Archive for the ‘Reggie Bush’ Category

The Burden of Proof, From Balogun to Bush

August 20, 2009

In the grand scheme of the 2009 college football season, Mike Balogun doesn’t mean much. The hardscrabble 25-year-old ex-construction worker is no Butkus Award winner, but he would have given Oklahoma some nice depth at middle linebacker. Maybe he could have boosted his stock with the pro scouts and won a spot somewhere in the back of the pro draft.

Instead of fighting for a starting spot on the Sooner defense, though, Balogun is now fighting an uphill battle against the most rigid of rigid bureaucracies, the NCAA.
Over what, exactly? Well, according to court filings submitted in his lawsuit against the Association, there’s a box score floating around the Internet that says Balogun played in a semi-pro football game. There’s also the recollection of a former assistant coach that Balogun suited up for the Maryland Marauders of the North American Football League after his 21st birthday.
That’s it.

That was enough evidence to lead the powers that be to rule Balogun ineligible for the season. Nevermind that Balogun says he didn’t do it. Nevermind that the team’s former owner says Balogun didn’t do it. Nevermind that the league’s former commissioner says Balogun didn’t do it, the box score being presented against Balogun is unreliable and the league records don’t show Balogun playing. Nevermind that we’re talking about a fly-by-night semi-pro where it looks like the game is just a warm-up for the beers afterwards. Nevermind that the NCAA already cleared Balogun before he suited up for OU last year.

In the grand scheme of USC’s return to glory earlier this decade, Reggie Bush meant a lot. The decade’s most dynamic player helped propel the Trojans to conference and national titles, winning a Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in history along the way. When he was done dazzling college fans, he took his act to the pros, where he signed a lucrative contract as a high draft pick.

Since then, of course, accusations have surfaced that Bush and his family accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit benefits during his three years in Troy. The people who have come forward against Bush claim to have all kinds of documentation backing up their stories. Bush himself hasn’t exactly done much to defend himself against the allegations, reaching an out-of-court settlement with one of his accusers who was suing the now New Orleans Saints running back.

Yet, the NCAA has been investigating the USC athletic department for going on four years now, supposedly tying even more scandalous allegations against the men’s basketball program into the Bush investigation. So far, nothing.

If the case against Balogun is supposed to be strong, the case against Bush looks airtight. To be fair, we have no idea what kind of case has been presented in USC’s defense. (Assuming a case has been presented at all.) However, that doesn’t make the difference in apparent standards of proof any less glaring.

Of course, there are some important differences in the two cases—chiefly that Balogun met with the NCAA in-person to explain his situation, while Bush has blown the Association off. There’s also the matter of OU willingly handing over the goods that put the nail in Balogun’s coffin, while USC appears to be doing its part to vigorously observe the NCAA doing its digging.

Oh, and one other difference: Balogun is a backup linebacker who few outside of Oklahoma will miss, while USC is one of college football’s golden geese.

USC (Finally) Comments on Investigation

June 12, 2009

USC has decided to speak out about the investigation into improper benefits allegedly received by Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. ESPN blogger Ted Miller is right when he says there’s no breaking news in the statements from university official Todd Dickey and athletic director Mike Garrett. To Homerism, the biggest takeaway is that USC is claiming accusers Lloyd Lake and Louis Johnson are lying about the school declining to interview them. Also, note that USC appears to have initiated its internal investigation after the allegations were made and the NCAA had opened its own inquiry. From a compliance standpoint, that may not sit well with the Association.

From a purely tactical standpoint, I would have done this much sooner. At this point, it appears as though the media pontificating about the case finally goaded the Trojans into addressing its stance on the charges. 
If there’s one major issue that USC should have in its favor here, it’s credibility. Yet, by refusing to give any insight on its position, the school ceded some of that advantage, in my opinion. It’s kind of like that detective rule of thumb about guilty people sleeping soundly when they’re caught, while innocents scream their heads off. On top of all that, the delay in responding smacks of crisis management 101 strategies for dealing with a scandal.
In theory, public opinion should matter little to the NCAA. Good luck selling that now, though, seeing as Alabama got nailed today for a textbook scandal–not exactly flat-screen TVs and rent-free housing, as has been alleged in the USC case. If USC is cleared of wrongdoing, the Trojans better have damn good, irrefutable evidence that their accusers are lying. Otherwise, conspiracy theorists will have a field day, and the public will view this as the ultimate proof of the Association’s panty-waist “authority.”

