Pac-12: O.J. Mayo

Mailbag: Ohio State fan holiday wishes

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
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Other than USC fans celebrating the return of Matt Barkley, there was a lot of sourness in the pre-Christmas mailbag.

You can follow me on Twitter here.

To the notes!

Mark Twinbridges, Mont., writes: Have you read the full NCAA report on the two schools [USC and Ohio State]? I cannot believe you would write such an inane piece if you had read the reports. Comparing the OSU situation to the USC violations is like comparing a dog to a rabid wolf. USC used impermissible benefits to recruit, that strikes at the very heart of NCAA rules. Then the university hindered the investigation at every turn.

Ted Miller: Yes, I have read both reports.

You wrote: "USC used impermissible benefits to recruit." Wrong.

You wrote: "Then the university hindered the investigation at every turn." Wrong.

You made two points. Both were wrong. And if you had read the USC report, or really any news stories about USC's NCAA violations, you would know that.

But I am sorry that you found my story "inane."

Interlude... (insert sigh).

Yes, the mailbag was inundated with angry rants from Ohio State fans this week. It was frustrating. Not because I was repeatedly called names. I've grown to enjoy that part of this job for some perhaps masochistic reason. No, it was because the amount of factually incorrect assertions was mind-numbing. Sure, a lot of it was Buckeyes fans who are of the "my school, wrong or right, I don't care about the truth, I just attack, attack, attack anyone who doesn't subscribe to my worldview" sort of fans. Every team has those, and they are part of the wonderful tapestry of college football.

But what bothered me was the number of seemingly intelligent folks who just don't know what they are talking about. Many of you may recall that some weeks ago, I wrote I was done dealing with the amount of ignorance surrounding USC's case with the NCAA. It was time to move on. I am so sick of writing about USC's NCAA case. I really, really wanted to move on. But, alas, I can not.


Jay from San Diego writes: At first I thought your article was meant in a joking manner. Then I realized you were actually being serious. I'm sure some of the people who follow you will eat your "piece" up but it appears blatantly misinformed & devoid of intelligence. The above link regards your article.

Ted Miller: First off, I like Eleven Warriors. Probably one of the best fan blogs out there. I even appreciate a mostly gentle touch while they ripped apart my article.

But here's the problem: The very first line of critique is factually incorrect. "A player getting over $X00,000 in impermissible benefits." No USC player got that. Reggie Bush's parents lived for free in a fancypants house in San Diego provided by would-be agents, but it's a matter of record that extra benefits provided to Bush didn't approach $100,000. A minor distinction? Well, the distinction between player and parent certainly worked out for Auburn and Cam Newton in 2010.

It is correct that I often used "patronizing closed door language." That is because the door is closed. When I wrote "everybody in college sports knows" USC was treated unfairly, it was an overstatement to make a clear point that just about everybody knows this. I've talked to many, many people who have a professional awareness of USC's case. I've talked to people who sat in the room with the NCAA's Committee on Infractions hearing with USC. Everybody thinks USC got screwed, not just USC folks. And, when I've talked to folks who might say differently, I've always been able to easily win the ensuing argument by stating the facts.

I don't intend that to sound arrogant. It's not brilliant rhetorical ability. It's the facts. Let me show you an example of facts.

Eleven Warriors includes this link, which is a comparison done by another Ohio State fan site of Ohio State's case with USC's and others before the NCAA.

Eleven Warriors writes this: "And 'impossible not to conclude Ohio State case was far more severe.'? USC's took four years to complete, largely in part because USC stifled the investigation. Ohio State's was done in under a year."

The link provided by Eleven Warriors, however, includes this: "While the mainstream media has been trying hard to push the 'USC fought the NCAA' meme, it's absolutely not true. USC’s former student athletes, and the agents and representatives therein, may not have worked with the NCAA, but the University absolutely did. That is even expressed (apparently) in the Notice of Allegations, where the NCAA thanked USC for their help and support. In fact, pages 56 and 57 of the NCAA Public Infractions Report."

So ... facts, you know?

How did the "USC didn't cooperate" storyline begin? Well, it likely emerged from a perception of USC's self-defense. USC administrators found it difficult to stomach the idea that they were supposed to know what was going on in San Diego with a player's parents and men who were: 1) unaffiliated with the school; 2) not even actual agents who might be known in the industry.

Yes, USC was not obsequious. Yes, USC, in fact, aggressively defended itself. Yes, USC, in fact, probably hurt it self by actually WINNING THE ARGUMENT.

From the link and written by an Ohio State fan: "For the most part, USC makes a fantastic case regarding the issues that it denied wrong doing..." and, "It is easy to believe that USC got hammered beyond what they deserved."

I'm not going to spend 1,500 words debating the particulars of the Ohio State case. After coach Jim Tressel was sacked, it seemed the sanctions the Buckeyes received were not unreasonable. My point was merely they made the ruling against USC even more unreasonable. And, yes, I think the Ohio State case was worse than USC's, and if you cleared a room of Buckeyes and Trojans fans and asked folks to make a ruling, I suspect they'd agree.

Let me share a story that will annoy USC fans but many will find interesting. During a flight delay last year, I was cornered at an airport by an administrator from a major program outside the Pac-12. He made fun of me as a "USC fanboy" because of my rants against the NCAA ruling against the Trojans. But we started talking. Turned out he agreed with just about all my points. (He just didn't like USC.)

He told me, after some small talk and off-the-record, that "everybody" thought USC got screwed. He said that he thought the NCAA was trying to scare everyone with the ruling, but subsequent major violations cases put it in a pickle.

Then he told me that USC was punished for its "USC-ness," that while many teams had closed down access -- to media, to fans, etc. -- USC under Pete Carroll was completely open, and that was widely resented. There was a widespread belief the national media fawned on USC because of this. Further, more than a few schools thought that the presence of big-time celebrities, such as Snoop Dogg and Will Ferrell, at practices and at games constituted an unfair recruiting advantage for the Trojans.

It wasn't against the rules, but everyone hated it. This, as he assessed his own smell test, was a subtext of the so-called atmosphere of noncompliance that the NCAA referred to -- an atmosphere that oddly yielded very few instances of noncompliance around the football program even after a four-year NCAA investigation.

But you'll note that Snoop and Will are no longer hanging around USC, which now has strict access guidelines.

Another point people keeping making to me: USC's case involved three sports and involved a lack of institutional control. That is not an invalid point, but this is the Pac-12 football blog. It doesn't cover basketball or tennis. And the violations connected to the basketball recruitment of O.J. Mayo shouldn't have, say, cost USC an extra 15 football scholarships. That's not how the process works, based on NCAA policy.

