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USC asks NCAA to lessen penalties for Bush-related violations

LOS ANGELES -- The University of Southern California filed an appeal with the NCAA on Friday, asking that several sanctions on its football program be reduced because they are "too severe" and "inconsistent with precedent."

USC appealed only certain aspects of this month's ruling. Among the penalties were a two-year bowl ban, four years of probation, scholarship losses and removal of several victories. The school will accept a bowl ban for the upcoming season and certain scholarship penalties in football, but it believes the full sanctions were unduly harsh.

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USC asked that the two-year postseason ban be reduced to one year. The school also wants the NCAA's scholarship reductions in football from 2011 to 2013 to be reduced to five lost scholarships in each season, rather than 10.

"We disagree with many of the findings in the report from the NCAA Committee on Infractions and assert that the penalties imposed are too severe for the violations identified and are inconsistent with precedent in similar cases," said Todd Dickey, USC's senior vice president for administration.

USC already had announced that it would appeal immediately after the sanctions were handed down June 10. The NCAA's appeal process typically takes at least several months, and Dickey said the Trojans might receive an answer by spring only in a best-case scenario.

The NCAA's infractions appeal committee next meets in late September and early November. Given that time frame, the Trojans had little choice but to accept the bowl ban for the upcoming season in their debut under head coach Lane Kiffin.

After a four-year investigation of the entire athletic department, USC was penalized for a lack of institutional control. The report cited numerous improper benefits for Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Reggie Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo, who spent just one year with the Trojans.

The NCAA accepted USC's self-imposed sanctions on its men's basketball and women's tennis teams but threw the book at the venerated football team, which won seven consecutive Pac-10 titles and two national championships in the past decade. The coaches who presided then -- football's Pete Carroll, now head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, and basketball's Tim Floyd -- left USC in the past year.

Carroll was 97-19 and won seven consecutive Pac-10 titles plus two national championships at USC from 2000 to 2009.

The NCAA said Bush received lavish gifts from two fledgling sports marketers who hoped to sign him. The men paid for everything from hotel stays and a rent-free home where Bush's family apparently lived to a limousine and a new suit when he accepted his Heisman Trophy in New York in December 2005.

"The university recognizes that violations of NCAA rules did occur, especially involving impermissible benefits going to student athletes as well as their friends and families, from unscrupulous sports agents and sports marketers," Dickey said. "We take full responsibility for those violations, given that they happened on our watch."

Last week, Carroll said as head coach he was responsible for all that happened at USC, but there was no way for him to know Bush was being wooed by an off-campus agent.


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"We couldn't do anything about it -- because we didn't know," Carroll said.

Carroll said the NCAA had no basis for unfair and "really, really harsh" sanctions on USC.

The NCAA declared Bush was ineligible beginning at least by December 2004, a ruling that could open discussion of 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 were ruled ineligible by the NCAA.

Bush has acknowledged no wrongdoing and vowed to help USC fight the sanctions, although his apparent reluctance to speak to NCAA investigators was a factor in the length of the investigation.

Many former Trojans, including tailback LenDale White, have criticized the penalties.

"I don't think that 100 kids on the football team should be punished for what somebody else's actions were," White, the former Tennessee Titans running back recently released by Carroll's Seahawks, told a Nashville radio station this week. "I think if they deem (Bush) ineligible ... that should just be what it is. Let him forfeit his stuff."

The NCAA also banned USC from playing a 13th game this season and next season, but later delayed the penalty to avoid forcing Hawaii to cancel its home opener against the Trojans on Sept. 2 at Aloha Stadium.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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