USC Football Finally Surrenders: NCAA Investigation Story Finished (Please?)

Following the denial of USC's appeal of the NCAA ruling in the SC football program's illegal benefits case, the BCS has taken an unprecedented strike against a sanctioned team and moved to formally strip the Trojans of their 2004 college football national championship title.

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BCS Formally Vacates USC's 2004 College Football Championship

Farewell to a certain crystal football in Heritage Hall: Following the denial of USC's appeal of the NCAA ruling in the SC football program's illegal benefits case, the BCS has taken an unprecedented strike against a sanctioned team and moved to formally strip the Trojans of their 2004 college football national championship title. The game itself, a 55-19 shellacking of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, was vacated last June. BCS executive director Bill Hancock's statement is excerpted below:

The BCS arrangement crowns a national champion, and the BCS games are showcase events for post-season football. One of the best ways of ensuring that they remain so is for us to foster full compliance with NCAA rules. Accordingly, in keeping with the NCAA's recent action, USC's appearances are being vacated.

This action reflects the scope of the BCS arrangement and is consistent with the NCAA's approach when it subsequently discovers infractions by institutions whose teams have played in NCAA championship events.

Apart from the asterisk in the history books, not much else will change: The Pac-10 keeps its title run money; the players keep their rings, and before you get too excited, Auburn and Oklahoma, know that a new '04 champion will not be crowned. That's really all for the best; I imagine Sooner and Tiger fans can find more recent BCS-related events to hang their prideful hats on. 

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Todd McNair Sues NCAA Following Denied Appeal

In the last week of May, we wearily celebrated the end of the five-year USC illegal benefits case; as it turns out, that flash of joy may have come a touch too soon: Todd McNair, ex-running backs coach and special-teams helmer who was ousted in the course of the investigation, will not be taking that high road so prized by the new USC administration. McNair has filed suit against the NCAA, seeking "unspecified damages for libel, slander, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, tortious interference with contractual relations, breach of contract, negligence and declaratory relief." The Association slapped him with a show-cause penalty last June, and denied his appeal of the ruling in April.

Our USC blog, Conquest Chronicles, has helpfully pointed out the public availability of the court documents, filed in L.A. County superior court. If you're a fan of institutionalized slap-fighting, we invite you to hang around this story for just a little while longer.

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USC Appeal Denied; Scholarship Sanctions Against Trojans Will Begin In 2012

As reported last night, the NCAA has ruled earlier than expected on USC's appeal to the Committee on Infractions' ruling against the university, denying the Trojans on all points of plea. The levied penalties against the Trojans football program, including four years of probation, two years of postseason play exclusion, vacated wins, scholarship reductions, and fines, will all stand. The Trojans have already served one year of their bowl ban; scholarship sanctions will begin in the 2012-2013 academic year. The NCAA's official release has a complete explanation of all penalties upheld, and also contains a stiff rebuttal to the university's earlier charges of abuses of power on the part of the COI:

In its appeal, the university requested the penalties be reduced, asserting they were not supported by the facts and were excessive to an extent that they constituted an abuse of discretion. It also contended that the findings of violations should be set aside as contrary to the evidence. [...] The appeals committee also upheld all penalties in the case, noting there was no basis to conclude the Committee on Infractions departed from prior decisions.

CBS' Bryan Fischer has a copy of USC's statement in response to the appeal, which comes with all expected vitriol:

We respectfully, but vehemently, disagree with the findings of the NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee. Our position was that the Committee on Infractions abused its discretion and imposed penalties last June that were excessive and inconsistent with established case precedent.

Some fun/depressing tidbits on this case, via the NCAA's official compliance blogger: By the time the Trojans are off probation, they'll have freshmen suited up who were in the third grade when the investigation began. As of today's wrap, this has been a live case for five years, one month, and just shy of one week. It's easily felt twice that long, hasn't it?

Catch up and commiserate with USC fans at SB Nation's Conquest Chronicles.

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Todd McNair's Appeal Denied By NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee

Todd McNair, former USC running backs coach and central figure in the NCAA's investigation of illegal benefits in the Trojan football program, has largely been forgotten in the months that have elapsed since the university declined to renew his contract. With all the storied programs that have fallen under the Committee on Infractions' scrutiny since, it's understandable to have forgotten the USC investigation entirely, but pieces are still moving, albeit small ones: Recall that the investigation formally wrapped in January; the COI's report was released and sanctions levied in June, and that the appeals process got underway just days later.

