Juicing The Juice (or Putting the $ in U$C)

Posted by: Tony on Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Mayo Chair

Hopefully you’ve been following the O.J. Mayo mess down at U$C, which has the potential to have a profound impact on the future of both Pac-10 basketball and football. The facts are still developing and it’s way too early to draw conclusions regarding the allegations. It’s also too early to try to figure out the potential long-term implications for U$C athletics. The long and short of the story is that a certain Mayo frenemy, Louis Johnson, has accused Mayo of accepting some $30K in improper gifts during his time as a U$C and high school student. Mayo’s defense apparently amounts to an insistence that he wouldn’t “sell out” for such a small sum. The NCAA has reportedly opened an investigation with Johnson’s cooperation. In the meantime, a judge recently ordered Reggie Bush to sit for a deposition next month regarding allegations that he too received illegal benefits while at U$C. For the uninitiated, that’s a big deal because it means Bush has to either tell the truth or face the consequences of perjuring himself.

My own motivation in comenting on this story isn’t to rant about U$C cheating. On the contrary, I take for granted that U$C cheats, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. When you’re the underdog in a lopsided rivalry like that between U$C and Cal, the best you have going for you is knowing you can still occasionally beat the other side despite all their dirty tricks. It wouldn’t be half as much fun if U$C were just USC.

I do, however, think it’s worthwhile pondering the conflicting interests at play when contemplating sanctions for U$C’s shenanigans. On one hand, I find it ridiculous that Cal was slapped with draconian sanctions in 2002 because a couple of under-productive WR’s didn’t go to class. Meanwhile, when it comes to allegations that Reggie Bush accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal gifts, the NCAA just throws up its hands and says they can’t do anything because they lack subpoena power? Give me a break.

On the other hand, denying Cal its unlikely postseason berth in 2002 denied the school a chance to end a several-years-long bowl draught and compete in a lower-tier bowl. A similar sanction at U$C would likely deny the school and the entire conference a BCS berth (if not national championship) and accompanying multi-million dollar payout. So the cynic in me understands why the powers that be are reticent to poke their heads into certain holes.

Of course justice should prevail or such cynical concerns. But here’s my question: Is it good for Cal if U$C basketball or football are hit with serious sanctions? Is it good for our conference if our poster boy and cash-cow gets taken down? And more importantly, isn’t our rivalry better off if we just agree that U$C is a den of cheats and then beat the pants off them anyway?

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