trophy to the Heisman Trust.

USC President Mikia said in a statement, “The Trojan family honors and respects the USC sporting careers of those persons whose actions did not compromise their athletic program or the opportunities of future USC student-athletes. Accordingly, I have instructed the senior vice president for administration to remove athletic jerseys and murals displayed in recognition of O.J. Mayo and Reggie Bush by mid-August – before the incoming class of students moves on campus – from Heritage Hall, the Galen Center , and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The university will also return Mr. Bush’s 2005 Heisman Trophy to the Heisman Trophy Trust in August.”

Dag. Persona Non Grata at the university you led to national championships. SMH....

And no, I am not an alum of USC, however I have always loved their football team - particularly because we do not have a professional football team in Los Angeles. The Trojans are the city's team. National Championships. Top contenders. Football fans in LA look forward to Saturday afternoons.

Reggie Bush was a hero around town, even as he was a college player. His number 5 was prominent around the City as urbanites rocked his jersey... He was the man around here... But even so, over the years, it didn't matter much who came out of the backfield, the USC Trojans always contended for the top and they are OUR team.... LA's team. The top QB's.... The top tailbacks, wide receivers, lineman... our team - LA's football team was the bomb....

It is painful to hear the news of improprieties in the athletic work of  USC. We didn't win it fair and square... I mean this is a slap in the face of the citizens here in the City of Champions(ok, Inglewood is the City of Champions I know, but that was then and this is now....)

I suppose we would be foolish to assume that college sports is this squeaky clean administration. Let's face it. Schools are making millions in ticket sales, concessions, and merchandising. The television and radio rights are HUGE revenue streams for the University. The fight to recruit and retain the best athletes in the land is ferocious and cut-throat. To be the best in your conference and yet best in the land means millions and millions of dollars. And as it is written, money is the root of all evil.

For the player, to be courted and recruited by major universities is an alluring opportunity especially if they come from humble roots. Just think of the neighborhood kid from the 'hood, playing football, mom and dad struggling to make ends meet. The kid has a gift and is heavily recruited. USC calls. Now the kid has a chance to attend one of the finest universities in the land, gain a top notch education and play before one of the largest audiences in the world. Suddenly, the kid and his loved ones are exposed to unmitigated adoration, boundless perks and unbridled excitement - all the sensory overload that comes with starring center stage... The temptations and opportunities to accept or participate in the finer things of life as offered by wealthy and influential people (aka alumni) is difficult to resist. If the need is for a car, who are we to refuse? A house? cool. Cash? now this we can keep on the low, but heck yeah!!!

Besides, they probably would not have time or interest to go back and consult a lawyer or counselor each and every time such an opportunity arises. After all, to accept these things as gifts, benefits or incentives to stay and play are highly illegal in the NCAA. There are rules and standards in place to preserve the integrity of the college student athlete. Rules and Standards that should help keep the focus on the student's academic success while supporting their athletic success. but alas..... the evil that men do.....

I cannot help but feel the pain of being stripped of  national championships. I am disappointed that the team has been from post season play including bowl games for two years. I wince from the notion that the school returned the Heisman Trophy presented to Reggie Bush. His number and any reference to him removed from the hall of champions. He is in the same category as OJ Simpson. Campus hero. College Football superstar, stripped of all recognition on the campus where he was the center of attention.  Persona Non Grata.

As for OJ Mayo, USC announced that it had determined Mayo was ineligible for the 2007-2008 season because he received improper benefits. As a result, USC vacated all 21 of its wins from the 2007-08 season, dropping its record to 0-12. A vacated game does not count as a win for the other team, but is officially treated as having never happened. USC also withdrew from postseason consideration (including the Pac-10 conference tournament) for the 2009-10 season. A winless season. Persona Non Grata.

The debate of whether Coach Pete Carrol knew of the coming sanctions is an interesting sidebar. It is kind of suspect that he took a pro football coaching gig just before this stuff hit the fan... The "retirement" of Mike Garrett saves face for both the school. It's time for him... after all 17 years is a long time and he's done his due.... time to move on.... take this cash and go play golf.

Whether money and benefits should be paid to student athletes is another vociferous debate.

OJ is now playing with the Memphis Grizzlies enjoying millions and building himself into a solid player in the NBA. He's not hurting from this one bit.

Reggie. Here he is kicking it with Kim Kardahsian. On the rise as the running back on the sentimental favorite team in America. Just coming off a championship season... On a team that was just awarded the ESPY for best team of any sport in America.... Reggie's got it all going on!!! He got his education. At one of America's finest schools. He's on the cover of magazines. He's in the spotlight.... a rising star.... He's not hurting from this.

What about the guys coming up behind him?? Those who reveled in his exploits, made life decisions based on what he did on the field and very probably what he said during the recruitment phase. The students who are now locked into a school that cannot compete. a school that cannot win even if they win. Imagine going undefeated only to be unable to play in the championship.  Shameful.

Reggie's business dealings are obviously messy. And so the gauntlet has to fall. But he will not feel the pain. the young ones who came up behind him.. the innocents will have to pay the price for his mess. OJ followed the counsel of greed and unscrupulous people.. and now the innocents have to pay.