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Bush Says Family Did Nothing Wrong

Probe will show parents' house deal broke no rules, potential top NFL draft pick says in TV interview.

April 25, 2006|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

A day after the Pacific 10 Conference confirmed it was investigating the living arrangements of Reggie Bush's family last season, the Heisman Trophy winner and his representatives Monday denied wrongdoing.

Bush, who helped lead USC to consecutive Associated Press national titles and is regarded as the possible top pick in Saturday's NFL draft, appeared in two nationally televised interviews and said neither he nor his family had broken NCAA rules.

"When this is all said and done everyone will see at the end of the day that we've done absolutely nothing wrong," Bush told ESPN.

If an investigation shows that Bush or his family received what the NCAA would classify as "extra benefits," USC could face sanctions even if it was determined that the running back and representatives of the school had no knowledge of the violations.

While he would not speak specifically about the Bush situation, NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said, "Ultimately there is still a responsibility for institutions and student athletes to abide by rules."

Because he has no remaining eligibility, Bush would not face punishment by the Pac-10 or NCAA, but Bush's status as a Heisman winner could be reviewed.

The board of trustees for the Heisman Trophy Trust, which presents the annual award, has been made aware of the Pac-10's investigation and will monitor the outcome, according to Heisman spokesman Tim Henning.

"To the best of our knowledge, nothing like this has happened before," Henning said. "Until such time that the Pacific 10 Conference and NCAA conclude their investigations, the Heisman Trust will have no comment."

Henning said, though, that language on the Heisman ballot states, "The recipient must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student athlete."

Whatever the outcome, Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen said USC would not lose its bowl championship series payout -- a share estimated at $1.3 million -- if infractions were found and Bush was ruled ineligible.

"We don't have financial penalties as part of our penalties," he said. "And the NCAA doesn't in football.... They can get you for an NCAA championship [in basketball and other sports], but not a bowl game."

Hansen, though, reiterated that forfeiture of games, and the conference title, could be among penalties if violations occurred.

"I want to caution that's a long way from where we are now," Hansen said. "I think all of us have seen so often there are allegations made, then you get to the heart of the matter there's nothing there."

According to several published reports, Bush's mother, stepfather and brother had lived for the last year in a spacious new home in Spring Valley, Calif., near San Diego, before moving out last weekend. The reports said the house was originally purchased by Michael Michaels, a man who allegedly tried to steer Bush toward an agent and who also allegedly has ties to a sports marketing company.

The reports said Michaels and an associate contacted David Caravantes, a San Diego-based agent, and offered to help recruit Bush.

In January, however, Bush announced he had hired Joel Segal as his agent. Mike Ornstein, who is a Reebok advisor and also a former NFL team executive, was retained to head up Bush's marketing team.

USC Coach Pete Carroll said Monday he had not been aware of Bush's parents' living arrangements and that USC would cooperate with the Pac-10's investigation. The probe was started at the request of the school after it received inquiries late last week about the situation.

Bush was not made available to print reporters Monday. His mother, Denise Griffin, and stepfather, LaMar Griffin, also could not be reached.

Neither Michaels nor Caravantes returned phone messages.

Ornstein on Monday referred most media requests for Bush to David Cornwell, an Atlanta-based attorney who represents the running back and the Griffins. In a statement e-mailed to news organizations, Cromwell said: "Mr. and Mrs. LaMar Griffin previously leased a house in the San Diego area from a San Diego businessman, Michael Michaels. They are no longer living in the house.

"Reggie Bush was a full-time student at the University of Southern California and never lived in the house. As is the case with most 20-year-old college students, Reggie was not aware of personal or financial arrangements relating to his parents or their house. Mr. and Mrs. Griffin now realize that, given Reggie's public profile, their personal decisions can reflect on their son."

Ornstein and Bush said the Griffins did not move abruptly from the home last weekend because of reporter inquiries. Ornstein said the move had been planned and that the family was now renting another house with an option to buy. He said he did not know where the home was located.

Ornstein said Bush was unaware of the lease terms at the previous house.

"He's been to that house one time in 14 months, for Thanksgiving, probably not even for Christmas," Ornstein said. "How's he supposed to know what's going on?"

Asked whether he knew Michaels or Caravantes, Ornstein said, "I don't know any of these people. I never met them, never heard of them."

Bush told ESPN that the situation had been "blown out of proportion." Asked whether he was concerned that USC might be punished for the arrangement, he said, "absolutely 100% not concerned."

Later, appearing on Fox Sports' "Best Damn Sports Show Period," Bush bemoaned that allegations surfaced days before the draft.

"It's a burden and it's a headache, but at the same time I've worked too long, too hard and come too far to let it go right now."

Times staff writers Chris Dufresne and Sam Farmer contributed to this report.

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