Cost of USC Scandal: Lose Title, Heisman
LOS ANGELES -- Wasn't it so amazing, so crazy? There was Will Ferrell, hanging out at practice. And Snoop Dogg, chatting up Reggie Bush on the Coliseum sideline during a game. And was Matt Leinart really spotted coming out of Paris Hilton's condo after sunrise, cap backwards? This wasn't a college football team. USC was a scene, known as the Trojans for more reasons than one, a meshing of an L.A. sports phenomenon with a Hollywood crowd always seeking its own links to the supercool as well as wealthy boosters willing to throw around loose money for autumn Saturday thrills.
Thursday, the party ended, with not a celebrity or groupie in sight at Heritage Hall. Seems the in-crowd has moved on, preferring not to be associated with cheaters.
The running joke really was true in the end, the one that referred to USC as this city's only professional football franchise. The sins of Troy finally have emerged from the southern California haze, thanks to a relentless NCAA probe that uncovered enough transgressions -- the biggest involving two enormous names, Bush and basketball star O.J. Mayo -- to permanently taint a prestigious university and its all-defining football glory of the last decade. This is a SCANDAL, all caps, the Enron of collegiate sports. Because Bush was found to have taken improper cash and gifts from two wannabe agents who'd hoped to represent him, and because his parents lived rent-free in a home owned by one of the men, the NCAA ruled him ineligible and triggered a flurry of penalties that will cripple the program's future and bloody its past.