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USC Won't Get Hammered Because of it's "Fresh" Approach to Cheating

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...or "Apparently Ted Miller Spent Too Much Time Covering Auburn"

ed.- I'm putting in a jump before the updates take up the whole front page, but be sure to follow the jump and keep scrolling down for updates.

With the sanctions on Southern Cal supposedly coming out tomorrow, it's only natural that gallons of digital ink be spilled on what columnists the country over think they are going to be.  Pat Forde penned a good column on the myth of selective enforcement which, unfortunately, prompted Ted Miller to vomit out a response arguing that, since the USC case is being considered "a litmus test for NCAA enforcement equity," if the Trojans aren't hammered into oblivion or at the very least receive the same penalties as Alabama in '02 then heads are going to explode.  He's probably right about the heads exploding part, but he's also wrong wrong wrong wrong on just about everything else.  Seems the basis of his disagreement is that Alabama cheated "old school":

...let's just quickly list the major findings from the Alabama case, courtesy of USA Today.


  • A recruit, identified in news reports as Kenny Smith, and his parents were given $20,000 in cash, lodging and entertainment by two Crimson Tide boosters beginning in 1995. The first payment of $10,000 was made in $100 bills delivered in a grocery bag. Smith signed with Alabama but couldn't meet academic requirements.
  • An Alabama booster previously identified as Logan Young of Memphis, Tenn., gave cash to a high school coach who was seeking $100,000 cash and two sport-utility vehicles in exchange for directing star recruit Albert Means to Alabama.
  • An assistant coach, former recruiting coordinator Ronnie Cottrell, received two loans totaling $56,600 from Young in violation of NCAA rules. The loan was not repaid until the case became known.
  • Two boosters involved in repeated rules violations were known to the Alabama staff, coaches and fans and often were seen at the team hotel during road games.
  • A recruit, identified previously as Travis Carroll, was given the use of a car in 1999 for agreeing to attend Alabama. The car was repossessed when Carroll transferred to Florida.

Let all that swirl in your head for a bit. That's old-school cheating in its purest form. Reading it almost makes you crave a jar of moonshine.

No one here will deny any of that took place.  You do the crime, etc.  But here's where Miller goes off the tracks.  Instead of similarly listing and blasting Southern Cal's sins, he simply links them (here, here, and here!) and assures his readers that there's "[no] comparison by any objective measure."  Really Ted?  Just for the sake of equal time, let's list USC's sins here and compare:

  • In April 2006, Yahoo! Sports reported Trojans running back Reggie Bush and his family were provided cash and gifts -- extra benefits -- by a pair of would-be sports agents who wanted to represent Bush when he turned pro.
  • ESPN’s "Outside the Lines" reported in May of 2008 that basketball player O.J. Mayo accepted cash and gifts -- extra benefits -- from Rodney Guillory, who was connected to Bill Duffy Associates Sports Management. Moreover, former Trojans basketball coach Tim Floyd was alleged to have provided a $1,000 cash payment to help steer Mayo to USC, according to a Yahoo! Sports report.
  • The LA Times reported in December that running back Joe McKnight was using a 2006 Land Rover that belonged to a Santa Monica, Calif., businessman who employed McKnight's girlfriend.
  • These allegations, as well as any other possible violations that might be reported, will be assessed to see if the total constitutes a "lack of institutional control" or a less severe charge of "failure to monitor" for the USC athletic department.

That list doesn't include the recent investigation into the Land Rover Joe McKnight doesn't own yet has been driving around in or the similar accusation that agents freely and with the knowledge/permission of coaches roam the halls of USC's athletic complex.  Miller writes "Boosters paid players. Again, boosters paid players. That's the ultimate sin in college sports because it provides a competitive advantage. Preventing pay-for-play is the chief reason the NCAA exists." in his blasting of Alabama, and yet is curiously quiet over the fact that "pay-for-play" is clearly alive and well in LA.  So what's the difference?  Is it the fact that boosters were involved at Alabama while it was merely "agents" doing the dirty work in the USC case?  Are the Trojans going to avoid an "Alabama Slammer" because us dumb ol' boys down hyah cheated old school while Southern Cal is on the cutting edge of pay for play?  I guess we'll just have to find out tomorrow...

UPDATE: The loyal opposition over at Bruins Nation has it's own take:

Miller hilariously blasts Alabama for "old-school cheating in its purest form" while conveniently overlooking what appears to be a systematic pattern of out of control rule breaking (allegedly) that has taken place in Southern Cal in recent years. He somehow omits to mention the fact that Southern Cal also also may fall under the category of repeat offender.

