Trojans forfeit 2004 football title


LOS ANGELES -- The NCAA threw the book at storied Southern California on Thursday with a two-year bowl ban, four years' probation, loss of scholarships and forfeits of an entire year's games for improper benefits to Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush dating to the Trojans' 2004 national championship.

USC was penalized for a lack of institutional control in the ruling by the NCAA after its four-year investigation. The reported cited numerous improper benefits for Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo, who spent one year with the Trojans.

The coaches who presided over the alleged misdeeds -- football's Pete Carroll and basketball's Tim Floyd -- left USC in the past year.

The penalties include the loss of 30 football scholarships over three years and vacating 14 victories in which Bush played from December 2004 through the 2005 season.

USC beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game on Jan. 4, 2005, and won 12 games during Bush's Heisman-winning 2005 season, which ended with a loss to Texas in the 2006 BCS title game.

The NCAA said Bush received lavish gifts from two fledgling sports marketers hoping to sign him. The men paid for everything from hotel stays and a rent-free home where Bush's family apparently lived to a limousine and a new suit when he accepted his Heisman in New York in December 2005.

The rulings are a sharp repudiation of the Trojans' decade of stunning football success under Carroll, who won seven straight Pac-10 titles and two national championships before leaving for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks in January. Floyd resigned last June, shortly after he was accused of giving cash to a middleman who helped steer Mayo to USC.

Carroll said he's "absolutely shocked and disappointed" by the sanctions.

Speaking forcefully in a video produced by the Seahawks at team headquarters, the new Seattle coach blasted the NCAA's Committee on Infractions. He said it had an agenda against USC.

"The agenda of the NCAA's infractions committee took them beyond the facts, and the facts don't match the sanctions," Carroll said. "I absolutely support the appeal by the university and will do everything I can to contribute to their efforts."

Carroll, through the Seahawks, refused requests for an interview from The Associated Press.

He said when he took the Seattle job that he was not escaping NCAA penalties at USC and that he was comfortable there wouldn't be major ones.

"I never, ever thought it would come to this," he said in the video. "I'm extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this right now."

The NCAA found that Bush, identified as a "former football student-athlete," was ineligible beginning at least by December 2004, a ruling that could open discussion on the revocation of the New Orleans Saints star's Heisman. Members of the Heisman Trust have said they might review Bush's award if he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA.

"I have a great love for the University of Southern California and I very much regret the turn that this matter has taken, not only for USC, but for the fans and players," Bush said in a statement.

"I am disappointed by (Thursday's) decision and disagree with the NCAA's findings. If the University decides to appeal, 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 plans to appeal some of the penalties it thinks are excessive.

"There is a systemic problem facing college athletes today: unscrupulous sports agents and sports marketers," Todd Dickey, USC's senior vice president for administration, said in a statement. "The question is how do we identify them and keep them away from our student-athletes?"

The NCAA took no further action against the men's basketball team, which had already banned itself from postseason play last spring and vacated its wins from Mayo's season.

The women's tennis team was cited in the report for unauthorized phone calls made by a former player, but the NCAA accepted USC's earlier forfeiture of its wins from November 2006 to May 2009.

The report also condemned the star treatment afforded to Bush and Mayo, saying USC's oversight of its top athletes ran contrary to the fundamental principles of amateur sports.

 

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