Apart from the restrictions placed upon the football program, McNair himself was slapped with the dreaded show-cause order, and according to a news release from the NCAA this morning, his appeal has been denied. And if you have been following this case with a modicum of interest, it will not at all shock you to learn that McNair's attorney is adopting the hallowed HATERZ defense, first popularized in this case by former Trojans AD Mike Garrett

"Mr. McNair is disappointed in the decision, but he's not surprised," his attorney, Scott Tompsett, said in a statement. "After all, the NCAA publicly endorsed the Infractions Committee's decision last June before we had even filed the notice of appeal. And NCAA President Mark Emmert said last December — while the Infractions Appeals Committee was still deliberating the appeal — that he believed the Infractions Committee got the USC case right. So, [Friday's] decision simply confirms what the NCAA leadership had already decreed publicly."  [...] He also said the infractions committee "mischaracterized and manipulated key testimony" and that McNair was "considering legal action to remedy the injustice he has suffered."

USC's appeal, of course, continues. You my reliably assume that this will never, ever be over. After four years and counting, what's more waiting?

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2005 Heisman Trophy Will Not Be Passed To Vince Young

Heisman Trophy Trust president Bill Dockery announced Wednesday on ESPN's College Football Live that the 2005 trophy will have no official winner. With Reggie Bush forfeiting the award (possibly in anticipation of having it stripped anyway), speculation had been rampant and enthusiastic concerning its possible passing to 2005 runner-up Vince Young. Instead, the date will remain blank in infamy:

Since the issuance of the NCAA decision vacating USC's 2005 season and declaring Reggie Bush an ineligible athlete, the Trustees have met, discussed and reviewed all information underlying this decision in an effort to exercise the due diligence and due process required of any decision regarding the awarding of the 2005 Heisman Trophy.

As a result of Reggie Bush's decision to forfeit his title as Heisman winner of 2005, the Trustees have determined that there will be no Heisman Trophy winner for the year 2005."

Re-gifting is the height of tackiness, but much like the vacated 2004 USC title not being awarded to legions of foaming Auburn fans, this is a decision that will please absolutely no one, save Vince Young's mom.

Visit SB Nation's Burnt Orange Nation and Conquest Chronicles for Texas and USC fan reactions.

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Reggie Bush To Forfeit Heisman Trophy, Gives Statement

On Tuesday afternoon, former USC running back Reggie Bush announced that he will voluntarily forfeit his status as the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner. Here is Bush's statement:

One of the greatest honors of my life was winning the Heisman Trophy in 2005. For me, it was a dream come true.

But I know that the Heisman is not mine alone. Far from it. I know that my victory was made possible by the discipline and hard work of my teammates, the steady guidance of my coaches, the inspiration of the fans, and the unconditional love of my family and friends. And I know that any young man fortunate enough to win the Heisman enters into a family of sorts. Each individual carries the legacy of the award and each one is entrusted with its good name.

It is for these reasons that I have made the difficult decision to forfeit my title as Heisman winner of 2005. The persistent media speculation regarding allegations dating back to my years at USC has been both painful and distracting. In no way should the storm around these allegations reflect in any way on the dignity of this award, nor on any other institutions or individuals. Nor should it distract from outstanding performances and hard-earned achievements either in the past, present or future.

For the rest of my days, I will continue to strive to demonstrate through my actions and words that I was deserving of the confidence placed in me by the Heisman Trophy Trust. I would like to begin in this effort by turning a negative situation into a positive one by working with the Trustees to establish an educational program which will assist student-athletes and their families avoid some of the mistakes that I made. I am determined to view this event as an opportunity to help others and to advance the values and mission of the Heisman Trophy Trust.

I will forever appreciate the honor bestowed upon me as a winner of the Heisman. While this decision is heart-breaking, I find solace in knowing that the award was made possible by the support and love of so many. Those are gifts that can never be taken away.

Bush, in summary, says he is giving up the award to preserve its integrity. Though his ceding of the title is voluntary, reports emerged last week that the Heisman trust was prepared to strip Bush of the trophy and associated title, so he ultimately may not have had much choice in the matter.

Bush's remarks on Tuesday, just like his earlier remarks, opened and closed without an explicit apology.

No decision has been announced regarding who, if anyone, will be re-designated as the winner of the 2005 Heisman, although then-Texas quarterback Vince Young, who was runner-up to Bush in the voting, has said he 'wouldn't say no' if he were given the award.

