Mon May 10 04:33pm EDT
Only four short years after the NCAA opened its illegal benefits investigation into Reggie Bush's final season at USC, a ruling is on the way, according to Yahoo! Sports colleague Dan Wetzel, who reported via Twitter on Monday that the NCAA infractions committee will hand down its report later this week – likely including sanctions, if applicable.
USC officials made their case in front of the committee in February, and initially expected to receive a response by mid-to-late April. That timeline was interrupted when Bush was finally ordered to testify in a dogged lawsuit by Lloyd Lake, one of the would-be agents who allegedly funneled cash and prizes to Bush and his family in 2005; with that suit hastily settled out of court a few days later and all parties subsequently silenced, there's nothing else to delay the verdict.
The L.A. Times' Chris Dufresne predicts a heavy-handed blow, including scholarship losses and a bowl ban, pointing out that the cash-strewn Albert Means scandal at the turn of the decade cost Alabama 21 scholarships over three years and a two-year bowl ban, which cost the Tide a shot at the SEC title despite a 10-3 record in 2002. (And may have cost them a head coach: Dennis Franchione turned down a 10-year contract extension and was en route to Texas A&M days after the end of the regular season.) No major program has been hit with that kind of hammer in years – California endured the last bowl ban against a BCS conference team in 2003 – but none have faced the potential charges against which USC has had to defend itself in the Bush/O.J. Mayo Affair, and certainly none have presented such a high-profile target for the NCAA to reverse its image as a big softy content with symbolic, retroactive measures like "vacating" wins.
If the infractions committee looking to make an example, this looks like the chance to do it. Maybe by Friday we'll know if a stern warning to other rogue players/programs is on the agenda, or if the facts of USC's involvement (or conspicuous lack thereof) even gave the committee that chance in the end.