They also have a more comprehensive list of infractions and links to incidents since Carroll's sudden departure and Kiffin's hiring that hint at a continuing culture of corruption at USC (did you know Rutgers is claiming tampering against the Trojans over the transfer of a basketball player?  Me either!).

UPDATE II: Pete chimes in:

At the risk of another painful session of “Educate DFWTrogan”, let’s do this. From your link:

USC fans don’t want any major penalties. That’s not likely to happen.

Also from your link:

Alabama received five years’ probation, a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 21 scholarships over three years after it was found that Crimson Tide boosters paid players.

Boosters paid players. Again, boosters paid players. That’s the ultimate sin in college sports because it provides a competitive advantage. Preventing pay-for-play is the chief reason the NCAA exists.

Want to hear something funny?

…in the Albert Means case, Means never received a penny of the money alleged to have been paid, and was never supposed to. The money was changing hands between a booster and Means’ coach and there’s no evidence that Means even knew about it. Kenny Smith supposedly did, but on the order of about $20k.

Contrast the allegations against Bush, which (by some accounts) have he and his family receiving more in benefits than Means’ HS coach and Kenny Smith did combined.

Other problems with Miller’s article:

He’s comparing official documents from the NCAA in the ‘Bama case to partial leaks from the USC case and assuming that’s an apt comparison.

He takes the “staring down the barrel of a gun” comment wholly out of context. He makes it sound like it was just about the 1999 infractions, but it was more about the string of repeat-offender cases that led up to it.

He ignores the fact that pretty much every participant in the 2002 infractions case was wholly cooperative with the NCAA and, by the NCAA’s own measure, did everything they could have to prevent this.

Then you have this:

my family and I spend Christmas Eve in Alabama annually, so I know this is a sore subject among the Crimson Tide faithful

Miller is, by all accounts, one of ESPN’s PAC-10 writer, yet he has to listen to SEC fans trumpet the obvious superiority of the conference every year on vacation.

Think he might be a little biased?

UPDATE III: OTS joins in as well:

I  will add, though that I do find it odd that people are seemingly so fixated on the Bush and Mayo allegations, apparently convincing themselves that those allegations constitute the entire case.

I find that ridiculous. The NCAA has conducted a thorough investigation into both the USC football and basketball programs, and that investigation has spanned several years now. We know of Bush and Mayo, of course, but they could have easily uncovered a lot of things that we have no clue about now. They operate under a veil of secrecy — which is only provided even further cover when you are dealing with a private institution exempt from FOI laws — and it’s very common to have surprises when the NCAA COI releases its ruling.

No one at Alabama was thinking of Gene Jelks during most of the Langham affair, nor did anyone mention Kenny Smith during the peak of the Albert Means rumors, and no one realized that the textbook scandal was both a football problem and that it did involve large sums of money. And we are a public institution, yet we were effectively in the dark on all of that. But guess what?

The point is that the NCAA, in the course of their investigation, could have found countless violations that we are completely unaware of. Perhaps that is not the case, of course, but it is possible, and at the very least this off-hand notion that this is just a Bush / Mayo scandal is clearly erroneous.

Update IV: OTS chimes in again:

If you want to talk about a “fresh” approach to cheating, if you believe the facts as established by the NCAA, then far from being an “old school” method of cheating the Albert Means scandal was unquestionably novel. Albert Means and his mother were (supposedly) completely unaware that any money ever changed hands or that money was ever any factor whatsoever, and furthermore the money was supposedly given to Means' high school coaches who had agreed in turn to use their influence to steer the recruit to whichever school paid out the big bucks. And it should also be mentioned that the NCAA (nor the FBI, for the matter) ever found the first dime of that money. That’s not old school, that’s newfangled.

Furthermore, as Pete mentions, trying to compare the official documents we had in the Means saga to the unverified, off-the-record leaks we have gotten in the USC case is an apples and oranges comparison. That veil of secrecy over USC only serves to further underscore the uncertainty that we have over this investigation, even down to the allegations themselves, and trying to compare the two is, more than anything else, a sign that the writer is ignorant with regard to the fundamental differences between the sources of information in the two cases.

Finally, I will also add that no one should underestimate the impact of this case moving forward with regard to how member institutions interact with the NCAA. As Pete mentioned, Alabama was as cooperative as humanly possible with the NCAA during the Means scandal, with the NCAA in fact ruling that the enforcement team at UA did everything they could have done within their power. With USC, on the other hand, they have been anything but cooperative and in reality have been nothing if not brazenly defiant. If USC skates in this case, I think that establishes with a pretty high degree of certainty which manner of interaction a rationally-acting major football power should pursue with the NCAA in years to come. If USC escapes here, most schools in a similar situation will likely find cooperation an indefensible strategy.