For more on Reggie Bush and USC, check out our Trojans blog, Conquest Chronicles, and our Saints blog, Canal Street Chronicles.

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No Official Decision Has Been Made On The Status Of Reggie Bush's Heisman Trophy

Yahoo! Sports reported yesterday that the Heisman trust will strip Reggie Bush of his Heisman trophy by the end of the month, and leave the 2005 year vacant of no trophy winner. The Heisman trust is being tight lipped on the situation by saying nothing has changed in their decision:

Heisman spokesman Tim Henning told The [LA] Times, "The Heisman Trophy Trust has yet to make a decision, and until such time they do we have no further comment."

Yahoo has been on this story since 2006 and they have been spot on the entire way, so it may just be a matter of time before Reggie Bush's Heisman will be vacated.

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Football Writers Association Of America Vacates USC's 2004 National Championship

On Thursday, in an unprecedented move, the Football Writers Association of America voted to vacate USC's 2004 national championship, and asked that the university return the Grantland Rice Trophy that goes along with the title.

The decision of the FWAA, one of four major recognized championship selectors, stems from sanctions handed out by the NCAA to the Trojans in June for violations made by the school, which included Reggie Bush playing while ineligible. Among the punishments imposed is a two-year postseason ban and the loss of scholarships. 

The FWAA has awarded the Grantland Rice Trophy to its national champion since 1954.

USC has appealed the NCAA's ruling, but in the meantime, they will not be included in 2010's Coaches' Poll. The BCS has also already gone on record saying that if the appeal is unsuccessful, then USC will lose its 2004 title.

And we know what you're thinking, Auburn fans, but sorry, no dice: the FWAA will not select a new 2004 champion. Neither Auburn, who finished 13-0, nor Oklahoma (12-1) received a majority of the votes.

"I think it becomes more difficult on the replacement because you're trying to go back and recreate the situation, and it's always hard to do that," [[FWAA Executive Director Steve] Richardson said. "There was some support for Auburn, but it wasn't the majority.

"If you look at it from a situation of, 'OK, Auburn was undefeated at the end of the season,' OK. But you can say what if they played Oklahoma? What if they played USC if that would have happened? I don't know. Are you penalizing Oklahoma? There's all sorts of things there with that."

Expect plenty more reaction to this at our USC blog, Conquest Chronicles, and our Auburn blog, Track Em Tigers.

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Trojans Could Lose '04 National Title If Appeal Fails

Already faced with a blistering set of NCAA sanctions, USC is staring down the possibility of another school (and national) first: the revocation of their 2004 BCS national title.

"If USC loses the appeal, the [2004] championship will be vacated," Hancock told reporters. "And the feeling is in our group, the commissioners group, is that there was not a game, no game happened."

Hancock added, "They will vacate, they will not elevate anyone," referring to the 12 school presidents who make up the BCS Oversight Committee.

Now, this is normally about the point where I'd start making jokes about Auburn fans busting out the champagne glasses filled with Boone's Farm, but ... wait a second, they might actually get something out of this?

Steve Richardson, executive director of the Football Writers Association of America, said Monday at the Big 12 Conference football preview that the FWAA may take away the 2004 national title it awarded to Southern California and give it to Auburn.

Let this serve as a beacon of hope to angry, fruitless billboard campaigns across the land: Never abandon hope. The appeals committee doesn't even meet again until late September, however, so as ever with this case, we're back to the waiting game. (Although this is where, if you're Tommy Tuberville, you walk into the AD's office in Lubbock and ask for a raise now that you've got an imaginary title ring and all. I hear his new bosses are the friendly sort.)

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USC's McNair Gone From Trojans Staff

Todd McNair, the shiny would-be villain at the center of the NCAA's investigation into USC athletics, had a contract with the university that expired today. That contract is not being renewed, and after six years coaching running backs and coaxing recruits, McNair is in the wind. And that, it appears, is that:

“Todd McNair’s contract expired on June 30, 2010,” Coach Lane Kiffin said. “We have no additional comment.”

SBN's Conquest Chronicles reacts with palpable relief:

I can't say that any of this is incredibly surprising to begin with. Sources indicate that McNair had not been in Heritage Hall since the NCAA sanctions were handed down in early June, and he had not been made available to the media either. Something was clearly in the works.

Granted, whether the evidence the NCAA used is sufficient or not, it's difficult to argue that the link between McNair and Bush did not place the current coaching staff in an awkward position. In turn, it's easy to understand why he was out of the office for most of June, and now out of a job.

