You knew the story wouldn’t away. When reports surfaced over the summer alleging potentially improper benefits to USC running back and Heisman Trophy winner and Shouldv’e Been First Pick in NFL Draft Reggie Bush, it was clear the chargers were just part of the story. The rest of the tale emerged late last night when Yahoo! Sports posted its findings after an eight-month investigation, and the story-line does not bode well for Bush.
The story, wrritten by Charles Robinson and Jason Cole, is comprehensive and compelling. The top-line is this: Bush and his family allegedly accepted more than $100,000 in cash and benefits from agents and would-be agents, some of whom are mad as hell and angling for potentially $3.2 million pounds of flesh.
The details are indicting. They include, of course, the house Bush’s parents allegedly lived in rent-free. But there are also trips to USC away games on the credit card of an employee of Bush’s current marketing agent, Mike Orenstein. (Orinstein says the Bush paid back any charges made on the card.) There are hotel rooms and charges for Bush in Las Vegas and other cities. And, most troubling, there are allegations that members of Bush’s family were given an “allowance” by Orenstein, and and he was negotiating marketing deals for Bush while the player was still at USC.
And number of these charges, if true, will run afoul of NCAA regulations forbidding special benefits for players and premature representation by an agent. Penalties could rangefrom sanctions against USC for improper oversight to Bush being stripped of the Heisman. We’re a long way from and of that, given how long it typically takes the NCAA to even answer the phone. But again, this will not go away.
On another note, the story reinforces the changing dynamics in media. Such stories have typically been broken my national sports publications like Sports Illustrated (my former employer), ESPN (where I am an editorial adviser to ESPN Classic) and USA Today; or major newspapers with a local interest in the subject (such as the Charlotte’s News & Observer’s recent expose on steroid use by the Carolina Panthers prior to the 2004 Super Bowl). Sorry Big Fellas, there are new players in the game: Yahoo! Sports’ Bush exclusive should serve as a wake-up call to those traditional outlets because it will not be the last time a new-jack digital sports enterprise will beat them at what used to be their game.