VOX POPULI: The USC verdict and the Impossibility of Change

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By CRAIG MURANAKA

(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on June 16, 2010.)

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Change is something that all living things must cope with. The warmth of a summer day turns to the colder winds of the fall mornings, longer days turn to shorter ones.  The season of the Lakers yields to the season of USC football.
The gavel of the NCAA smashed down on the USC athletic program last week and in its wake it has left the dust of the legacy of Pete Carroll, two national championships, a Heisman trophy season, the unfulfilled scholarships of thirty student athletes who may never be.  It has broken the hearts of the Trojan family. It has broken mine.

From my seat at the coliseum I have watched all the years of USC football during Pete Carroll’s tenure, I have watched OJ Mayo at the Galen Center hit his jump shots, I watched Reggie Bush on that magical night of the zip zap run against Fresno State, I have watched our women’s tennis players from Hungary and South Africa play against others in the Pac 10.  I have eaten at the Papadakis Taverna. One way or another, all of these are parts of the NCAA judgement. All were judged as wrong.

I have seen much of it, and I know that things must change at USC.  When the MAN says you are wrong, you are wrong regardless of the facts. I only wonder how that change can be done.
The things that would have to change would mean a program can’t bring its prospective recruits to a San Pedro restaurant owned by an alumnus and a former football player for he may say that it is a good idea to go to that program. That kind of small town gesture is not consistent with the rules of NCAA recruiting where no boosters may have contact with recruits.

It would mean that foreign athletes have to be watched so that they can’t call home for any reason using any resources of the school they represent as phone calls represent an undue benefit that, in the eyes of the NCAA, gives one school advantage over another.   Fair means that strict observation must be maintained over the student athlete lest he or she abuse any school given resources. Fair would mean that family finances of student athletes would have to be suspect.

What seems to be called for by the NCAA is an enforcement police, a special investigations unit that audits the finances of the families of student athletes, where families of athletes live, whether student athletes are given summer jobs, whether their girlfriends do well and perhaps are given company cars to drive. For USC to have stopped the incident causing most of the wrongs alleged in the NCAA findings, it would have required at a minimum, site visits to the Bush home in San Diego, bank records, audits, personal intrusions that I think would be difficult to do without some sort of waiver or license,  It seems to minimize the difficulty that young and impatient ears may hear the wrong music playing from the mouthpieces of would be future titans of sport.

I just wonder how the university that offers a scholarship, one that tells parents to “send us your son or daughter,” can change from the vehicle that changes their lives, to some kind of benevolent super cop. There are over a hundred athletes on a D1 football team, each family and each athlete would need to be monitored many times a year for compliance to NCAA regulations.  I’ve heard it said that USC didn’t need to know what everyone was doing but it should have known what Reggie Bush’s parents were doing. While that perhaps is true, that sentiment is also discriminatory and wouldn’t hold up to a legal test. Everyone would have to be monitored.

How can the hand that guides the young student into a better future be the one that holds the wiretap on student’s families lives? Change must happen but how can it, when the change must still be just, and fair, and honest? A foundation of justice is that the wrongdoers are punished, but are the student athletes of 2010 the wrongdoers? Shouldn’t the ones who caused this mess be the ones who should be punished?

Regardless of how this Trojan fan feels, change will occur just like the turning of the earth. USC will field a football team next year. It will not play in the Rose Bowl for the next two years and perhaps many more to come.  The Pac-10 will become a larger super conference in order to provide a playoff game in December for which it will reap millions it is not getting right now.  Today’s USC sons and daughters will be punished for the sins of someone else’s father or mother… and the world will trundle on.

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Craig Muranaka is an avid USC sports fan. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Rafu Shimpo.

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1 Comment

  1. Shikata ga nai? on

    Well said Muranakasan. The only real solution is reform of the NCAA. The protection of, “Amateurism” that they are so vehement about, cannot continue in the modern world of seven figure pro contracts and billion dollar television deals.

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