NCF Nation: Mike Ornstein
After talking to many sources familiar with the investigation, it's clear that USC representatives believe the infractions committee didn't treat the program fairly -- not an unusual response from a sanctioned program, by the way -- and the university will take its issues to the Infractions Appeal Committee.
USC has two central contentions: 1. There's only tenuous evidence that connects running backs coach Todd McNair to the would-be sports agents, Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels, who courted Reggie Bush with cash and lavish gifts; 2. That marketing representative Mike Ornstein was falsely named as a representative of USC athletic interests.
From USC's response to the NCAA:
In football, the NCAA Staff has attempted to establish a direct link between USC and the issues surrounding student-athlete 1 in two ways: (l) by pursuing unethical conduct charges against the assistant football coach for allegedly knowing about the benefits and failing to disclose them (Allegations I and 3); and (2) by pursuing a novel and flawed theory that a sports marketing agent became a representative of USC's athletics interests solely as a result of employing three USC student-athletes (including student-athlete l) in the summer of 2005. These allegations against the assistant football coach and USC are not supported by the evidence and should be rejected.
Suffice it to say, USC's defense isn't passive. One might, in fact, call it a bit combative with NCAA investigators.
USC believes the [NCAA] has pursued these weak institutional allegations in football because it recognizes that without a direct institutional link, the allegations surrounding Student-Athlete I involve only amateurism issues with no institutional violation. After 3 1/2 years of intensive public and media scrutiny, including repeated public questions as to why USC football has not yet been "brought to justice" by the NCAA, the pressure to accuse USC of having had actual knowledge of and a direct connection to the alleged impermissible benefits is very real.
In other words, USC believes the NCAA is kowtowing to pressure to make an example out of the school.
USC risks prolonging the controversy with an appeal, and it's unclear which portions of the NCAA's argument it will challenge. An appeal likely wouldn't be resolved until the spring of 2011 -- at the earliest -- so there is a risk in merely pushing the sanctions into the future.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
|Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images|
|Sponsors appear eager to jump on the Michael Crabtree bandwagon.|
We all know that Michael Crabtree was the most adept receiver in the history of the Big 12.
His new representatives also believe that Crabtree will easily morph into the role of a major product spokesman once his professional football career begins.
Crabtree has a quick smile and an engaging personality that should be ideal for commercial interests.
His marketing representative, Mike Ornstein, believes that Crabtree's football abilities will resonate with consumers.
"Michael Crabtree is the Reggie Bush of this draft," Ornstein told Liz Mullen of the SportsBusiness Journal in an article reprinted in this morning's Sporting News Today. "The same model we used for Reggie Bush, we're going to use (for Crabtree.)"
Ornsten told Mullen that he's already received strong interest from all four major shoe companies for Crabtree, who is projected as the top receiver in the upcoming NFL draft after winning back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards with the Red Raiders.
Independent marketer Peter Miller told Mullen that Crabtree's football abilities give him more cache than any available player.
"I don't see anybody in this draft who makes you go 'Wow' other than Crabrtree," Miller said. "He is the one guy coming into this draft with a lot of hype."
Crabtree designed a line of clothing while in college. Would it be out of the realm of possibility that his tastes would morph into a mass-marketer's dream in a few years?
Not if he's as good a player in the NFL as he was the last two seasons at Texas Tech.