For more on this and all things USC, the discussion continues at Conquest Chronicles and SB Nation Los Angeles.

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USC Football Sanctions: Two Year Bowl Ban, 30 Lost Scholarships, Five Years Probation, and One (Likely) Lost BCS Title

If you’re reading this, it’s past 3:00 p.m. EDT on the East Coast and the embargoed NCAA report on USC’s violations in both football and basketball has been made public. If you want to find it in your public library check under “horror,” because it is a bloodbath from start to finish.

The report is harsh from the start in tone, and gets more severe in its penalty summary, citing a lax atmosphere of sports agents coming into contact with athletes and an overall environment that “troubled” the committee.

The phrasing is harsh:

The actions of those professional agents and their associates, with the knowledge and acquiescence of the athletes, struck at the heart of the NCAA’s Principle of Amateurism, which states that participation in intercollegiate athletics should be “motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental, and social benefits to be derived.”

The penalties are worse: a two-year bowl ban for USC, the loss of 30 scholarships (15 max, but at least 10 each year over three years,) the prohibition of any non-university affiliated personnel from the sideline, locker room, and road trips, and four years’ probation as a repeat offender.

It is, metaphorically speaking, the hammer no one suspected would fall, and one that will likely result in the loss of their 2004 BCS Title. 

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Source: USC Losing 'More Than 20 Football Scholarships'

While USC has not officially confirmed if it has even received the NCAA's report -- when reached for comment, Athletic Director Mike Garrett said "We are looking at things right now. That's about all I can say." -- more of the report detailing their punishment for violations stemming from 2006 continue to leak out.

The latest, from Gary Klein, the USC beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, is that the Trojans are losing "more than 20 football scholarships" (in addition to the two-year bowl ban), with the possibility of more punishment still to come. 

Limited recruiting contacts, probation and forfeiture of victories are also among the penalties regarded as possibly in play.

USC sources, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about the situation publicly, said they were bracing for the worst. One said the school probably would utilize an appeal process.

Asked if the sanctions were appropriate, a source said, "It depends how you look at it. It is if you're a UCLA fan."

Zing.

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USC Punished With Two-Year Postseason Ban, Loss Of Scholarships

It's been four years in the making, originally stemming from a 2006 report that Reggie Bush and family may have violated NCAA rules by receiving gifts, complete with delays and postponements, but finally, the NCAA has made it known what the punishment is for USC, via ESPN's Bruce Feldman. 

USC has been hit with a two-year post-season ban in addition to the loss of scholarships, among other penalties from the NCAA.less than a minute ago via web

 

The NCAA's penalties were stricter than expected, and there may still be more. The full report will be made available to the public on Thursday via teleconference.

Expect plenty more on this news, both here in this StoryStream and over at Conquest Chronicles.

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Report: USC Has Received Results Of NCAA Investigation

Stop me if you've heard this one before: We're a short time away from learning the results of the NCAA's investigation into violations committed by USC's football and basketball programs. A good deal of  speculation can mercifully be tossed out the  window at this point, as reports indicate USC has actually got the Committee's report in hand:

The report, expected to be one of the longest the committee has ever issued, will be released to the public on Thursday via teleconference. USC will then hold a press conference or release a video statement shortly afterwards to respond to the NCAA's findings.

And if you think this means it's all about to be over, you're about to be rapidly disabused of that notion:

Following the release of the report, USC has 15 days to submit a written notice that it is appealing any findings or rulings of the Committee on Infractions. Appeals are based solely on the school's belief that the committee's findings are contrary to the evidence presented, or that the facts did not constitute a violation of NCAA rules or that there was a procedural error in the process.

For discussion of this and any further developments, check out SBN's USC Trojans blog, Conquest Chronicles.

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USC's 2004 AP Title Not In Peril

Stand down, Auburn faithful. Even if the NCAA comes down with all available force on USC and the BCS strips the Trojans of their 2004 national title, the Associated Press won't, as previously speculated, be voting on a new champion.

Also, this is all assuming the NCAA investigation will ever wrap. A process expected to last six to ten weeks is now well into week fourteen. At this rate, Brian Cushing will know the sex of the child he's carrying before we learn whether any of USC's wins will be vacated.

