Update from the weekend. -N
As Nestor's post earlier today reminds us, USC's problems aren't going away any time soon. And, even though It's been a relatively slow week in the Housegate scandal - mostly because Reggie and the Griffins have no incentive (or interest, apparently) to cooperate with Pac-10 and NCAA investigators - there have been a couple interesting stories/developments.
As you may have noticed, Wojciechowski at ESPN has written that Bush should lose the Heisman if he got anything extra.There's a chance -- and it's the worst-case scenario for the nine members of the Heisman board of trustees -- that Bush could be asked to return America's most famous sports trophy to the New York offices. This is the same stiff-arming statuette that sat inside the San Diego-area house for which Bush's mother, Denise Griffin, and stepfather, LaMar Griffin, allegedly didn't pay $54,000 in annual rent. Accusations of freebie housing, as well as wink-wink loans to pay off Griffin family debts, have sparked an NCAA investigation and the very real possibility of a new nameplate on the 2005 Heisman.
"Obviously, there's no precedent for this," said Tim Henning of the Heisman Trust. "A lot of people have asked what would happen. Really, we don't know."
Nobody does because no Heisman winner's parents ever have been this naive, or dumb, or both. LaMar and Denise Griffin might be wonderful people (although Denise nearly ran a 4.38 40 any time a reporter approached her at the recent NFL draft), but their alleged involvement in Housegate or, at the very least, their lack of judgment, could cost Bush. It's a long shot, but it also could cost USC its Pac-10 Conference title and its 12 victories last season.
If Bush's folks did indeed accept free housing and/or loans from an investor in a sports marketing agency, then Reggie, the Griffins, USC and the Heisman trustees have a problem. According to the NCAA Division I Manual, which is thick enough to crush Paris Hilton's Chihuahua, Bush could be ruled ineligible if his relatives had their hands out. It doesn't matter whether Bush knew. As far as the NCAA and Article 126.96.36.199 are concerned, an extra benefit -- and that's what we're talking about here -- is an extra benefit.
And it seems that the Bush camp may be ready to admit that Reggie received an extra benefit. Apparently, Bush's lawyer is considering a lawsuit against New Era, citing some obscure California law:
According to the Athlete Agent Act, a student-athlete would be presumed to have been adversely affected by the acts of the "athlete agent" if, because of those acts, he is suspended or disqualified, or suffers financial damages, or both.
If it is determined that either Bush or his family received extra benefits, the Pac-10 and/or NCAA could determine that he should have been ineligible last season.
In that case, the Bush camp would likely argue that it was because of actions of New Era. Because of violations of the act, they would contend, Bush's family would not be responsible to make repayments.
As the ProFootballTalk.com guys observe, if Reggie makes such a claim, he'd have to concede that he or his family received extra benefits:
The key point that Schad overlooks (presumably because he wants to preserve his pipeline to Cornwell) is that the claims Cornwell is contemplating against New Era likely would represent a concession that Bush and/or his family received benefits from New Era, making Bush ineligible.
In other words, if Bush loses his eligibility it's because of the money that New Era gave to him and/or his family, and thus New Era is responsible legally for the ineligibility.
But if, as Bush publicly insisted when this mess first was exposed, there have been no improprieties, an argument that any ultimate ineligibility is the result of payments from New Era makes . . . no . . . freakin' . . . sense.
It's like a criminal defendant saying, "I didn't do it, but if you ever find out that I did do it, it was because someone else forced me to do it."
So why is Cornwell contemplating a lawsuit that would essentially be an admission that Bush should put his Heisman in a big box and mail it to Nashville? The NCAA is still in the early stages of its investigation as to whether Bush or his family received benefits in violation of NCAA rules. Cornwell's stated intentions, we believe, are a last-ditch effort to get the folks from New Era to tell the NCAA, "No, we didn't give Bush nothin'."
We'll see how this develops. I personally look forward to a civil suit, mostly because you could probably sell me a ticket to see Bush's deposition. At that point, we may finally get some answers, though I'd bet my bottom dollar this dispute settles before that ever happens.