LOS ANGELES - The NCAA threw the book at storied Southern California yesterday 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 following its four-year investigation. The report cited numerous improper benefits for Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo, who spent just 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. USC reacted with uniform outrage to the harshness of the sanctions, promising an appeal.
"I'm absolutely shocked and disappointed in the findings of the NCAA," Carroll said in a video statement produced by the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, who hired him in January. "I never thought it would come to this."
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.
Bill Hancock, the executive director of the BCS, said a committee will meet to consider vacating USC's 2004 championship. While no action would go into effect until USC's appeals are heard by the NCAA, Hancock said there would be no 2004 champion if USC's victory is vacated.
"I take the same stance as our university," new football coach Lane Kiffin said. "There is some guilt, but the punishment is too severe. That's why the appeal process is taking place."
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 abruptly returning to the NFL.
The NCAA says 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 Trophy in New York in December, 2005.
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 of 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 were ruled ineligible by the NCAA.
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. Floyd, now coaching at UTEP, resigned from USC last June, shortly after he was accused of giving cash to a middleman who helped steer Mayo to USC.
The bowl ban is the most damaging to Kiffin, who will have to ratchet up his formidable recruiting skills to entice players with no hope of postseason play before 2012.
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