Anyway. The pointlessness of debating moot points was supposed to be the gist of my original column. What's done is done; all this is academic. Some Ohio State fans will read this and go, "Oh, interesting." But many others will simply go, "Idiot." And that's fine.

But, Buckeyes fans, would it help if I just wished you a Merry Christmas?


Josh from Fairbury, Neb., writes: Hey Ted, big news for USC with Matt Barkley returning for his senior season. It's a little early, but how do you see the Heisman award situation panning out next year in the Pac-12? I've personally always considered Barkley to as good (if not better) than Andrew Luck. Who else from the Pac-12 conference might be a Heisman hopeful for 2012?

Ted Miller: Barkley is No. 1. If I were to crown a No. 2, it would be Oregon's do-everything offensive weapon De'Anthony Thomas.

It's entirely possible the player who wins the Trojans-Ducks matchup next fall will be headed to New York as a result.


Brian from Kent, Wash., writes: I am trying to find the Pac-12 record book for all passing stats and seeing how close Matt Barkley is to shattering all of them, can you help me out?

Ted Miller: Barkley set the Pac-12 single-season record for TD passes this year with 39, breaking Matt Leinart's mark of 38 set for USC in 2003.

Barkley has 80 career TD passes. He needs 20 in 2012 to break Leinart's conference record of 99 -- which is 14 more than anyone else before him.

Barkley has 9,054 career passing yards. He needs to throw for 2,765 yards to eclipse Carson Palmer's conference record of 11,818.

In other words, unless Barkley gets hurt, he's going to own just about every major career conference passing record by season's end.


Darryl from Oakland writes: I understand the "rah rah" aspect of the SEC, but in reality, shouldn't the USC Trojans be considered the #1 team in the country in the preseason polls for 2012?

Ted Miller: USC likely will get some No. 1 votes but my guess is LSU will be the preseason No. 1. The Tigers' defense has a chance to be even better in 2012 than this year.

And, yes, though it's preposterously early to project, an LSU-USC matchup would be great fun on many levels, including the "rivalry" that was based on LSU finishing No. 2 behind USC in 2003.

Ha! I know at least one head just exploded in Baton Rouge. Some might say that was a split national title.


Garen from Los Angeles writes: Dear Mr. Miller, For the last several years I have dealt with very difficult times in both my professional and personal life. Its hard to find the words to describe how much your blog has meant to me during these times, but it has become much more than just news and entertainment. Day after day, year after year, your blog has provided me with a constant source of escape and relief, and I cant begin to thank you enough for that. I look forward to reading your blog on a daily basis. Than you again for the wonderful job that you do. Happy Holidays and Go Bears!

Ted Miller: Thanks, Garen. You made my day.

The mailbag often highlights people who call the Pac-12 blog names, notes that typically are countered with snarky replies.

But with Christmas coming up this weekend, why not have a nice note to wind things up?
Two interesting articles published Wednesday on USC, which touch on the larger controversies of college football that are barking at us from the headlines seemingly every other day.

The Los Angeles Times' Gary Klein tries to assess the financial damage from USC's Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo scandals. One word: Millions.
This much is clear: The football price tag already runs well into the tens of millions in lost bowl appearances, sagging attendance, attorney fees and other direct and ancillary costs.

Then former LA Times writer and USC player Lonnie White writes about his experiences as a Trojan receiving extra benefits -- or bags of money, if you prefer -- in the 1980s under John Robinson and Ted Tollner.
Once back in his own car, the player smiles when he looks into a small brown bag filled with money. It’s $5,000 cash and it could not have come at a better time.

Sounds like a bad movie. It isn’t. It was life for me when I played college football at the University of Southern California in the 1980s. I wasn’t old enough to drink legally, yet if I was caught, my actions would have had an impact on thousands connected with the program.

To this day, it’s something I’m ashamed about. Rent was overdue and my household bills were delinquent. I needed the money to live. So accepting the $14,000 in different forms of “benefits” over my college years three decades ago was an act of survival.

White seems to believe that more happened in during his time at USC than today because technology makes it more difficult to get away with things.
With today’s media in love with scandals, people would have a field day with some of the “unknown” things that happened within college football programs decades ago.

Everything from $100 handshakes (when players are slipped cash during meet-and-greet events) to sponsored party trips (often featuring women, sex, drugs and alcohol), would be exposed.

But he also writes that he has knowledge of violations going on at present.
I know at least five athletes, who are either a relative or close family friend, who played at the BCS level last season. And they all agree, there’s more rule-breaking going on than people know.

It’s the “dirty secret” of college football that will continue to grow as money and power are connected to the sport.

Obviously, these two stories are related, and they fit in with our present, scandal-ridden time in college football: USC, Ohio State and North Carolina, not to mention the strange situation with Oregon and Willie Lyles.

Big-money ventures are often high risk, high reward. College football is a big-money venture, and cheating to gain an advantage is high risk and high reward.

Further, big stakes often inspire rationalizations at every level that attempt to justify behavior. One thing I've noticed over the past few years: When someone is asked about NCAA rules violations, they reply, "I didn't do anything wrong."

A beautiful non-response.

Did you take money? "I didn't do anything wrong."

Did you provide extra benefits? "I didn't do anything wrong."

Did you steer a player to Program X? "I didn't do anything wrong."

It's not a denial of breaking the rules. And, in the respondent's mind, it's not a lie. Not really. The rules are bad, so breaking them isn't wrong, this thinking goes. Coaches, the NCAA and universities make millions off of sports and the athletes are unpaid. So taking some gifts or money under the table isn't wrong, even if it's against the rules.

And, in a sense, it's not a black act of moral turpitude. It's not like beating up an innocent person just for fun.

Do you always drive the speed limit? Now, think of your sputtering frustration when you get a ticket for going 67 mph in a 55 mph zone. You want to tell the police officer to go stop a real criminal or something, right?

Still, rules are rules, even if the system seems out of whack.

Is there a massive, systemic change that can end corruption and epidemic rules violations in college football? Probably. But it would require a redistribution of wealth, and we know how that goes over in this country. Folks who have it don't like to share it. And we also likely would have to change some laws (read: Title IX).

It's been the wildest offseason I can remember -- at least since last offseason -- and we're not even finished with June. The sport is as exciting and popular as it's ever been. But the enlarged spotlight has revealed the cockroaches scurrying around in the shadows, which is the unpleasant and unintended consequence of that increased popularity.

USC returns Bush's tainted Heisman

July, 20, 2010
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In June, the NCAA ruled running back Reggie Bush retroactively ineligible when he won the Heisman Trophy in 2005 because he was breaking rules by receiving extra benefits from would-be sports agents, so USC is giving back the tainted trophy as part of its plan to disassociate the university from Bush, now with the New Orleans Saints.

