For years, USC fans waited to hear the result of the NCAA’s long-standing investigation into the school’s athletic program.
What they heard Thursday wasn’t what they expected.
In a 67-page report the NCAA compiled and released to the public at noon Thursday, the collegiate athletics governing body found instances proving a lack of institutional control and numerous violations involving the two primary suspects: “student-athlete one” (Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush) and “student-athlete two” (one-and-done prep star O.J. Mayo.)
The NCAA’s four-year investigation centered on the school’s alleged football- and basketball-related violations, relating largely to against-the-rules benefits Bush and Mayo received while attending USC.
The USC football program received a two-year bowl ban and a loss of football scholarships – 30 scholarships over a three-year period, 10 annually. Both football and basketball will also be put on four years probation.
With its ban from postseason play, USC becomes the first Football Bowl Subdivision school to be so punished since the Alabama served a two-year ban last decade.
Bush, who was ruled ineligible in 2004 and 2005 by the NCAA, was the subject of much controversy after he left the football program. His dealings with two would-be sports marketers — Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels — were investigated by the NCAA, Pac-10 and the FBI.
In turn, USC has been ordered to forfeit every victory that Bush participated in while ineligible. The two-year bowl ban also comes as a direct result of Bush’s ineligibility, according to Committee of Infractions director Paul Dee.
“I am disappointed by [Thursday’s] decision and disagree with the NCAA’s findings,” Bush said in a statement Thursday. “I will continue to cooperate with the NCAA and USC, as I did during the investigation. In the meantime, I will continue to focus on making a positive impact for the University and for the community where I live.”
USC managed to avoid further punishment that would have imposed a television ban on the football team. The NCAA found that the sanctions it chose to impose “respond to the nature of violations and the level of institutional responsibility.”
The Trojans’ basketball program and the women’s tennis team were also cited in the report the NCAA compiled with its findings on the athletic program
The NCAA did not take any further action against the basketball program. Earlier this year, the university self-imposed sanctions on the basketball team, banning it from postseason play, forfeiting victories from Mayo’s lone season at the school and reducing the number of scholarships for the next two years.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, USC basketball coach Kevin O’Neill said he agreed with the decision to self-impose sanctions but said he couldn’t speculate on whether it should have been an option for the football program.
The women’s tennis violation involved Romanian athlete Gabriela Niculescu, who has since transferred to Idaho. According to the report, USC chose to vacate all the wins — from 2006 to 2009 — she participated in.
The university has announced plans to appeal the NCAA’s football-related findings, which could affect the timetable of the punishments. If the appeal has not been ruled on by mid-January, USC will technically be eligible to compete in any bowl game for the 2010 season.
USC also released the original 169-page report it submitted to the NCAA in December 2009. From the report, the the Trojans hope to prove their relative innocence.
“There is some guilt in some penalties, but the punishment is too severe and that’s why the appeal process is taking place,” first-year coach Lane Kiffin told media members in USC’s Heritage Hall on Thursday.