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Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Does this mean eventual closure for Bush-USC case?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Does this short news story mean there will eventually -- and perhaps in the near term -- be closure in the seemingly endless Reggie Bush-USC investigation?

Maybe.

Bush losing his attempt to force confidential arbitration to settle a lawsuit filed by a would-be sports agent means that testimony -- if it happens -- will be documented and made public.

That means Bush and other deposed witnesses could be compelled to make on-the-record statements under oath about their knowledge of whether the running back received cash and gifts while playing for the Trojans.

Lloyd Lake is suing Bush, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints, and his parents to recoup nearly $300,000 in cash and gifts they allegedly accepted during Bush's sophomore and junior seasons at USC in 2004 and 2005.

Potential witnesses include Michael Michaels, Lake’s former partner and the owner of the house where Bush’s family lived in 2005. Michaels and Bush settled out of court in 2007, with Michaels agreeing to a confidentiality clause.

But the issue for USC is the NCAA.

The biggest reason that the NCAA's long-running investigation has been, well, so long-running is that it lacks subpoena power. It can't compel Bush, his family or other associates -- such as Michaels -- to talk about what happened because they are no longer under NCAA jurisdiction. The Pac-10 and NCAA have talked to Lake, coach Pete Carroll and other folks at USC but they haven't been able to question Bush and his family.

Lake's lawyer now, apparently, will get to do that. And that will be material the NCAA can use in its investigation of the USC athletic program.

This is what the NCAA has been waiting for: The court case to move forward (though Bush's lawyer told reporters he plans to ask that the case be dismissed on summary judgment).

There are two key issues here.
  1. Can it be proven that USC coaches were aware that Bush was receiving money and gifts?
  2. Or, even if it can't be proven, does the evidence suggest that USC should have known and didn't "know" because it lacked sufficient oversight?

At this point, the evidence is slim to nonexistent -- at least evidence that has been reported -- that USC coaches were aware of Bush's dealings with Lake. The testimony Lake's lawyers might collect, however, could augment the Bush and other NCAA investigations at USC.

The NCAA also is investigating alleged improper cash and gifts provided to former Trojans basketball player O.J. Mayo. Moreover, running back Joe McKnight was forced to sit out the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 26 because of allegations he was using an SUV that was registered to a local businessman that employed his girlfriend.

The totality of these investigations -- so much smoke, there's got to be fire -- could lead to the dreaded general finding of a lack of institutional control. That could mean major sanctions.

Or it might not.

Still, the court ruling seems to be doing something that hasn't been done in months with the Bush case: Taking a step toward an endgame.