That plan of action was made public shortly after USC president-elect Max Nikias announced that Pat Haden would replace Mike Garrett as athletic director, one of a number of other moves intended to improve athletic department oversight.

Nikias also said USC would take down murals featuring Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo, who also broke rules when he received extra benefits, at the Galen Center, Heritage Hall and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In other words, USC is cleaning house. And showing a bit of contrition.

Many might say this: About time.

Instant analysis: NCAA didn't buy USC's defense

June, 10, 2010
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Turns out the NCAA did give USC the Alabama slammer. And then some.

The NCAA hammered USC with sanctions on Thursday, as the Trojans were banned from postseason play for two seasons, lost 30 scholarships over the next three years and must vacate all wins from December 2004 -- the BCS title game included -- through the entirety of the 2005 season.

USC was cited for a lack of institutional control, impermissible inducements, extra benefits, exceeding coach staff limits and unethical conduct by a running backs coach Todd McNair. Because of violations in 2001, the program also was considered a "repeat violator."

The penalties, USC's sixth case of major infractions since 1957, exceed in severity sanctions Alabama received in 2002 and what Washington received in 1993 -- major violations cases you can review here.

USC can appeal the ruling, but then it runs the risk of simply delaying the penalties further into the future.

The first question: Why did the NCAA hit USC so hard with sanctions?

Answer: It didn't buy any of USC's defenses.

  • "The general campus environment surrounding the violations troubled the committee," the report said.
  • "The committee noted that the violations in this case strike at the heart of the NCAA amateurism principal, which states that intercollegiate athletics should be motivated primarily by education and its benefits," the report said.

The 67-page public report recounts a laundry list of extra benefits provided to Reggie Bush and his family, much of which has been widely reported. The committee also found that McNair not only knew about Bush's dealings with would-be agents and sports marketers, he lied about what he knew to NCAA investigators. McNair, whom new coach Lane Kiffin retained as the Trojans running backs coach, is banned from all recruiting activities for a year.

"The committee finds ample reason in the record to question the credibility of the assistant football coach [McNair]," the report said.

The only gesture of mercy: No television ban. Said the report, "The committee seriously contemplated imposing a television ban penalty in this case. However, after careful consideration, it ultimately decided that the penalties below adequately respond to the nature of violations and the level of institutional responsibility."

So what does it mean?

First, there's the embarrassment of the vacated wins, which could mean the BCS takes away the 2004 national title.

But the NCAA obviously wanted to make a strong statement, and the only way to do that is to hit a program where it hurts: The present and future.

Losing 10 scholarships from each of the next three recruiting classes is a significant blow. Losing potential bowl berths for the next two seasons also will be a blow to recruiting as well as school finances.

In other words, these penalties will send the program that has won seven of the past eight Pac-10 titles back to the pack. Will it crush the program? Probably not. But let's just say the Trojans probably won't win the Pac-10 when they are again eligible for the postseason in 2012.

The unfortunate thing is the folks who will suffer most under these penalties -- players who weren't around in 2004 and 2005 -- are not the ones to blame. Most of the principals have moved on to bigger and better things. Bush and O.J. Mayo are NFL and NBA millionaires. Bush's parents, stepfather Lamar Griffin and mother Denise Bush, used their son's fame for profit, breaking NCAA rules in the process, probably couldn't care less. Former coach Pete Carroll signed a five-year, $33 million contract with the Seahawks. Tim Floyd is the basketball coach at UTEP.

USC looked like a slight Pac-10 favorite entering the 2010 season. Now that they are only playing for pride, who knows what the product will look like on the field.

The door is open for another program, or two, to make its move. Further, in 2012, the Trojans will re-enter the race after Pac-10 expansion in a weakened state, which means the opportunity window figures to be open for a few more years.

The NCAA doesn't like to talk about sending a message, but the USC ruling should do just that.

You can run -- or run your program loosely -- but ultimately you can't hide. Even if it takes four years, the NCAA will eventually have its say.

video

Video: OTL -- Man in the Middle

April, 11, 2010
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"Outside the Lines" profiles USC's athletic director, Mike Garrett.

USC makes its case, now NCAA will decide its fate

February, 20, 2010
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- And after three days, they rested. Their case.

USC's hearing before the NCAA infractions committee ended at 6:30 p.m., local time, Saturday, after nine hours of deliberation.

A hotel worker strained to roll away an overloaded cart of documents that included seven boxes and two massive bound folders that contained USC's responses to allegations of NCAA violations for the football and basketball programs.

To be accurate, USC was done -- football coach Lane Kiffin quickly said goodbye and raced to a town car so he could catch a flight back to L.A. -- but the infractions committee's work continued into the evening.

USC's ultimate fate still requires a verdict, which will require further deliberation for the infraction committee at another location. The ultimate ruling won't be made public until a final report is completed. That typically takes six to 10 weeks.

NCAA officials refused to comment afterwards, and USC officials weren't much more forthcoming.

"I can't even say no comment on no comment," USC president Steven Sample joked with reporters, then added. "It will come out. It will be great."

Said USC spokesperson James Grant, "We've been asked by the chairman of the committee not to discuss the proceedings. But we do want to thank the committee and NCAA staff and everyone involved for these proceedings and we are pleased we were able to present our side of the events and we look forward to an outcome and to moving on."

The first two days of the hearings focused on football, with Trojans running backs coach Todd McNair seemingly spending the most time being questioned. McNair reportedly was aware of a relationship between former running back Reggie Bush and a pair of aspiring agents who allegedly provided him with cash and gifts that would break NCAA rules against athletes receiving "extra benefits."

Basketball was the subject on Saturday, with former Trojans coach Tim Floyd appearing before the committee.

ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” reported in May of 2008 that former basketball player O.J. Mayo accepted cash and gifts -- extra benefits -- from Rodney Guillory, who was connected to Bill Duffy Associates Sports Management. Moreover, Floyd was alleged to have provided a $1,000 cash payment to help steer Mayo to USC, according to a Yahoo! Sports report.

"We got the opportunity to present our side of the case," said one of Floyd's lawyers, Jim Darnell.

USC already admitted wrongdoing with the basketball program and sanctioned itself, including a ban on postseason participation, a reduction of scholarships and vacating all of its wins from 2007-08.

However USC chose to contest the allegation against the football program, its ultimate goal is to overcome the perception of a lack of institutional control, which could result in significant sanctions, including scholarship reductions, TV and postseason bans, recruiting restrictions and probation.

Moreover, if USC is found guilty of major violations, the NCAA also could rule that the Trojans are "repeat violators." Per NCAA rules, "An institution shall be considered a 'repeat' violator if the Committee on Infractions finds that a major violation has occurred within five years of the starting date of a major penalty."

