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Thursday, September 14, 2006
Updated: September 16, 7:47 AM ET
Bush 'not worried' about illegal benefit allegations

ESPN.com news services

Reggie Bush insisted Friday he and his family have done nothing wrong, responding to allegations that they accepted gifts, money and other benefits from two marketing agents during his career at USC.

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"I'm not worried about any of these allegations or anything like that," Bush said. "Because I know what the truth is, like I said from day one. Once the smoke clears, everybody's going to see we did nothing wrong."

Bush and his family "appear" to have received more than $100,000 in financial benefits from marketing agents while Bush played at USC, according to a report posted Thursday night on Yahoo! Sports.

The Web site reported that the benefits, which could lead the NCAA to retroactively declare Bush ineligible and level sanctions against the Trojans, were supplied by two groups that were attempting to sign Bush as a client. Bush also could be stripped of his Heisman Trophy.

BCS: No plan yet
The BCS, which controls the postseason in Division I-A football, said it will wait for the facts before making any decision regarding Reggie Bush and USC.

"The BCS is not an investigative body, or a governance body," BCS coordinator Mike Slive told ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel. "It's designed to put together a championship game. What we said earlier this year is that once the NCAA and the Pacific-10 Conference processes are complete, if there are findings of wrongdoing, we will determine if any actions are appropriate. There isn't anything we could do at this point."

Asked if possible penalties might include vacating the BCS Championship, paying back the money awarded for playing in the game or banning USC from future participation in the BCS, Slive said, "Without having facts, I'm not going to speculate."

BCS administrator Bill Hancock said Friday that the commissioners of all 11 Division I-A football conferences and Notre Dame discussed at an April meeting in Phoenix what would happen if the NCAA vacated USC victories from the 2004 national championship season.

"We will wait and see what happens," Hancock told ESPN's Joe Schad. "There is not yet a plan in place for this scenario. If the NCAA rules for violations and penalties, the conferences and Notre Dame would have to discuss what action to take."

Mike Ornstein, Bush's current marketing agent who is alleged to have paid financial benefits, denied wrongdoing, telling Yahoo! that accusations of cash payments are lies.

"Obviously it does affect you just because it is out there," Bush said. "But at the same time I know there's nothing to worry about.

"It makes you want to go out there right away and tell your side of the story. Show everybody the facts, the truth. But you can't do that. That wouldn't be the right way to do it."

The report was based on an eight-month investigation by Yahoo! Sports, citing documents and interviews with on-the-record sources close to the situation. It lists several instances in which Bush and his family appear to have received financial benefits, including:

• Suits for Bush's stepfather and brother to wear during the Dec. 10, 2005, Heisman ceremony in New York, a makeover for his mother for the event and limousine transportation -- all paid for by Ornstein.

• Two hotel stays by Bush, one in Las Vegas and another in San Diego, in March 2005. In both instances, the rooms were paid for by Michael Michaels, a marketing agency investor who wanted to represent the football star.

• $13,000 from Michaels' fledgling firm, New Era Sports & Entertainment, to purchase and modify a car for Bush.

• $595.20 in round-trip airfare from San Diego to Oakland in November 2005 for Bush's stepfather, LaMar Griffin, his mother, Denise Griffin and younger brother to attend the USC-California game at Berkeley. The charges were put on a credit card belonging to Jamie Fritz, one of Ornstein's employees.

Heisman Trust has no comment
Heisman trophy
Rob Whalen, director of the Heisman Trust, said Friday morning that the organization would have no comment about the latest Bush report.

The members of the Heisman Trust are not expected to make any decisions until after the NCAA completes its investigation.

No player has ever had a Heisman Trophy revoked.

If it is ruled that Bush should have been ineligible to play at the time of balloting, his eligibility for the trophy would be in serious question.

The Heisman ballot states that the recipient must be in compliance with NCAA bylaws.

-- Joe Schad

"Reggie Bush never received an extra benefit from Mike Ornstein other than what he was allowed to get from the NCAA when he worked with us," Ornstein told Yahoo!

Bush was an intern at Ornstein's marketing company in the summer of 2005.

Ornstein told the Web site that he believed the funds given to Bush's family by Fitz were a loan that was repaid. He also told Yahoo! he had "no idea" if such a loan would violate NCAA rules.

NCAA rules state that players and their families may not receive loans or benefits from agents.

Neither Ornstein nor Bush's attorney, David Cornwell, returned phone messages from The Associated Press left late Thursday and Friday.

Michaels' attorney, Brian Watkins, said his client was traveling Friday and unavailable for comment, but Watkins claimed the Yahoo! report was "very accurate."

"We've known what [Bush] was doing. This article proves fraud on his part and his family's part. He never intended to go forward with my clients. He was always taking money from Mike Ornstein and then representing with my clients that he was going to go forward with this business venture," Watkins said, referring to New Era.

"It was fine for him to go with the other venture, but his job was to notify my clients that he was on the payroll with Ornstein. But he said the opposite. He continued to do that and took money from my client."

Speculation over whether Bush and his family received money arose earlier this year in reports that his mother and stepfather didn't pay $54,000 in rent during the year they lived in a house owned by Michaels, who later said the family promised to repay him once Bush went pro.

Pac-10 commissioner reacts
Pacific-10 Conference Commissioner Tom Hansen said that, to his knowledge, the conference did not have information regarding Yahoo's report on Reggie Bush.

"We will make inquiries as part of our investigation of this matter," he said. "It's something we're continuing to look at to see if there are future developments."

He said there was no timeline for the Pac-10's investigation.

"It's impossible to say because of threats of litigation, which we understand have been exchanged among the parties," he said. "Therefore, the presence of legal counsel advising the parties to not discuss the situation makes it impossible to say when an investigation might be completed."

-- The Associated Press

The NCAA and Pacific-10 Conference are investigating whether any rules were broken when Bush's family lived in the home.

"Now that certain individuals have spoken publicly, we hope they will now speak with the NCAA," the organization said in a statement Friday.

Cornwell also said earlier this summer that FBI agents interviewed him about "potential federal crimes" by phone in June. The FBI would neither confirm nor deny whether a federal investigation was ongoing.

The NFL players union also is investigating the rent payments.

In a statement released by USC counsel Kelly Bendell, the school said it is cooperating with the probe but "cannot comment on any matter that is the subject of an ongoing NCAA and Pac-10 investigation."

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel told the AP the team would not comment on matters involving Bush when he was in college.

"It doesn't involve the Saints," he said.

The allegations would have no effect on Bush's professional football career, a person within the NFL with knowledge of Bush's standing in the league told the AP. The source asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Bush, the second overall pick in the NFL draft in April, said he has been in touch with USC officials.

"I told them the same thing, don't worry about anything," he said. "If there was something to worry about, then I would tell you. But there's nothing to worry about."

In New Orleans, Saints wide receiver Joe Horn defended his teammate.

"I don't think Reggie did that, but if he did, I would have done it, too," Horn said. "And guess what? Eighty percent of the college athletes that don't have much when they're in college get money, too. So they should ban all of them. They should go after everybody. Don't just go after Reggie because he's Reggie Bush."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.