Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reggie Who? USC Removes All Public Displays of Bush, Mayo

It was going to take some major to get Your Face is a Sports Blog out of hibernation, and the hiring of Pat Haden as the new USC athletic director is about as big as it gets. While I have some concerns about hiring someone with zero experience in athletic administration, I’m generally OK with it. If you didn’t know, Haden was a Rhodes Scholar, which is something you’ll be hearing referenced a million times this year. He’s also earned a reputation as one of the classiest and most decent people in college football (as evident by Bill Dwyre’s sloppy wet kiss in the Los Angeles Times).

It’s obvious why Haden was the right choice for the job right now. He knows USC intimately but wasn’t involved in the recent scandals which have seriously dented the athletic department. If nothing else, the USC athletic program should be run ethically and with dignity, a complete 180-degree turn from the Machiavellian nature of the Mike Garrett tenure. His hiring sends a clear message to the NCAA that the school is serious about cleaning house as it appeals the severity of the sanctions slapped on the football program.

Clearly, new USC President Max Nikias is putting his stamp on the athletic department, and Garrett’s “retirement” is hardly a surprise. But Haden’s hiring is far from the only change coming to the athletic department. A memo sent to all USC employees today shows that the university is willing to go to great lengths to rehabilitate its image - and distance itself from the two players who were at the center of the athletic department’s fall from grace.

Buried at the end of the announcement of Garrett’s departure and Haden’s hiring is the news that the school is removing all public displays involving Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo before incoming students arrive in August. This includes removing Bush’s 2005 Heisman Trophy statue from Heritage Hall and returning it to the Heisman Trust.

The memo from President Nikias states that the “Trojan Family honors and respects the USC sporting careers of persons whose actions did not compromise their athletic program or the opportunities of future USC student-athletes.” Ouch. Depending on how you look at it, USC is either attempting to wipe the slate clean or conducting a hand-washing of Pontius Pilate proportions. The university has cleared decided to back away from the defiant nature struck by Garrett and Pete Carroll in the immediate aftermath of the sanctions and turned to Plan B: douse everything in bleach and start over.

In addition to pretending that Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo never existed, USC is also creating a new position to oversee the athletic department from the outside. They have hired high-powered Los Angeles lawyer (and former Small College All-American football player) David Roberts to fill the role of vice president for athletic compliance. This position will report to senior vice president of administration Todd Dickey and not the athletic department. Essentially, Roberts will serve as an “outside” source of oversight for the athletic department.

So in case you were wondering: you’ll apparently be able to see O.J. Simpson’s retired number at the Coliseum this fall but not Reggie Bush’s. With the resources of the school’s film program, I wouldn’t be shocked if they tried to digitally alter old game footage to replace Reggie Bush with a generic “RB #5” like from an EA Sports College Football game. The university is apparently very serious about sending the message to the NCAA that is changing the culture of its athletic department (and also apparently willing to make people like Bush, Mayo and Garrett into scapegoats). Whether it makes a difference remains to be seen.

Read the memo sent to USC's staff here

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