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NCAA sanctions could cost USC millions

NCAA, in penalizing the football, men's basketball and women's tennis programs, cites lack of oversight and ethics.

June 10, 2010|By Gary Klein and David Wharton

Another celebrated football program, Alabama, received similar penalties in 2002, when Crimson Tide boosters were found to be paying players. The program received five years' probation, a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 21 scholarships over three seasons.

In USC's case, the committee said it also seriously considered imposing a television ban, which would have cost the university millions of dollars more.

The football violations occurred during former Coach Pete Carroll's tenure and centered on Bush, a star for the Trojans from 2003 to 2005.

The former tailback was ruled retroactively ineligible from December 2004 on for taking cash and gifts from a pair of would-be sports marketers who hoped to represent him after he turned professional. Bush's family also lived in a home owned by one of the marketers without paying rent.

The NCAA said that in January 2006, the marketers contacted a USC assistant to complain that Bush was not living up to the deal they had made with him. Investigators said the assistant — known to be running backs coach Todd McNair — failed to alert USC compliance officials of the situation and later provided "false and misleading information" to the NCAA.

Carroll, now the coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, noted Thursday in a video statement that he had taken part in depositions and also attended the NCAA hearing, yet he "never thought there were any facts that supported significant sanctions."

"The university didn't know," Carroll said, referring to Bush's family situation. "We didn't know." He added that "the facts don't match the decision."

The football program was also cited for breaking rules by having a hired consultant act as an assistant coach.

The violations in basketball occurred before and during Mayo's one season with the Trojans, in 2007-08, when Tim Floyd coached the team.

The NCAA said that from August 2006 through May 2008, Mayo and people close to him took cash, lodging, transportation, a cellphone, a television, watches, shoes and clothing from a representative of a Northern California agent.

As part of the sanctions, the NCAA ordered USC to disassociate itself with Bush, Mayo and Rodney Guillory — the agent's representative — who were described but not named in the report.

Investigators also found that women's tennis player Gabriela Niculescu used an athletic department long-distance access code to make 123 unauthorized international calls to family members, for a total cost of $7,000.

Niculescu and other major figures in this scandal have long since left Southern California.

Mayo plays for the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA. Carroll departed in January to become the Seahawks' coach, and Floyd resigned in June 2009, later citing a lack of support from Garrett. He worked as an assistant for the NBA's New Orleans Hornets before the University of Texas-El Paso hired him as head coach in March.

Last year, officials combined the Bush and Mayo investigations. Next came a February meeting of the infractions committee, attended by a USC contingent that included Garrett, Carroll, Sample and McNair.

The closed-door hearing in a hotel ballroom lasted three days, the longest such NCAA proceeding in at least a decade.

"This case was very complicated, with multiple, multiple allegations," said Paul Dee, the infractions committee chairman. "It was not a case that lent itself to being resolved in a short amount of time."

This is the sixth time the NCAA has sanctioned USC dating back to 1957. Only 10 major college programs have been penalized more often since the organization started keeping track in 1953.

The sanctions announced Thursday did not address other recent incidents.

In June 2006, the NCAA suspended football receiver Dwayne Jarrett because he had paid substantially less than half the rent on an apartment he shared with quarterback Matt Leinart. Jarrett was reinstated after agreeing to pay $5,352 to a charity of his choice.

Last December, after an inquiry by The Times, USC opened an investigation into tailback Joe McKnight's use of a 2006 Land Rover owned by a Santa Monica businessman. McKnight was held out of USC's Emerald Bowl victory over Boston College and later made himself available for the NFL draft.

Even without these incidents, the NCAA levied penalties that left football players with no hope for a much-coveted bowl game in the near future.

"We're still going to have our whole entire season," middle linebacker Chris Galippo said. "It's a bummer, that's all it is."

Times staff writers Chris Foster and Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.

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