USC's record last season was 8-5, the program's worst showing since 2001. Attendance was down, too, to an average of 79,907, its lowest since 2003 — and that costs the university not only in ticket revenue but also in concessions.
The Trojans averaged 90,812 per home game in 2005, the season Bush won the Heisman and the Trojans pursued a third consecutive national title.
In 2006, after the allegations that Bush and his family had received extra benefits came to light, the Trojans averaged a school- and Pacific 10 Conference-record 91,480 per home game. Since then, however, attendance has fallen every year — to 87,476 in 2007 despite a Rose Bowl championship; to 86,793 in 2008 with another Rose Bowl winner; to 84,799 in 2009 as the team slipped to 9-4 and the Emerald Bowl; to last year's sub-80,000 dive.
One positive: Corporate sponsors did not flee, according to school officials.
"Granted, with everything there were questions, but at the end of the day there weren't any limitations placed on us in terms of delivering," said Jose Eskenazi, an associate athletic director in charge of marketing. "We're still on TV, we still have a radio broadcast and there is still a turnout for games."
Marc Ganis, a Chicago-based sports business consultant, said USC probably has taken short-term hits but is positioned to rebound. He said bad behavior by athletes has become so commonplace that it would have to "go beyond the pale" to adversely affect sponsors and others who might want to partner with USC.
"It would have to be systemic or the players would have had to do something . . . much worse than what Reggie Bush was accused of doing," Ganis said. "The notion of players taking money, as bad as that is, is discounted to a degree."
Steve Lopes, a senior associate athletic director, said USC, like many sports organizations, is also suffering from the effects of a poor economy.
As for Bush, Lopes said, "I don't know that there is a direct correlation as much as it's about winning and losing. As much as anything, people are kind of waiting and seeing how our team is going to be.
"I think you can go anywhere in the country and, with a few exceptions, find the same situation."