Thursday, June 10, 2010

USC to See Huge Sanctions

It's been reported that USC will face significant sanctions due to its football players' (ahem, Reggie Bush) activities during it's amazing run in the 2004 and 2005 seasons (among others). This isn't a huge surprise, but it's apparently one of the largest penalties ever. They could lose their National Championship and Reggie Bush may be asked for his Heisman trophy. There could also be 20 scholarships taken away.

If this is the case, USC football may not ever fully recover to its greatness in recent times. Pete Carroll obviously saw this coming, as he took the NFL head coaching job with Seattle. Reggie Bush probably doesn't mind so much giving back his Heisman. After all, he knows he won it, and now he has the Lombardi Trophy to replace it (well, personally he just gets a ring).

The NCAA creates this problem, and then tries to come across as the good guy in all of this for punishing the school. This is what happens when you use people as slave labor who have value to others, but you regulate their choices: they find ways around them and the only ones that get hurt by it are others. Especially in LA. It creates all sorts of incentive problems with college athletes, namely in Basketball and Football. Why? Well because of the limited time each player is even allowed to play. They have no future investment in the team or the school, so going against the regulations doesn't affect them one bit. The NCAA essentially takes poor families and forces them to continue to be poor for extra time. Granted, there is certainly something to 'amateur' sports, but that's not really what college Basketball and Football actually are. They're minor leagues, plain and simple.

Assuming Reggie Bush DID commit these offenses, what does he care at that time? Even by the time they would find out (um, now), he'll be long gone. Other than his Heisman, he sees no reprocussions to the sanctions at USC. What incentive does he have NOT to take money? Perhaps his teammates might be mad, but his teammates are now the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. You could say, "Well his name is tarnished...yadda yadda yadda." He still got paid. Chris Webber and the bunch seemed to do pretty well after leaving Michigan, no? The ones really losing out are USC fans and players that have already committed to play in the program. I doubt Reggie has any significant personal ties with them, especially with Pete Carroll gone.

Carroll and Bush: 10.
USC and the NCAA: -100.

I'm curious what would have happened with OJ Mayo. But again, the NCAA created that problem as well by making a deal with the NBA to require high school play a year in college before being drafted (don't tell me they didn't have a part in that). Of course, they do have to enforce their rules...but I would argue that it's better for them to allow USC to continue winning at a high rate for its Los Angeles fans.


  1. So much to say! I had to same "ah ha" moment about why Pete Carroll left USC. I was extremely puzzled by it at the time.

    Although the players are only there for a short amount of time, the coaches have a stake in avoiding these sanctions. It will be much tougher for Carroll to return to the NCAA now. And not all coaches can just use the NFL as a backup like he did.

    You would think that the university itself has enough incentives to crack down on these sorts of activities.

  2. Yeah, the coaches definitely have more incentive to keep this from happening. The fact that they're actually getting paid the excess salary not going to the players probably helps.

    Like I mentioned, I like amateur athletics, so I become torn on the issue of whether the NCAA has any ground trying to enforce it. The common economic answer is that there are very few positive outcomes to regulating young athletes to stay amateurs. But I think the true answer lies somewhere between maximizing earning potential for athletes and maximizing the experience that many feel comes from competing in sport.

    USC itself has become a circus. I understood the Pete Carroll departure when it happened (as the sanctions don't seem much of a surprise), but I still can't understand why they hired Lane Kiffin after the 'borderline prostitution for letters of intent' scandal. Why haven't we heard more about that?

    With that said, USC has a long road ahead. With the likely expansion of the conference with top tier Texas teams, and if these penalties really do happen, I think it will take at least 15 years for them to recover and be in serious BCS contention. Maybe 25.