The athletic program was last sanctioned in August of 2001, so if the Bush allegations are found to be major violations, they would fall within that time frame.

So a lot is at stake.

David Price, the NCAA's vice president of enforcement, wouldn't discuss any details of the case but he admitted the hearings were "the longest in my 11 years" as an NCAA enforcement officer.

USC athletic director Mike Garrett's only comment afterwards probably reflected sentiments shared by all participants on both sides of the conference room.

"I'm glad it's over," Garrett said.

Of course, it won't be over until the NCAA finally sings.

Floyd calls appearance before NCAA committee 'right thing to do'

February, 20, 2010
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- After nearly eight hours in front of the NCAA infractions committee, former USC basketball coach Tim Floyd, carrying a folder overflowing with hastily gathered papers, walked out of a conference room at the Marriott "The Buttes" resort and shared a handshake and what appeared to be a warm exchange with new Trojans football coach Lane Kiffin.

Floyd hopes the hearing and the handshake afterwards aren't his last contact with college coaching, which is one of the reasons he attended the hearing.

[+] EnlargeTim Floyd
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesFormer USC basketball coach Tim Floyd met with the NCAA infractions committee for nearly eight hours on Saturday.
The other?

"It's the right thing to do," he said.

Floyd, now an assistant coach for the New Orleans Hornets, was shortly hustled away by his lawyers, Jim Darnell and David Scheper, into a waiting elevator.

Floyd appeared before the committee because ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” reported in May, 2008, that his former player, O.J. Mayo, accepted cash and gifts from Rodney Guillory, who was connected to Bill Duffy Associates Sports Management. Moreover, Floyd was alleged to have provided a $1,000 cash payment to help steer Mayo to USC, according to a Yahoo! Sports report.

His lawyers said their intention was to present their side of the case and clear Floyd's name. They said they felt the hearing was fair. While they wouldn't talk about what went on behind closed doors -- or whether things got contentious -- they admitted there were some unexpected twists.

"Over eight hours there are always surprises," Darnell said. "But nothing that big of a deal."

As far as their odds of success, Darnell said he didn't have "the slightest idea."

"I'll know that in two months," he said.

USC already admitted wrongdoing with the basketball program and sanctioned itself, including a ban on postseason participation, a reduction of scholarships and vacating all of its wins from 2007-08.

While the details aren't available -- USC's status as a private institutions allows it to keep NCAA allegations from public scrutiny -- it's fair to say USC's version of events and Floyd's version don't match.

In fact, in recent interviews with the LA Times and New Orleans Times-Picayune, Floyd talked about how he believed USC athletic director Mike Garrett made him the program's scapegoat.

"Mike's reputation took precedence over the truth," he told the newspapers.

Floyd and his lawyers left at 3:30 p.m., local time, but the hearings continued.

Former football coach Pete Carroll was interviewed on Thursday. Current running backs coach Todd McNair, who allegedly was aware of former running back Reggie Bush's dealings with a couple of would-be sports agents, was interviewed Thursday and all day Friday.

When the committee is finished with USC, it will reconvene -- at an "undisclosed location," NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn said -- to evaluate the testimony and reach a verdict.

That could last well into the evening, and it remains possible that the committee won't be able to finish its business.

But, when the elevator doors closed behind Floyd, the last of the star witnesses departed.

USC faces NCAA for day in 'court'

February, 17, 2010
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After a seemingly endless investigation -- four years, actually -- USC will square off with the NCAA enforcement staff Thursday in Tempe, Ariz., and by the end of the weekend the college sports world will learn ...

Probably not a whole lot.

The NCAA's ultimate ruling won't be announced for a while -- anywhere from six to 10 weeks, though perhaps longer -- so the fate of USC's football and basketball programs will remain in limbo until at least the spring.

If you're looking for a good story on what USC might face during the hearing, read this LA Times piece. If you want all the details of the procedures of an NCAA infractions hearing, you can find that here.

As for the members of the infractions committee, you can see them here.

As for what's at stake, read on.

What is this all about again?

While it's possible that NCAA investigators found other violations within the USC athletic department, four known issues will be contended.

  • In April 2006, Yahoo! Sports reported Trojans running back Reggie Bush and his family were provided cash and gifts -- extra benefits -- by a pair of would-be sports agents who wanted to represent Bush when he turned pro.
  • ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” reported in May of 2008 that basketball player O.J. Mayo accepted cash and gifts -- extra benefits -- from Rodney Guillory, who was connected to Bill Duffy Associates Sports Management.* Moreover, former Trojans basketball coach Tim Floyd was alleged to have provided a $1,000 cash payment to help steer Mayo to USC, according to a Yahoo! Sports report.
  • The LA Times reported in December that running back Joe McKnight was using a 2006 Land Rover that belonged to a Santa Monica, Calif., businessman who employed McKnight's girlfriend.
  • These allegations, as well as any other possible violations that might be reported, will be assessed to see if the total constitutes a "lack of institutional control" or a less severe charge of "failure to monitor" for the USC athletic department.

*USC's basketball program already self-sanctioned itself. The NCAA could accept these penalties or decide to augment them.

What is USC's position?

USC will claim coaches and administrators had no knowledge of Bush's and his family's relationship with agents. They likely will point to the contrast in alleged football and basketball violations and their subsequent response. The basketball violations, which involve pay-for-play allegations -- about the worst violation there is -- were dealt with swiftly and with substantial, self-sanctioned penalties, including Floyd being forced out. The Bush allegation involve individuals with no connection to the athletic department. They could, in fact, be viewed as individuals working against USC's interest to lure Bush to the professional ranks a year early. As for the McKnight allegations about the Land Rover, the businessman involved, Scott Schenter, said the Land Rover belongs to McKnight's girlfriend and that he is a Washington fan with no interest in representing McKnight or other athletes.

USC likely will admit some shortcomings in oversight, but will aggressively defend itself against charges that the program lacks institutional control.

What's at stake?

The past, present and the future, with USC focused on the latter two.

As for the past, Bush could be ruled retroactively ineligible. USC could be forced to forfeit wins in the record book, which subsequently could include Pac-10 titles. Further, BCS officials could strip the Trojans of their 2004 national title. Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy also could be at risk.

That's not pretty, but USC will fight harder for the present and future. NCAA penalties that could affect those include scholarship reductions, TV and postseason bans, recruiting restrictions and probation.

If USC is found guilty of major violations, the NCAA also could rule that the Trojans are "repeat violators." Per NCAA rules, "An institution shall be considered a 'repeat' violator if the Committee on Infractions finds that a major violation has occurred within five years of the starting date of a major penalty."

