The NCAA slapped USC with heavy penalties Thursday that leave the once-dominant college football program with questions about its future and nothing to show for the seasons in which former star running back Reggie Bush played.
The team was banned by the NCAA Thursday from making any bowl-game appearances for the next two years. The program also was stripped of all of its wins in which Bush, identified as a "a former football student-athlete" in the NCAA Public Infractions Report, played beginning in December 2004.
The university's athletic program, cited for a lack of institutional control, was placed on four years probation. The football program was stripped of 10 scholarships for each of the next three seasons.
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NCAA officials made the announcement Thursday during a teleconference.
The forfeited wins include the 2005 Orange Bowl, in which the Trojans defeated the Oklahoma Sooners to win the national championship.
In a video posted on YouTube, USC football coach Pete Carroll responded.
"I'm absolutely shocked and disappointed at the findings of the NCAA. I never, ever thought it would come to this," Carroll said. "After nine years of working at the university and going through all of the challenges and accomplishments that all of the people took part in, I'm extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this right now.
"After going through the process from the depositions through the interviews, over years and years, and also participating in the hearing for the NCAA, I never thought there was any facts that supported the significant sanctions that have come forth. The primary issue throughout the process was did the university know. The university didn't know. We didn't know. We were not aware of any of these findings."
Todd Dickey, USC senior vice president for administration, said the university accepts some of the penalties outlined in the report, but plans to appeal others it considers excessive.
"We acknowledge that violations occurred and we take full responsibility for them," Dickey said. "However, we sharply disagree with many of the findings in the NCAA Committee on Infractions report. Further, we feel the penalties imposed are too severe for the violations identified in the report.
"We will accept those sanctions we believe to be consistent with penalties imposed upon other NCAA member institutions found guilty of similar rules infractions. We are hopeful that the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee will agree with our position on appeal and reduce the penalties."
The Trojans avoided a television ban, but the report indicates the ban was considered.
"The committee seriously contemplated imposing a television ban penalty in this case. However, after careful consideration, it ultimately decided that the penalties below adequately respond to the nature of violations and the level of institutional responsibility."
Report Casts Shadow Over Bush, Carroll Era
The coach, Pete Carroll, who restored the Trojans to glory and the player at the center of recruiting violations have both departed for the NFL, leaving the proud program in a shambles.
The report does not identify Bush or former basketball player O.J. Mayo, who was the subject of a separate recruiting scandal involving the school's basketball program. They are referred to as "Student-Athlete 1" and "Student-Athlete 2."
Bush issued a statement Thursday.
"I am disappointed by the 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."
The school and its fans have been awaiting the ruling by college football's governing body since February, when USC President Steven Sample, Garrett and former Coach Pete Carroll appeared before an NCAA committee over three days.
The recruiting violations involve former star and Heisman Trophy winner, now with the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. The NCAA launched its investigation in March 2006, after reports surfaced that Bush's mother, brother and stepfather had lived in a San Diego-area home owned by a businessman angling to represent Bush when he turned pro.
Carroll, who took over the football program in 2001 and went on to record a 97-19 record with two national championships and five Rose Bowl wins, resigned in January to become the head coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, with a five-year, $33 million contract.
According to the NCAA investigation, Bush, his mother and stepfather accepted thousands of dollars in cash and free housing, apparently at the San Diego home owned by a marketer. The transations allegedly occurred while Bush was playing for USC beginning in December 2004. He and his family were also given an automobile, air travel, hotel lodging, transportation and other benefits, according to the NCAA's 67-page report.
"There is a systemic problem facing college athletes today: unscrupulous sports agents and sports marketers," Dickey said in his statement. "The question is how do we identify them and keep them away from our student-athletes?"
Because of those benefits, Bush was declared officially ineligible to play under NCAA rules, leading to the ruling that the university must forfeit all of its wins in which Bush played beginning in December 2004. Those forfeits include the 2005 Orange Bowl game -- in which the Trojans trounced the Oklahoma Sooners to win the national championship -- and the entire 2005 season, after which Bush won the Heisman Trophy.
According to the report, an assistant USC football coach knew of the payments but failed to alert the university, and later provided "false and misleading "information to the NCAA.
The LA Times has a timeline of events involving the case.
As for the Mayo case, that inquiry began in May 2008 after a former associate told ESPN that Mayo received cash and other benefits from Rodney Guillory, an event promoter who helped guide Mayo to USC. According to the NCAA report, Mayo, his brother, girlfriend and girlfriend's mother received cash, lodging, transportation, meals, air travel, professional personal trainers, a cell phone, wireless service, a television, watches, shoes and clothing from "a representative affiliated with a professional sports agency and his associate."
The program imposed a ban on post-season play and scholarship reductions. It vacated wins from 2007-08.