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Little-Known BCS Policy Could Allow For Revocation Of 2004 USC Title

If it ever does end, (which, don't hold your breath), the NCAA investigation into USC athletics could sport some heretofore unseen twists on the sanctioning end. Until this point, attention has been focused largely on how any ruling might affect the future of USC football, but if the Committee on Infractions gives them enough wiggle room, the BCS may very well have its eye on changing the past:

Quietly in early 2007, as the investigation into USC and alleged improprieties involving Bush and his family was unfolding, college football's Bowl Championship Series drew up a policy calling for teams' BCS appearances and BCS titles to be vacated when major rules violations subsequently are discovered and the institutions are sanctioned by the NCAA. Current BCS executive director Bill Hancock confirmed the provision Wednesday.

Legally speaking, the Committee is now merrily bounding through the section of the map with the little clouds and the "HERE THERE BE DRAGONS" signs. There has never been a case quite like this one in the BCS era, but the central arguments for what will or won't go down are actually quite familiar:

  1. The NCAA will bring the hammer down on USC because a high-profile sanctionpalooza will set a very public example, and they've clearly crafted this policy specifically to allow them to do so.
  2. The NCAA will let USC off with a light swat on the bottom because they're USC, and when they're doing well it's good for business.
  3. Neither of the above arguments matter, because the university will appeal whatever does happen and we'll all be treated to another four years of stretching this mess out, world without end, amen.

I've got both feet planted firmly in the "this will never, ever end, ever" camp, and for what it's worth, so does the BCS brass:

Hancock emphasized, "Nothing would happen until the very end of the NCAA process, including any appeals."

But supposing this does wind down (very, very eventually), and the '04 championship gets vacated? That's where things can really get interesting. If the Associated Press can revote on Brian Cushing's rookie award, why can't they revote on the 2004 champion? And would that vote let 55-19 speak for itself, and leave the trophy in Trojan hands, or would Auburn finally get its day in the undefeated sun?

(And will any of this be resolved while the players on the affected teams are still alive?)

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Stand Down: Delayed USC Report Delayed Again

Try and prepare yourselves for a very serious shock. That report from the NCAA, on USC's violations and possible sanctions, that was scheduled for release later this week? It's been pushed back to later this month. (And by "this month," the brass that be could very well simply mean "May," and leave the year nonspecific in case the need arises for further wiggle room).

EDSBS has a very handy graph of the likely outcomes here. Pepper Brooks says, "I feel shocked." Conquest Chronicles says they'll "be happy when it is finally over regardless of the outcome." We (and I'm speaking for the human race here) could not agree more.

Does the NCAA have a secret stake in the blogosphere? Are they dragging this out to wring more ad dollars out of exasperated pageviews? Stay tuned.

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NCAA Infractions Committee To Report On USC This Week (No, For Real This Time) (Maybe)

To review, with regards to l'affaire USC: We still know nothing, and don't know when that will change. The end. For today. The good Doctor shares our disgust:

Only four short years after the NCAA opened its illegal benefits investigation into Reggie Bush's final season at USC, a ruling is on the way, according to Yahoo! Sports colleague Dan Wetzel, who reported via Twitter on Monday that the NCAA infractions committee will hand down its report later this week – likely including sanctions, if applicable.

But hey, any publicity is good publicity! (Isn't that right, Coach Kiffin?)

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Pac-10 Coach Broke NCAA Rules, Sounds Awfully Similar To Pete Carroll

On Tuesday, the NCAA confirmed that a Pac-10 coach violated rules "for retaining a paid consultant to attend practices and watch games," or, an identical situation to when former USC head coach Pete Carrol quietly hired NFL veteran Pete Rodriguez to help with the kicking game. It should be noted that the report does not specifically mention Carrol (a USC spokesman would neither confirm or deny anything), but, it doesn't take much to read between the lines. 

A Pacific 10 Conference head coach has been found in violation of NCAA rules for retaining a paid consultant to attend practices and watch games - circumstances identical to those surrounding former USC football coach Pete Carroll's hiring of an NFL veteran to help with the Trojans' punting and kicking teams - according to an internal Pac-10 report.

The document does not name the coach or the sport, but the Pac-10 sent it to the conference's schools after The Times reported last summer that Carroll had quietly employed Pete Rodriguez to monitor practices and games throughout the 2008 season, in apparent violation of NCAA limits on the number of coaches each team may hire.

The NCAA meetings with USC was just over nine weeks ago regarding the basketball and football teams and if these alleged violations are linked to USC the football team may actually receive some type of punishment from the NCAA.  

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