Thursday, July 22, 2010

Should USC Sue Reggie Bush? No

That's what both Lewis and Clark law professor Tun Yin and I told Marcia Smith for her column in the Orange County Register on USC's potential legal claims against Reggie Bush, whose Heisman Trophy was taken down and whose No. 5 number was unretired by USC this week.

Here are some excerpts from her column:

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Why not put Bush, who has made more than $23million in his four NFL seasons, on the hook for the all the damages: the crumbling of the USC dynasty, the 13 vacated victories from December 2004 to the end of the 2005 season, the erased 2005 BCS championship title won over Oklahoma, the $10 million losses of potential future BCS bowl revenue, the flight of blue-chip recruits, the setback to the program or the emotion distress of fans and boosters who have become accustomed to a certain winning style of Trojan life?

Sue! There seem to be so many victims, right?

"But USC can't sue because it doesn't have much of a case it can win," said Tun Yin, a Lewis & Clark Law School professor with a specialty in sports law. "It's hard to claim that USC was harmed by something that it didn't work too hard to prevent in the first place."

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"If USC tries to sue Reggie Bush, it opens itself up to discovery and to any other ugly secrets that Bush's high-priced defense team might dig up, and that could lead to even more NCAA problems," said Michael McCann, a Vermont Law School professor and sports legal analyst.

"The first problem is that USC (through now-fired football assistant Todd McNair) had significant awareness of what Reggie Bush was doing," McCann said. "The contention that he breached a scholarship contract doesn't work because the school knew what was happening, failed to investigate it fully when it was going on and should have made a claim against Bush while he was playing."

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To read the rest, click here. For an analysis of the relationship between the UAAA and USC and Reggie Bush, see this excellent Sports Law Blog piece from Tim Epstein.

Update: Gabe's comments were included in an updated version of the piece:

According to Tulane Law School associate professor Gabe Feldman, who also his school’s associate provost for NCAA Compliance, California’s Miller-Ayala Act permits schools to sue only the registered agents -- not the athletes -- in these situations. . . . "There's really nothing USC can do except what it has done (in recent days), which is beef up its compliance staff, hire an outside consultant to assess the culture of its student-athletes and put in additional protections to help police what goes on off the field," Feldman said.