When the dark clouds move in and it start to sprinkle just the smallest of raindrops at a USC football tailgate party, an Easy-Up tent usually solves the problem.
This time, it won’t be so easy.
Anyone surprised by a two-year bowl ban, 30 lost scholarships over a three-year period, vacating any victory where Reggie Bush participated and a four-year probation has been cowering in a parallel universe.
Although Trojan alums, boosters, followers, loyalists and Bruin antagonists are already in search of a silver lining to Thursday’s NCAA report that the skies have opened up and flooded everything that’s not near an ark.
Maybe they’ll start serving beer at the Coliseum again to make up for the lost revenue. Fans won’t have to arrive at 5 a.m. every Saturday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Former Trojan fullback and current sports-talk radio host Petros Papadakis suggests that the school un-retire the No. 5 jersey — the one Bush wore during his 2004 Heisman Trophy season — and “give it to a fat, white walk-on.”
The monopoly has ended. Boardwalk and Park Place don’t intersect at USC’s Heritage Hall. Monopoly money from deep-pocket sycophants won’t bail anyone out this time.
The NCAA doesn’t investigate four years and kill trees with a 67-page expose only to slap someone’s rear end, even if it means hitting itself in the wallet by sidelining one of the great revenue-generating programs in the country.
There was already a 248-page book written on this in 2008, by Don Yaeger, called “Tarnished Heisman: Did Reggie Bush turn his final season into a six-figure job?” Let’s skip to the Cliff Notes.
The NCAA had to make a statement — short of the death penalty, and even that wouldn’t have been inappropriate in some circles.
The message, if anyone’s listening, is an absurd lack of institutional control. The euphoria of winning — too easy, to some — clouded the obvious.
USC is considered “a repeat violator,” the report says, noting infractions in 1986, 1982, 1959 and 1957, “all of which involved its football program.” History does repeat itself.
“The general campus environment surrounding the violations troubled the committee. . . .” started one paragraph. Troubled, as in, shocked.
More: “Universities may not hide their heads in the sand and purport to treat all programs and student-athletes similarly when it comes to the level of scrutiny required . . . In fact, the compliance director at the time reported that there were only two compliance staff members at the institution for most of his tenure, and it was ‘just myself for a couple of months.’”
Hey, we’re all cutting back in places. Heard of the economy?
On page 45 of the document, it’s pretty clear: “From December 2004 through March 2009, the institution exhibited a lack of control over its department of athletics by its failure to have in place procedures to effectively monitor the violations of NCAA amateurism, recruiting and extra benefit legislation” on football, men’s basketball and even womens’ tennis.
It takes pages 55 to 63 to list all of penalties. Not because the typeface is too big.
Mike Garrett, if he had a conscious, would fall on Tommy Trojan’s sword for this. University president Stephen Sample could have done the same if he already wasn’t retiring.
Pete Carroll, if he had any moral compass, would stop saying he’d be surprised if there were any penalties and offer a most humble apology — then donate his Seattle Seahawks’ paychecks to the school’s general fund.
That Tim Floyd has already been excused, and already found a new job, explains how little the USC basketball program has any bearing in this penalty. And how little the USC basketball program even matters.
But in the sum of it all, it very much does.
O.J. Mayo is just as much at fault as Bush. And Garrett. And Carroll.
But mostly Garrett.
Like no one could see any of that coming.
There’s not a lot of sympathy for USC unless you’re a Trojan alum, and even then, the bitterness for Carroll’s lax attitude toward detail can’t be ignored. He might have taken the football program to another level, but he’s embarrassed everyone in the process. His rah-rah legacy is as stained as red wine on a white carpet.
UCLA should get a pretty good laugh at USC’s expense. So should Tennessee, for seeing how Lane Kiffin has faired from all this.
Former Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers has already tweeted: “Looking forward to getting my PAC-10 championship ring from the ’04 season. Thanks @claymatthews52″
Just like Vince Young must be wondering when they’ll ship him his Heisman Trophy.
Who wins the 2004 national title? Oklahoma, on the wrong end of that Orange Bowl? That makes sense.
With USC now in the NCAA’s dog house, where’s Snoop Dogg to help explain all this? Make him part of the USC team that will now appeal this decision.
USC’s response, released Thursday afternoon, included senior vice president for administration Todd Dickey categorizing the penalties as “too severe for the violations identified in the report,” and then blamed it on “a systemic problem facing college athletes today: unscrupulous sports agents and sports marketers. The question is how do we identify them and keep them away from our student-athletes?”
He says USC has tried to protect “our student-athletes and their families from those who seek to violate the rules” by retaining the Freeh Group, headed by a former federal judge and ex-FBI director.
“We cannot and will not tolerate this,” Dickey added. “Our program must set the highest standards in the country.”
Tell that to Snoop while he’s on the sidelines. And bring the Easy-Up pooper scooper.
Read the NCAA ruling: Linked here