USC's athletic program was last sanctioned in August of 2001, so if the Bush allegations are found to be major violations, they would fall within that time frame.

What's going to happen?

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has said that he doesn't believe the USC football team will get hammered with severe sanctions.

Fans of other college football teams -- inside the Pac-10 as well as across the country -- are hoping otherwise.

Will the NCAA put the brakes on the Trojans juggernaut?

See you in the spring.

McKnight might play in Emerald Bowl after all

December, 24, 2009
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Some good news for USC?

Trojans running back Joe McKnight will resume practicing with his teammates today in San Francisco as they prepare for the Emerald Bowl against Boston College on Saturday.

McKnight, who arrived in San Francisco late Wednesday night, has not been cleared to play, but coach Pete Carroll called his return "a most favorable sign."

"Joe did everything he needed to do compliance-wise in L.A., so it was the right thing to get him up here right away," Carroll said in a statement.

McKnight practiced with the Trojans on Monday but remained in Southern California through Wednesday to be available for the university's investigation concerning his use of a 2006 Land Rover that allegedly was provided to his girlfriend by a Santa Monica businessman, a potential violation of NCAA rules.

"We'll just play it out and see what happens from here," Carroll said. "In the meantime, it's great to have Joe back with us."

One would assume USC, which already is under investigation for cases involving former football player Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo, would be cautious about reinstating McKnight. Unless, that is, the school is certain that the NCAA and the Pac-10 will find no wrong-doing.

It's always good for any team to get its starting running back back, particularly one with McKnight's game-breaking talent. But the junior's return also would figure to boost morale around a program that's taken more than a few shots of late.

Still, it remains to be seen if McKnight suits up Saturday evening. Again, one would think USC would take no chances because of other NCAA issues.

Report: USC may have violated NCAA coaching rules

July, 30, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

USC used a former NFL coach in 2008 who wasn't on the official staff to help its special-teams play, and that arrangement may have violated NCAA rules about employing coaching consultants, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

The Times reported:

The new issue involves the employment of Pete Rodriguez, who has coached for several professional franchises. In an interview with The Times, he acknowledged that he attended USC practices, monitored games and offered Carroll behind-the-scenes advice on matters ranging from the needs of individual players to avoiding penalties during punt returns.

This could become another part of the ongoing NCAA and Pac-10 investigations into USC's football and basketball programs that are rooted in accusations that improper benefits were provided to former running back Reggie Bush and guard O.J. Mayo.

USC makes statement on NCAA investigations

June, 11, 2009
6/11/09
10:07
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

It's long. And there's no breaking news.

But here's what USC, via statements from Todd Dickey, USC Senior Vice President for Administration, and Mike Garrett, USC Athletic Director, had to say about recent stories that it was avoiding the reality of NCAA investigations concerning Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo.

Dickey

My office is heading up USC's part of the investigation of these allegations. Since the allegations surfaced, USC has been working closely with the NCAA and the Pac-10 in an attempt to get to the truth.

In conjunction with the NCAA and the PAC-10 we have already interviewed approximately 50 people and spent many hundreds of hours investigating these allegations.

We have no idea how long this investigation will continue, and no one is more anxious to bring this process to a conclusion than we are -- but we remain committed to getting to the truth.

USC has participated in every interview -- except those few from which we were excluded. Our exclusion from these interviews mainly stemmed from demands from those making allegations against our student-athletes, insisting that no one from USC be present.

We have cooperated and worked together with the NCAA and Pac-10 every step of the way during this process and we intend to continue to do so.

We understand the desire of the University's supporters, the media and the public to know as much as they can, as soon as they can -- but unfortunately, we cannot comment on any aspect of the investigation until it is complete.

There are a number of reasons for this:

First, as I mentioned earlier, the investigation is ongoing. Announcing or publicizing information about the investigation or what has been discovered in one interview before all of the individuals you intend to interview have been interviewed, could pollute or influence another person's recollection, as well as the final conclusions of the investigation.

Second, until the investigation is complete -- or there is enough information to reach a definitive conclusion -the conclusion could change.

Then, of course, there is the privacy of the individuals involved and the fact that NCAA rules require us to maintain the confidentiality of the investigation until the investigation is complete.

While as I said earlier, we are not going to comment on what we have learned until the investigation is complete, I do feel obligated to correct a couple of things that have been reported in the media.

Specifically, reports with respect to USC's attempts to contact Lloyd Lake or Louis Johnson or participate in their interviews have been inaccurate.

In fact, USC repeatedly asked to participate in the NCAA's interview of Mr. Lake. However, Mr. Lake and his attorneys refused to allow the University to participate in either his interview or the interviews of his relatives.

It is correct that USC sent a letter to Mr. Lake's attorney requesting an interview - which was later obtained by the Los Angeles Times - but neither Mr. Lake nor his attorney agreed to that request.

The statement that USC has not interviewed Louis Johnson is also false. Mr. Johnson has twice been interviewed jointly by USC, the NCAA, and the Pac-10. Any suggestion that USC has not taken these allegations seriously and investigated them thoroughly is simply wrong.

We are very proud of what we have accomplished at USC, in the classrooms, on the athletic fields and in our broader community. We take our responsibility for the guardianship of this institution very seriously and we are committed to getting to the bottom of these allegations.

And Garrett:

There has been some speculation in the media that I have not been talking about allegations that the University violated NCAA or PAC-10 rules in the Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo matters because we want to keep our heads down or we have something to protect.

Believe me. No one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than I do.

No one wants to find out what happened - to get to the truth more than me.

No one would like to get this information out and put this whole thing behind us, more than I do.

But there is a process - and that process is dictated by the NCAA rules and making sure that the investigation is conducted in a manner that will ensure that we indeed do get to the truth.

Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding, I want to be absolutely clear.

I -- We --- take these allegations very seriously. People who say that we have something to protect are partially right. What we have to protect is the integrity of the athletic department. And that means doing this right. And that is what we are doing.

Internally, our investigation is being headed by our Chief Administrative Officer, a very capable individual of the highest integrity. He and his team have worked extremely hard to get to the truth - and they are continuing their efforts to achieve this result.

When the University confirmed Coach Floyd's announcement that he had resigned, I stated that we would immediately begin the process of finding a new head coach. We have already begun that process.

We have very high standards for our athletic department, staff and students. And we expect - no, we demand - that everyone associated with the department live up to these standards.

Opening the mailbag: Tebow exhaustion in the Pac-10?

May, 15, 2009
5/15/09
6:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

First, lots of feedback on my restaurant recommendations for the ultimate Pac-10 road trip.

I tried to go for diversity: seafood, Italian, Pan-Asian, French, steaks, cheap, pricey, frou frou, local institutions, etc.