Trojans Choose not to Speak

June 1, 2009

Adding to the mountains of media coverage, today’s edition of the Los Angeles Times features an inquiry into one of the more curious aspects of the USC-NCAA firestorm: the university’s code of silence regarding the nasty allegations leveled against its football and basketball programs.

(The frequent references to the Sooners’ last run-in with the amateurism patrol struck me as embarrassing, humorous and, somehow, slightly vindicating all at the same time.)

Times reporter Paul Pringle offers a thorough analysis of the situation, and, to me, the most interesting takeaway is that ‘SC would be within its NCAA-sanctioned rights to mount a public defense against the charges. But, invoking the Seinfeld precedent, the Trojans choose not to speak.
Times columnist Kurt Streeter writes today that he fears USC’s response reflects the disheartening mindset that success on the playing field means not having to answer to anyone. USC, on the other hand, says its lack of response reflects a desire to maintain the “integrity” of NCAA investigations.
The school’s silence hasn’t stopped the army of Troy from decrying the media feeding frenzy surrounding the story, though. (I wrote about this wholly predictable reaction from Trojan Nation a few weeks back for Tilting at Windmills.) Nor has it prevented ‘SC haters from piling on.
Personally, I don’t think it’s a good thing when one of college football’s glamour programs gets nailed for major infractions. Doesn’t matter if it’s OU, Alabama or USC. Yet, as a fan of a program that has left me all too accustomed to trying to explain away a preponderance of damaging evidence, I can recognize desperate rationalizing when I see it. 
I’ll close with some food for thought. If all the allegations against USC’s football and basketball programs are entirely off-base, why aren’t Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo taking their accusers to court?

Draft Preview: New Orleans Saints

April 18, 2009

Pick 14: New Orleans Saints
Strengths: Passing game
Weaknesses: Toughness, pass defense

The Pick: Beanie Wells, RB, Ohio State

I think it’s been established that Reggie Bush is an offensive weapon when used in a variety of ways around the field. He is not a workhorse back who can be replied upon to carry the ball 20 times a game.

Imagine pairing Bush with a hammer like Wells, though. Beanie is a hard-hitting bell cow–that’s an element the Saints have missed since Deuce McAllister hit the downside of his gridiron career. If coach Sean Payton can arrange enough chances to get both Bush and Wells on the field at the same time, it would make a killer inside-out combo for defenses to try to stop.

Of course, Wells’ injury history at Ohio state suggests that he might have a tough time getting loads of carries for durability alone. Beanie struggled with his health throughout his time in Columbus, which seems like a sign that he’s either “injury-prone” or more interested in collecting a paycheck than competing.

I’d still say Wells is worth taking a chance, but the Saints would be justified taking a linebacker or defensive back, too.

Bush Combo, Add Mayo

April 10, 2009

Could O.J. Mayo be the downfall of USC’s football powerhouse?

The Los Angeles Times reported today that the NCAA has combined its separate investigations regarding Mayo and Reggie Bush into one inquiry into the USC’s athletic department. At worst, the new development means the school could be hit with the dreaded verdict of “lack of institutional control.”
To answer the question above, I doubt it.  Given the stonewalling by USC and Bush regarding his alleged relationship with a marketing company, it seems fair to say that case is a dry hole. The NCAA’s look into Mayo’s short time in Troy has had less time to gestate. However, if the Bush investigation really is at a dead end, how does combining it with another investigation make any meaningful difference? 
The rumors swirling around Bush may add some weight to the overall case against the Trojans athletic department. Yet, seeing as the NCAA gumshoes haven’t been able to turn up enough evidence to take further action in the Bush matter, it’s unlikely to have a material impact on the greater issue of USC’s institutional control.