Alexander: As USC welcomes back Reggie Bush, a cautionary tale

This will be the grand reunion. After 10 years of NCAA mandated disassociation – reduced, remember, from a lifetime ban – Reggie Bush is again allowed to be a part of the USC family. And never mind that not only was one of the Trojans’ most electrifying football players shunned for a decade, by edict of the Committee on Infractions, he still doesn’t have the Heisman Trophy he earned and his team still doesn’t have the victories and championships that it won on the field.

All because of amateurism rules that, 15 years after the fact, might – and, by all reason, should – finally be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Yes, it’s fair to say USC got screwed in 2010, when the NCAA enforcement committee charged the program with a lack of institutional control and threw not only the book at the Trojans but the whole library. Granted, the arrogance of then-athletic director Mike Garrett – he of the “they wish they all were Trojans” attitude – likely factored into the vacated wins, postseason ban and lost scholarships that put USC football into a hole for the next decade. But subsequent penalties to miscreants elsewhere made it clear that the committee headed by former Miami athletic director Paul Dee was determined to make an example of USC.

(GIven Miami’s own reputation for, uh, taking care of its players, we pause here for an ironic smirk.)

Were they really miscreants? Was Bush really threatening the entire underpinnings of the collegiate athletic system, just because he and members of his family received maybe $300,000 in cash and gifts from an agent while the university, and conference, and assorted TV networks made untold millions off of his talents?

For that matter, was Zion Williamson thumbing his nose at amateurism if, as is alleged, he took extra benefits at Duke? And if so, was that really a bad thing? I’d say no. Duke got its money’s worth from Williamson during his one undergraduate year, and Williamson stayed healthy enough to get his millions from the New Orleans Pelicans. Everybody wins, aside from the programs who grumbled “recruiting advantage” but never were going to get Williamson anyway.

It is worth noting that two days after Bush was officially allowed to rejoin the Trojan family, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a piece of legislation to allow college athletes in that state to hire agents and be paid for their name, image and likeness. It is similar to the California bill that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed last September, though maybe not quite as far-reaching, but the significance is that it is to take effect in the summer of 2021 whereas California’s law won’t go live until January, 2023. So there is now a deadline for Congress to pass national legislation on the matter – which, if the NCAA has its druthers, will be in an extremely watered-down form.

Yes, there is linkage here. And if Ramogi Huma, former UCLA football player and executive director of the Eastvale-based National College Players Association, needs a spokesman for the effort to make sure NIL legislation treats the players fairly, I can think of an ex-Trojan again in good standing who sounds willing to help.

“In no other form of work can a company say, ‘Hey, you come and work for us, but you cannot make money off your name, image and likeness – but we can,” Bush said during an appearance last week on Colin Cowherd’s Fox radio show. “And that’s unfortunate because you’re hamstringing a lot of families, a lot of kids when they’re in their prime. When you’re 19, 20 years old, that’s when you’re starting to hit your prime. And that’s when you’re starting to see this change in your body physically, especially for young men. And so that’s the critical time for some of these kids to be able to capitalize off of some of these things.

“… I have to believe the NCAA is going to protect their investment, which they should, right? I’m not saying they shouldn’t do that. But at the same time, I don’t want to see these players hamstrung once again because maybe the new rules that come out (don’t) fully support them.”

The effort continues. Huma said Friday that there are efforts in 28 state legislatures on bills similar to the one Newsom signed last September, or the one Florida’s DeSantis signed Friday, and his organization is working with legislators in 12 of them. They are, in most cases, working against the entrenched forces of schools or conferences or NCAA lobbyists themselves, seeking to dilute that legislation and maintain their monopoly over college athletes’ earning power.

(The other motivation: A desperate fear that somebody, somewhere, somehow will have more engaged boosters and thus a recruiting advantage. As if that doesn’t happen already.)

Nor it is just the Reggies and Zions of the world for which these legal freedoms would apply.

“I got a call yesterday from a player who has a great opportunity from a big, big company, a multi-billion dollar company,” Huma said Friday. “This person has been putting together media and all these different really creative things, and they want to partner. But this player reached out to us and said, ‘Well, it looks like I’m going to have to decline this.’ This is what this person wants to do in life. It’s a novel opportunity. And because California’s law is not yet in effect, this person may have to pass up this opportunity.”

This is, incidentally, a female athlete in a non-marquee sport. It would be an opportunity that would give her a head start toward, as the NCAA claims in its ads, going pro in something other than sports. But guess what the hurdle is? And when these opportunities are gone, a lot of times they’re gone for good.

“There’s damage in that,” Huma said. “That’s not a neutral rule or a neutral position. It’s immoral, unjust. And it’s just been happening for far too long.”

Times are changing, in any number of ways. And maybe Bush’s renewed presence at USC, along with his weekly exposure on Fox’s college football coverage, will serve as a reminder of just how overdue we are for this particular change.

[email protected]

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

About the Author: TEAM BEPINKU.COM

We share trending news and latest information on Business, Technology, Entertainment, Politics, Sports, Automobiles, Education, Jobs, Health, Lifestyle, Travel and more. That's our work. We are a team led by Mahammad Sakil Ansari.