Some of you took real offense to certain choices ... ouch!

As for those who don't like Adam's Place in Eugene, Ore., are you aware that it's the headquarters of the Eugene Martini Association!

I'm not going to just sit here and listen to you badmouth the home of the Eugene Martini Association, an organization that does so much good in the world, trying to help as many people as possible get the martinis they need!

[Sob.]

To your letters.

Cam from Albany, Ore., wrote: When comparing the spring production of Oregon against the tangible talent at USC, which school is deeper at QB for 2009?

Ted Miller: Interesting question.

USC has three quarterbacks who are more physically talented -- in terms of NFL possibilities, at least -- than any Oregon quarterback.

Oregon has Jeremiah Masoli, who's the top returning quarterback in the Pac-10, and Justin Roper, who has a lot of game experience.

None of USC's three quarterbacks -- Aaron Corp, Mitch Mustain or Matt Barkley -- owns significant experience running a Pac-10 offense. (Mustain's experience as a true freshman at Arkansas doesn't count for much; see his struggles with USC's pro-style offense.)

Oregon's third and perhaps fourth options are Darron Thomas and Nate Costa, if he's healthy. Hopes were high for Costa last year before he suffered another serious knee injury, and Thomas is the quarterback of the future.

Seems to me both schools are fairly set at the position. But heading into 2008, I'd take Masoli over anyone else in the conference.


Daniel from Cypress, Calif., writes: What are you hearing about the new PAC-10 commish, about making decisions that will promote viewing of PAC-10 football nationally and what do you see him doing about contributing to changing the BCS?

Ted Miller: You don't need to wait to hear from Larry Scott. Outgoing commissioner Tom Hansen told the Orange County Register this week that there have been discussions about starting a "Pac-10 network," similar to what the Big Ten has already done.

Way -- WAY -- preliminary. But it shows that the Pac-10 is finally, due to revenue woes, looking to get creative in the ways the league markets itself.

As for Scott, it's too early to know how he might change things. He's been laying low, and truth is he probably has no idea what he's going to do. Bottom line is he serves the will of the school presidents, most of whom seem dead-set against change.

And I think the Pac-10 is a long way from joining the revolt against the BCS.


Brian from Parts Unknown writes: With the recent news about Floyd at USC possibly giving Mayo's handler $1000 and the NCAA combining the basketball and football probes of USC, I am starting to believe USC will get more than a slap on the wrist. What do you make of this? What penalties would you guess will be coming if the latest allegations are true?

Ted Miller: What has been reported on the basketball side of things is significantly different than what has been reported on the football side.

This is a football blog, so I'm going to leave the Tim Floyd-O.J. Mayo mess to other folks to sort out.

As for football, as I have previously stated: It will come down to whether the NCAA finds that USC knew -- or should have known -- about Reggie Bush's relationship with a pair of would-be agents who were allegedly giving him money and gifts.

The evidence to support the notion that any USC coach had direct knowledge is scant. It basically amounts to an allegation that running backs coach Todd McNair socialized with Bush one night in San Diego when the would-be agents were around and claims by the would-be agents that they were allowed in the USC locker room after games.

Having been in the USC locker room many times, I can only say ... who isn't inside the freaking USC locker room after a game?

And, by the way, both Lloyd Lake's and Michael Michaels' lawyers said early in the case that they had no direct evidence that USC knew what was going on, according to the book, "Tarnished Heisman."

Where USC football, however, might be found most culpable is lax oversight.

Will that, combined with the basketball allegations, amount to the dreaded "lack of institutional control"? We shall see. The odds it will are certainly better than they were a few months ago.


Ryan from Austin writes: I really enjoy the blog. It is a nice dose of reality as a Trojan fan in Austin, TX. And for those wondering, coming back to Austin after flying out to Pasadena for the 2006 Rose Bowl was absolutely brutal. Vince Young SI cover everywhere for what seemed like months...wait, it was months. I digress but do have a question... Can USC get to the BCS championship game with one loss? I know there are numerous factors outside their control, but I'm curious if you think an early season loss to Cal or Ohio State ends their title game chances.

Ted Miller: Sure. As you say, a lot factors in -- other one-loss teams, USC's ranking when it loses and who it loses to, the Pac-10's top-to-bottom strength, etc.

What the Trojans need if they lose once is for the teams on their schedule to do well, the Pac-10 as well as Ohio State and Notre Dame. And it would help if the Trojans lone loss comes before November, or even mid-October.

If the Pac-10 makes a strong showing against another difficult slate off nonconference games and seven teams earn bowl eligibility, then USC probably would have a strong case with one loss.


Nate from Pleasanton, Calif., writes: If Stanford's Toby Gerhart does declare for the MLB draft who would you expect to step up for the Cardinal and how well do you think they would perform to keep the standards for rushing that were set with last years rushing attack?

Ted Miller: The good news for Stanford fans is it's starting to look like Gerhart will be back.

If Gerhart does bolt, however, Jeremy Stewart would be first in line, with a trio of incoming freshmen -- Tyler Gaffney, Usua Amanam and Stepfan Taylor -- finding themselves in the midst of an outstanding opportunity.

Moreover, coach Jim Harbaugh couldn't stop gushing about Alex Debniak this spring. He's going to double as a lineba
cker and running back.

As big an issue for the running game is filling some holes on the offensive line.


Van from Pahrump, Nev., writes: For context, I'm a rabid USC fan. I fully agree that Tim Tebow is already an all-time college great, possessed of justifiably admired awesome football skills and charismatic leadership abilities. But I really don't get the degree of unmitigated fawning over him that seems to universally anoint him as the "best ever." May I be so bold as to ask what ever happened to Vince Young? You know, that Texas QB who apparently played- and only modestly at that- many, many decades ago. I do not think any player in college history ever had an incredible performance like Vince did in the vs. Michigan Rose Bowl- and THEN came his even better performance against USC!

Ted Miller: If you've come expecting me to tweak Tim Tebow, you, my friend, are in the wrong place.

Two national championships. A Heisman Trophy and a third-place finish.

And another year in which Florida is expected to at least play for another championship.

Vince Young was wonderful in a pair of Rose Bowls. In fact, I'm not sure if his twin performances weren't the best bowl performance combination in college football history.

But Tebow has a chance, if he wins a third national title, to instantly become one of college football's all-time greats.

And, you know, he seems like a heck of a guy to me.


Manny from Scottsdale writes: Ted, Where do you hear [Arizona State quarterback Danny] Sullivan is a heavy favorite? He was horrible Spring Game and can't move. When I read ESPN I expect to hear good evaluation. Who are you getting that info from? ASU needs anything but Sullivan and we all saw it but you I guess?

