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USC Just Happened to Get Caught Playing The Game

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water cooler         logoFor a few years, there have been rumors swirling about Reggie Bush receiving money and gifts while playing at USC.  O.J. Mayo, while playing basketball at USC was also rumored to have been involved in some improprieties.

Generally where there's smoke there's fire. Yesterday the NCAA laid down the gauntlet upon USC with a severe punishment, which goes as follows:

*Four-year probation

*USC will forfeit their victories from December 2004 through the entire 2005 season, including their National Championship victory against Oklahoma

*Two-year ban on postseason play

*They will lose a total of 30 scholarships over three seasons (10 each year)

Without a doubt, the legacy of Pete Carroll and USC will take a huge hit because of the sanctions.

When you look at things a little deeper though-did USC really do anything that most other big colleges aren't? They just happened to get caught. And, it's not like their players were doing steroids resulting in altered performances.  Reggie Bush didn't put up those numbers in college because he made some money on the side. He did it on his own merit. 

In the days of big-money college sports, it's pretty naive of the NCAA to make hundreds of millions of dollars off student athletes while attempting to uphold this facade of integrity. The reality is, student athletes are cattle being herded through these football factories. And, the universities benefit from their essentially free labor. Sure, they give them scholarships, but when you consider a superstar athlete's true value-that $100,000 4-year scholarship is a bargain. Can you really blame college athletes for trying to profit from their successes when they don't have time to work part-time jobs because they're either studying or playing football?  This is not to say that college athletes should be paid, but don't be naive and expect them to not accept gifts.  It's human nature. 

Should USC be punished for being caught playing the game? Sure.  But, not this harshly.  Pete Carroll is no longer there, so you're in essence punishing a coach (Lane Kiffin) who had about as much to do with Reggie Bush as Bob Hope. 

The biggest loser in this whole scandal isn't Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, or the NCAA-it's USC. The University of Southern California must now suffer for a few years because of the transgressions involving a former coach and player. And, there's not a damn thing they can do to Pete Carroll who saw the writing on the wall before bolting to the Northwest.

Maybe Reggie Bush will lose his Heisman. He won't suffer any financial hardship. And, his NFL legacy won't suffer-although that's not saying much. He may be the most overrated player in NFL history.

Once again a university suffers at the hands of the NCAA for doing what many other colleges are doing.  This has been going on for years, since the "Fab Five" took the nation by storm in the early 90's.

USC just happened to get caught "playing the game."