I am a Notre Dame fan but I have always respected the incredible job that Pete Carroll and his staff did at USC. As Notre Dame fans know, turning a bad team into a championship contender is a big task. Now according to the NCAA, one of the reasons that Pete Carroll had some much success at USC was that some of itâ€™s players were receiving illegal benefits from boosters and agents. In the video below, Pete Carroll said he didnâ€™t know any of this was happening.
Umm, thatâ€™s what has the NCAA so angry at USC over. Itâ€™s called a lack of institutional control and like it or not Pete, itâ€™s your job to know what is going on and stop it. As Yahoo! Sports sees it.
To some extent that’s part of the NCAA’s argument: With tens of thousands of dollars in cash and perks changing hands between a genuine superstar and a pair of opportunists (one of them an ex-con) openly angling to become the player’s agents when he turns pro, how can you not know what’s going on? And if you honestly don’t, isn’t that just as big a problem? The NCAA’s report paints the program under Carroll as anything but "vigilant," indirectly implicating him for his role helping create a loose, celebrity-laden environment in which players felt "entitled to special treatment," and "which almost certainly contributed to the difficulties of compliance staff in achieving a rules-compliant program."
While decrying the influence of "external elements" above, Carroll was directly implicated in the report in lobbying marketers to hire players for part-time jobs and internships that were open to "USC student-athletes and only USC student-athletes." One of those arrangements was for Bush’s internship with marketer Michael Ornstein. Ornstein, once convicted for attempting to defraud the NFL, is cited in the NCAA report as providing improper airfare for Bush’s family. Ornstein later represented Bush after he turned pro, until he was fired midway through Bush’s rookie season.
Certainly that fits under an "atmosphere of noncompliance." But it pales in comparison to the report’s smoking gun of institutional knowledge and negligence, a single paragraph on page 23 describing a phone call between running backs coach Todd McNair and would-be agent Lloyd Lake. Lake is one half of New Era Sports & Entertainment, the fledgling agency founded by Lake and Michael Michaels at the behest of Bush’s stepfather. New Era was responsible for the vast majority of funds and perks funneled to Bush in 2004-05. According to the report, McNair had become aware of at least part of the arrangement while attending a party in San Diego with a USC tutor in the spring of 2005. (The timeline suggests this was a birthday party for Marshall Faulk, also attended by Bush, whose hotel stay was gratis.) USC itself conceded it was "substantially correct" that McNair, Bush and a recruit on an official visit were together with both New Era partners in a club on Oct. 29, 2005, after multiple phone calls from McNair to Lake. McNair also appeared in a photo that night with Lake and a mutual friend, actor/comedian Faizon Love, who later reportedly hooked Lake up with notorious L.A. gangster Suge Knight to help "negotiate" after the agency’s relationship with Bush had broken down. [UPDATE, June 11, 5:56 a.m. ET] Readers are encouraged to read USC’s response to the NCAA’s allegations, filed last year, in which it argues McNair had no significant relationship with Lake and accuses the NCAA of basing its allegations against McNair almost solely on Lake’s uncorroborated testimony. The NCAA, obviously, concluded Lake was telling the truth.
The conclusion is
If the NCAA’s account is accurate, that is an assistant coach â€” i.e., "the university," by extension â€” with not only direct knowledge of major violations involving his best player, but with direct participation in keeping the scheme under wraps. And who, on top of that, was caught in a lie by an organization that punishes lying as severely as any infraction that crosses its path.
I know USC fanboys will never see this punishment as legit but every coach uses the excuse that â€œI had no ideaâ€ but at the end of the day it is their job to know what their players are involved in and the players know the consequences for non-compliance. USC and other universities have entire staff of compliance officers to ensure their players (and coaches) are following the rules. To claim ignorance is to claim incompetence and that is exactly what the University of Southern California is being punished for.