Ted Miller: Dennis Erickson. Where did you hear differently?

Opening the mailbag: Players, player hating and Stendhal

April, 17, 2009
4/17/09
6:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Good afternoon. On the Pac-10 blog it's always happy hour.

To your notes!

Steve from Tucson writes: If the WSU vs. UW model works, do you think this will carry over to a potential ASU vs. UA @ University of Phoenix Stadium? My view is that there are enough U of A fans in the Phoenix area + Tucsonans willing to travel to carry the game. Students are tough to draw during the "traditional" thanksgiving weekend game so I don't think they would get ripped off very much by moving the game to Glendale (AZ).

Alex from Las Vegas writes: I think the rest of the Pac-10 should follow the Apple Cups lead and hold the big in-state rivalry on a neutral field. It would balance the number of home and away games for the conference season, neutral site games always have a great atmosphere and it would underscore the fact that the Pac-10 has the best rivalries in college football.

Ted Miller: Hmm. Is it possible I have become a stick-in-the-mud traditionalist?

I recoiled when I first read the proposal to move the Apple Cup to Qwest Field. Maybe the idea of not being able to go to the Coug and watch Chad Eaton flick beer on purple-clad Huskies fans any more made me sad.

Lots of folks agree with me. But lots of folks apparently disagree (see above).

My take is rivalry games are best when they are on-campus. Sure, Florida and Georgia and Oklahoma and Texas have great traditions with off-campus, neutral sites. But, to me, those are the exceptions.

But, as in many things, I could be in a minority.

What do you guys think? Would you want your rivalry game played in a neutral venue?

Such as: The Civil War in Portland or Arizona-Arizona State in University of Phoenix Stadium?


Raymond from Tucson writes: It's never to early for your 2009 PAC-10 predictions for finishing 1-10. I'm sure you will provide each school breakdown but I think I am looking for a real gut check on USC this year from experts. I'm looking to find that someone who is willing to say "USC is a true champion but in 2009 it will take a Trojan Horse trick to repeat as PAC-10 Champions. I want to see somebody use more than just rubber stamping statements like; 1. USC will reload 2. USC are champions until they lose the title. 3. Its USC then the PAC-9... USC has to replace their best offensive weapon (the QB) and the majority of their defense. USC tuffest games are ALL ON THE ROAD. Are you going to be the ONE who has the strength and vision to predict SC falling from its throne?

Ted Miller: Strength and vision! That sounds like me!

Not sure yet, Raymond. I'm still a USC lean, but as many have noticed, I've been developing a Cal jones this offseason.


Sweatervested from Mobile, Ala., writes: Ted, Good day to you sir! I have a question about recruits committing early. I would ask Chris Low on our SEC blog, but he has so many fans he may not get around to answer. Do you think committing early does more harm than good? Recruits these days seem to want to be catered to, and they seem to change their minds often.

Ted Miller: We meet again, Sweatervested, scourge of the Pac-10 blog!

The answer is Louisiana-Monroe and Utah!

Ah... but you played that darn Mobile card, so I have to be nice.

As for your question -- I know Chris is busy as heck -- no, I don't like early commitments, but each prep athlete and his family should do what's best for them.

If I'm a prep All-American linebacker at UMS-Wright playing for Terry Curtis and I love the Crimson Tide, maybe I should just get everyone off my back and commit.

But I'd advise my son -- who's four-months old but wears nine-month clothes by the way -- to make all five official visits, which is the only way to make an informed decision.

Plus, visits are fun and they are a great way to see other parts of the country, expenses paid.

And don't you owe me some royal red shrimp?


Stephen from Los Altos, Calif., writes: The NCAA knows who their cash cows are, so I thought nothing would become of this USC Investigation Probe until I heard the words 'lack of institutional control.' What do you realistically think will become of this situation? Outside of punishing EWU, the NCAA hasn't made any statements for a long time. Do you think that they may be making up for lost time with these UCONN and USC situations?

Ted Miller: Ha! Like I'd know what the NCAA might do.

The decision to combine the Reggie Bush-O.J. Mayo cases suggests that the NCAA is focusing on oversight within USC's athletic department as a whole. My intuition is that means some sort of sanction will come out of this, though it's hard to say if it will involve the dreaded scholarship cuts and postseason bans.

My personal take, as many of you know, is that the Bush case is incredibly difficult to dump on the football program. I've read all the stories and the book, and the connections to the program are tenuous, at best.

The Mayo case feels different. And the two paired together create a "where there's smoke, there's fire" impression that's hard to shake.

Will that end up being "a lack of institutional control"?

Maybe.

But my gut says it may end up being the lesser "failure to monitor," which should spare the programs from crushing penalties.


Eric from Terre Haute, Ind., writes: Do you think ASU's Michael Jones will garner any interest from NFL teams?

Ted Miller: I think Jones will get drafted on the second day because his decent speed and 6-foot-4 frame will raise at least one GM's eyebrow.


Vince from Scottsdale writes: please, please, please mention something about Pat's Run in your blog, especially in light of Coach Snyder's passing. I realize you live here in the valley and were most likely going to have a full blown entry about the foundation and the run itself but I just wanted to make sure it gets the recognition it deserves. I personally feel that the legacy of Coach Snyder was kind of put on the backburner by ESPN in favor of the baseball deaths that occurred on the same day. He was an important part of ASU, a strong proponent of the Tillman Foundation and an all around good person.

Ted Miller: Did it, but if you missed it, here it is.

More details, here.


Alex from Carlsbad, Calif., writes: I know you want to shy away from the top 30 list in Friday's mailbag, but I'm curious about the Mays' vs Berry topic. Mays doesn't have the "stats" that Berry does, and it's my opinion that he does his job so flawlessly, that you don't see it happening. Can you find the total amount of "big plays" Tennessee's defense gave up compared to SC's? Then maybe some SEC fans will give credit where credit is do.

Ted Miller: I know some see me as an SEC gadfly, but I'm just into telling the truth or at least gathering the facts and not making judgments on
teams and conferences based on stadium size.

And, with that in mind, Berry, my friend, is the truth.

Mays is a more spectacular athlete, by Berry has been more productive statistically by a wide-margin, and that can't be completely explained away by scheme.

Yes, USC had the nation's best pass defense in 2008. But Tennessee ranked 11th, and the Vols only gave up eight touchdown passes (USC gave up six).

And Berry's supporting cast was vastly inferior -- only end Robert Ayers would have started for USC.

Now, as I wrote, I still think it's wide-open on who gets picked first in the 2010 NFL draft. Mays could make up ground this season, and Berry could, perhaps, lose some in a new system. But that is not a majority opinion -- most favor Berry, in large part because of his production.


