Even though USC and the NCAA released precious little information about their meeting in Tempe, Ariz. — to the extent that “Less Than Zero” replaced “A Few Good Men” as the du jour movie analogy – the three-day affair still provided much to digest. (And from the sound of things, it resulted in more than a few upset stomachs.)
So to help break it down, here’s one man’s take on three key developments:
1. Todd McNair, star witness
According to reports, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions spent the better part of two days grilling Todd McNair, the incumbent USC running backs coach. That’s a clear indicator that the Reggie Bush situation is the centerpiece of the NCAA’s probe. McNair was Bush’s position coach in 2004 and ‘05, so if any school employee knew what Bush and his family were up to, it had to be McNair, who’s like a father figure (or at least a big brother) to his charges. The extent of what he knew is critical to the case, particularly in determining how severely USC should be punished. This was extremely serious stuff, so much so that McNair “lawyered up” for the hearing. It’ll be interesting to see how, if at all, McNair’s involvement affects his future at USC. He technically remains part of the staff, but Lane Kiffin hasn’t finished putting it together, and it’s conceivable he will be “encouraged” to sever all ties to Bush (although Kiffin was part of that staff as well, and he will insist that all staff decisions were made solely for football reasons).
2. Floyd: Friend or foe?
Among Saturday’s star witnesses was former basketball coach Tim Floyd, who appeared on behalf of USC but also to defend himself. Given that he steadfastly has denied the allegations against him and reportedly continued to do so Saturday, one has to wonder if Floyd’s version of events was consistent with the school’s — and if there were discrepancies, how much that will work against USC. Floyd didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms with Mike Garrett, although the two shook hands at the hearing, according to this story. (We can only presume that handshake rivaled Bill Belichick-Eric Mangini I on the awkwardness scale.) Regardless of how the committee viewed Floyd’s testimony, my best guess is that the NCAA won’t penalize the basketball program beyond the self-imposed sanctions already in place. At the time, Garett said they were “consistent with penalties imposed at other NCAA member institutions which have been cited with similar rules infractions.” If they weren’t, someone should be fired.
3. Longest. Hearing. Ever.
The quote of the weekend came from David Price, the NCAA’s vice president of enforcement, who, besides having a cool job title, described the meeting as “my longest in 11 years” of duty. That, plus the ballyhooed seven boxes of documents wheeled out of the conference room, has led to speculation that USC could get hit harder than Garrett and others anticipated. (This New York Times account delves into the more-boxes theory and includes a quote from recruit Seantrel Henderson’s father, who says his son’s decision about a school might, for lack of concrete information, come from the gut.) But given that the investigation took nearly four years, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the hearing felt that long. It’s obviously a complex case, perhaps one whose outcome hinges on witness testimony. The results might not be revealed for 10 weeks, also an abnormally lengthy period, at which time USC finally will learn its fate. My prediction, for whatever it’s worth: The football program will lose scholarships and will have to vacate victories — including the Jan. 4, 2006, BCS title game — but won’t face a postseason ban.
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