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NCAA slaps Southern Cal with two-year bowl ban

LOS ANGELES - The NCAA leveled Southern California with stinging penalties yesterday, issuing a two-year bowl ban and declaring Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush ineligible dating to the Trojans' 2004 national championship.

Citing USC for a lack of institutional control in its long-awaited report, the NCAA also put the entire athletic program on four years' probation, took away a total of 30 football scholarships over three years and vacated every victory in which Bush participated in from December 2004 through the 2005 season.

USC beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game on Jan. 4, 2005, and won 12 games during Bush's Heisman-winning 2005 season, which ended with a loss to Texas in the 2006 BCS title game. The four-year investigation revealed numerous improper benefits involving former men's basketball player O.J. Mayo and Bush.

The NCAA found that Bush, identified as a "former football student-athlete," was ineligible beginning at least by December 2004, a ruling that could open discussion on the revocation of the New Orleans Saints star's Heisman. Members of the Heisman Trust have said they might review Bush's award if he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA.

"I have a great love for the University of Southern California and I very much regret the turn that this matter has taken, not only for USC, but for the fans and players," Bush said in a statement, according to an ESPN report.

"I am disappointed by [yesterday's] decision and disagree with the NCAA's findings. If the University decides to appeal, I will continue to cooperate with the NCAA and USC, as I did during the investigation."

The NCAA took no further action against the men's basketball team, which already had banned itself from postseason play last spring and vacated its wins from Mayo's only season with the Trojans.

The report also condemned the star treatment afforded to Bush and Mayo, saying USC's oversight of its top athletes ran contrary to the fundamental principles of amateur sports. - AP

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