John from Portland writes: Ted, What's your sense of WSU's ability to compete in the PAC10 over the next 5-10 years. Seems that budget and facilities will become more and more of an issue.

Ted Miller: My sense is that Washington State has been to two Rose Bowls since 1997 and the Cougs won 30 games from 2001-2003. Have budget and facilities issues gotten that much worse during that span?

No.

The Cougs can compete. They've proven it before and I bet they'll prove it again.

Or my friend Jim Moore's head might explode.


John from Seattle writes: Hey, Ted, I just had a discussion with my wife about the percentage of people who would get a Stendhal reference. I said 10 percent, she said one. As for a Beckett allusion, well, since this is a college football blog, I'll upgrade it to 12 percent. Though as it's a Pac-10 blog, with all those Cal and Stanford folks (and OK, UCLA and USC aren't terrible), I might go as high as 14 percent. Might. It's probably closer to the one percent, of course. As a writer, I understand how fun it is to drop in literary references, even if only one percent of my audience gets it. And it's fun as a reader, too. So keep it up, but you should challenge your readers to Name That Writer! And now I must go on. I can't. But I will.

Ted Miller: Literary references? You mean those random lines before my lunch links? Those are just my original scribblings. Really! And who is this Stendhal? Didn't he play defensive end for Stanford in the '80s?

John, I try to touch a lot of cultural bases -- high and low -- with those entry lines. Hopefully, folks find it amusing.

Of course, pleasure is often spoiled by describing it.


Jason from Queen Creek, Ariz., writes: Where was Nic Grigsby on your Top-30 list? He was only 4th in the conference in rushing as a Sophomore and tied for 4th in TD's. And all this was while splitting time with Keola Antolin. I would think based on production AND potential, he would have made the list.

Nick from the Bay Area writes: why don't you go on web cam and post a video on youtube where you say "based on my top-31 list, i am saying that i think cameron jordan is, at most, the eighth best defensive end in the conference"... and then keep a straight face for at least 5 seconds... seriously, i dare you to try.

John from Oregon writes: I'm sure you do this to cause questions to be raised but...You have Blount listed as the 4th best running back in the Pac-10??? McKnight has how many yards on how many carries? Rodgers is a fun little story but that is it. Blount would have had 1800 to 2000 yds last year if the Ducks didn't have Jeremiah Johnson. I'll give you Best but outside of him the only other Pac-10 running back who will be in the NFL in the next two years is Blount. Get your act together.

Ryan from Berkeley writes: Now that you have posted the whole list, I think that you have underrated Alterraun Verner.

Dan from Austin, Tx., writes: While I am an Arizona Wildcat, I'm gonna give another guy props first. Toby Gerhart is rated way too low. He is a beast and one of the hardest RB's to bring down not to mention he rushed over 1000 yds sharing time at RB? Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight from USC are rated way too high !! Everyone is on the USC bandwagon but to have these two guys high on the list and not even have Nic Grigsby make the top 30??? Grigsby is the other lone thousand yard rusher in the Pac-10 and rushed for more TD's than McKnight and Johnson combined. I'm not saying Grigsby is top 10...but he HAS to be in the top 30!

Raffy from Los Angeles writes: While Taylor Mays may be an exceptional safety, no Pac10 OC's are game planning around him...In January of 2010, the one player the world will associate with Pac10 football will be Jahvid Best. It is an easy out to put an SC player at the top of this list (happens often I imagine) but let's face it, among college football players in 2009, few if any are comparable to the electricity and sheer physical talent that is Jahvid Best. Hard to appreciate from Bristol and other points east, but Best is a singular running back talent that must be watched to be appreciated

Ted Miller: Great points. Duly noted.

My top-30 list no longer will be carved into granite with gold leaf accents and hung from the highest point of Mt. Olympus.

USC: NCAA combines Bush, Mayo investigations

April, 9, 2009
4/09/09
11:45
AM ET

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.

Pac-10 Morning: USC investigations, chocolate milk and more

July, 14, 2008
7/14/08
10:33
AM ET

Posted By ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Sure everyone had a weekend for the ages... For your consideration:

  • The LA Times asks the NCAA to explain -- in a general sense, without case particulars of course -- why it's taking so long to get a resolution in the Reggie Bush/USC case ... and, of course, the story comes with some Mayo. Many who don't regularly bellow "Fight on!" would love to see USC go down in flames, or at least believe the athletic program deserves something more than a slap on the wrist. This paragraph touches on a simple but pertinent point:

The Bush and Mayo cases epitomize an increasingly common situation, the NCAA chasing after marketers, financial consultants and runners, the shadowy figures who represent sports agents. This isn't like a coach handing over cash. These people operate on the fringe of college sports, where NCAA investigators have no subpoena power and no legal recourse against those who might lie.

USC's defense could be: plausible deniability. It could lean on the idea that this was not a "pay for play" scheme, and that those providing the extra benefits didn't represent the university or its interests.

However, the Times pointed out that escape won't necessarily be that easy:

Even if no one at USC provided extra benefits, the school could face penalties if investigators find a "lack of institutional control." The definition of institutional control is not as cut-and-dried as it is with other violations. Price talks about needing to "weigh the circumstances."

The package also includes a story on agent runners and an overview of the Bush/Mayo cases.

  • This is sad. Oregon redshirt freshman Todd Doxey, a 19-year-old safety, drowned Sunday on the McKenzie River. Here's something from Rob Moseley's blog that includes a statement from the school.
  • It didn't get them to a bowl game last year but Washington is still drinking its chocolate milk.
  • But it's not all chocolate milk and cake for the Huskies. The Seattle P-I reports on the sweat part of the UW off-season. This stood out:

This offseason, for example, the theme is "fourth quarter" and Greener's work is geared toward making sure the players aren't fatigued late in games. The Huskies yielded 139 fourth-quarter points last season -- an average of 10.7 per game.

  • Arizona State beat out UCLA, Washington and Washington State for a tight end recruit.
  • A UCLA linebacker is hurting but Josh Edwards should be ready for preseason camp, according to the LA Daily News.
  • Heisman Pundit looks at the 10 games that will be most telling in the Heisman race.
  • This story is about Hawaii's mindblowing travel expenses, but my guess is more than a few programs are feeling the bite of high travel prices, particularly on the spacious West Coast. It's certainly a lot more pricey to travel in the Pac-10 than the SEC.
  • Some of you might be wondering what's going on with former California and Washington coach Keith Gilbertson... here's an update.
  • Dance, Trojans! Dance! And shout, too.... A USC recruiting ritual on YouTube.

I dance like that after 32 ounces of coffee....

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