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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The NCAA has combined its investigations of Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo -- former football and basketball stars -- into a single probe of the Trojans' athletic program, the Los Angeles Times reported.
What does this mean?
If you're a bigger fan of USC football than basketball, it should feel worrisome.
The individuals who allegedly gave Bush cash and gifts and a rent-free home for his parents were anonymous outsiders, two men trying to become sports agents. Unless the NCAA is going to pull a rabbit out of its investigative hat, all reported connections or interactions with these men and the Trojans' football program were scant and tenuous.
In other words, it didn't completely strain credulity that the coaching staff claimed ignorance.
The Mayo case had a different feel. Basketball coach Tim Floyd and his staff knew Rodney Guillory, a Los Angeles events promoter who allegedly was receiving monthly payments from the Northern California sports agency Bill Duffy Associates. They knew of the close relationship between Guillory and Mayo. They knew Mayo was a risky player to bring into the program.
By connecting the two cases, the NCAA appears to be now reviewing these investigations as systemic problems within USC's athletic department.
Yes, we're talking about the dreaded "lack of institutional control."
Or as ESPN's Pat Forde wrote in May when "Outside the Lines" broke the Mayo story: "So you take the Bush allegations, add a side of Mayo and ask the question: Has there ever been a more textbook definition of 'lack of institutional control'?'"
Which means potential penalties could include scholarship cuts, postseason bans, victories erased from the record book, etc., -- all the big ones.
USC officials would be quick to point out -- if they would talk specifically about these investigations at this point, which, of course, they won't -- that these are not accusations of pay-for-play.
These agents, the USC argument would go, are rogues working against the interests of the athletic program. Not only that, it's a misdemeanor in the state for sports agents and their representatives to provide cash or gifts to student-athletes.
The athletic department will throw up its collective hands and say completely monitoring the private lives of its athletes in a big city like L.A. is nearly impossible.
And it may hope that the lesser violation of "failure to monitor" comes out when the NCAA finishes its investigation.