National Columnist

Ex-USC cheaters Bush, Mayo deserve financial suffering


I want Reggie Bush to pay. I want O.J. Mayo to pay.

Reggie Bush, who has potentially cost USC millions of dollars, needs an expensive lesson on accountability. (Getty Images)  
Reggie Bush, who has potentially cost USC millions of dollars, needs an expensive lesson on accountability. (Getty Images)  
It's not enough that the NCAA hammered the Southern California football team and humiliated the USC basketball program and came as close as it has come in decades to administering the death penalty.

Not good enough. I want Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo to pay.

This is not a figurative statement, but a financial one. I don't want their embarrassment.

I want their money.

Mayo owes USC $206,200. That's how much the USC men's basketball team earned for participating in the 2008 NCAA tournament, and it's how much the school had to repay the NCAA because Mayo wasn't an amateur and therefore wasn't eligible. This isn't about reputations -- this is about cash. O.J. Mayo literally cheated the Trojans out of $206,200, and I want him to repay it.

Bush's monetary responsibility to USC is more difficult to pin down, but much larger than what Mayo owes. Thanks to Bush's willful cheating while in school, the NCAA has prevented USC from participating in a bowl game in 2010 or 2011. There's no way to predict what will happen this season or next, but USC played in two BCS bowls during Bush's time at halfback and earned roughly $3 million for those appearances.

USC can't play in a BCS bowl, or any bowl, in 2010 or 2011. That's potentially $3 million the football team won't be able to earn for the school.

I want Bush to write that check.

Is this so unreasonable? No. It's not. It's accountability, which has been missing from NCAA investigations in the past and it's missing from this investigation in the present. The NCAA, spooked by losing a $2.5 million-dollar lawsuit to former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel in 2005 and by losing a $5 million lawsuit to Alabama booster Ray Keller in 2007, now prefers not to name names. And so the former USC coaches who looked the other way when Bush and Mayo were running amok were "cleared" by the NCAA last week.

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Former football coach Pete Carroll is getting paid millions by the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and issuing ridiculous statements expressing his "absolute shock" at the NCAA's findings, but that's Carroll for you. He didn't see Bush getting more than $300,000 in cash and gifts from leeches while in school, so of course he didn't see these sanctions coming. His head is still in the sand. Former basketball coach Tim Floyd is coaching at UTEP despite being advised ahead of time by his own compliance staff at USC, not to mention by me, against hopping into bed with known NCAA cheater Rodney Guillory. Floyd hopped into bed anyway, Guillory gave him Mayo, and USC has the sanctions to show for it. And Floyd still gets his happy ending at UTEP.

Disgusting. All of it. But you know most of that story. Schools get crushed by the NCAA, coaches typically avoid real punishment -- the guilty UConn basketball program and the "innocent" Jim Calhoun come to mind -- and people like you and me whine about it. But that's all we can do, because the system protects the coaches. It's not financially viable for the NCAA or the school to go after the coach. Slick Rick Neuheisel showed that.

But it is financially viable to go after the players. It hasn't been done, probably for fear of recruiting blowback, but it could and should be done. USC is out millions of dollars because of Mayo and Bush. USC should get it back. And USC could get it back, too. How could USC lose a lawsuit seeking to be reimbursed by Mayo for $206,200, and to be reimbursed by Bush for whatever bowl funds are lost over the next two postseasons? The chain of evidence is unbreakable: Player signs amateur contract with school. Player knowingly and clandestinely violates that amateur contract by accepting money from agents or marketing reps. School, which lets those players on the field, forfeits postseason money.

Slam dunk. Show me the judge or jury who wouldn't see it the same way. Justice can be blind, but it still has its sense of smell -- and the lack of real, tangible punishment stinks. Bush and Mayo deserve to suffer, and furthermore, USC deserves financial relief. So I want their money.

And I want their depositions. I want to see Bush and Mayo on a witness stand, cowering meekly as a lawyer for USC thunders questions at them until they break. Best of all, I want that lesson for future cheaters. The next time someone like Marcus Camby accepts cash and jewelry as he did while cavorting with an agent at UMass, the school pays, yes -- but the player pays. UMass had to forfeit $151,617 from the 1995 NCAA tournament, all because of Camby. That same year, UConn had to repay $90,970 in NCAA tournament revenue thanks to the illicit airfare obtained by "amateur" players Kirk King and Ricky Moore. Camby eventually repaid UMass the $151,000, but King and Moore didn't do the same for their school. Sue them, UConn.

This is how you stop the cheating. What does the next O.J. Mayo care about the possibility of forfeited victories? How does a public reprimand of a school affect the next Reggie Bush? He doesn't. It doesn't. But hit these stupid little cheating kids in the wallet, and you'll see some changed behavior. An agent's runner will no longer be seen as a sugar daddy hooking up a kid with a free TV. He'll be seen as the devil incarnate, gambling his trinkets now against the athletes' hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road. Put cheating athletes on trial, and schools won't have to keep agents away. Players will do it all by themselves.

Well, some players will. The smart ones. You can't fix everybody, because you can't fix stupid.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. More importantly, he is 4-0 as an amateur boxer, with three knockouts. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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