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Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Has NCAA's Investigation in Reggie Bush/O.J. Mayo Changed USC's Recruiting?

Ramona Shelburne of the LA Daily News has an in-depth article on the University of Southern California apparently rejecting a verbal commitment by basketball phenom Renardo Sidney to play there. It is possible that the NCAA's investigation into the Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo matters drove USC's decision. Ramona interviews several persons, including Duke law prof Paul Haagen and me, for the story. Here's an excerpt.

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When Sidney announced in February he was verbally committing to USC, it was met with a mix of envy and head- scratching around the country and in its own department - envy that USC would reap the benefits of the 6-foot-9 star's considerable talent, but head-scratching the Trojans would go down this dangerous path again after getting burned by the O.J. Mayo and Reggie Bush affairs, which have recently been merged into a single ongoing NCAA investigation, a lawyer involved in the Bush case confirmed Wednesday.

Two months have passed, and it seems USC might have scratched its head hard enough to finally knock some sense into it. In the past two weeks, the Trojans have backed away from Sidney . . . [Sidney will apparently play at Mississippi State next year and then enter the 2010 NBA Draft, where he will likely be a lottery pick]

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"It seems that these incidents are no longer about Reggie Bush or O.J. Mayo, they're about USC," said Vermont Law School professor Michael McCann, who served as counsel to Maurice Clarett in his lawsuit against the NFL. "I think the suspicion is that if the allegations are true, and there were multiple opportunities for players to be paid without the school taking the appropriate actions to prevent that, it's more systemic."

McCann points out in cases involving basketball stars who can leave for the NBA after one season, the school bears almost all of the future risk if a violation is later discovered.

"In a way, the system creates incentives for a player to go to college for a year knowing that they're not going to stay, so that by the time allegations come to the surface, the player will have already left and there's no way of holding him accountable," McCann said.

So would taking a step back from a controversial figure such as Sidney have any effect on the pending investigations?

"I think maybe there's a benefit to it, but if the department acted wrongly in the past, they're going to be held accountable for it," McCann said.

Paul Haagen, a Duke law professor and co-director of the university's Center for Sports Law and Policy, said it's not immediately clear whether the merging of the NCAA investigation reflects a more serious tenor to the case, or if it's merely a matter of bureaucratic housekeeping.

"Two things could be going on. Bureaucratically, you have two cases with largely the same set of issues and limited resources, so why not just send one investigator out there?" he said. "Or, more likely, what they're now doing is saying this is one institution, and the same smell keeps happening around it. If we broaden it, maybe they will take it more seriously.

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For the rest of the article, click here. For a NY Times piece on Renardo Sidney, click here.


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