Opening the mailbag: USC got what it deserved

Vacation created a backlog in the mailbag, so I'm going to hit it twice this week.

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To the notes.

Frank from Dallas writes: U$C is the biggest cheating school in college football and everyone knows that besides you. Your article was ignorant. U$C got what it deserved. It knew Bush was getting money. He was driving around in a souped up car. U$C is a repeat violator, which you should know is why they got such hard penalties. This was one of the worst cases in NCAA history. You're an idiot.

Ted Miller: May I whine for a moment? I am weary of this subject. This might be the last time I reply to a note about USC, Reggie Bush and the NCAA.

Part of my exhaustion is this: USC critics who celebrate the NCAA's harsh penalties almost uniformly don't know what they are talking about. They don't know the facts of the case. They don't know what is and isn't relevant to the case. They haven't read the relevant documents.

Let's just take one of Frank's assertions: Bush was driving around in a "souped up car."

Wrong. Bush was driving around in a 1996 Impala. The car didn't get dudded up until after Bush declared that he would enter the 2006 NFL draft a year early. Here's the often, er, mis-remembered photo. Note the date. Of course, you can't blame Frank and others. The NCAA infractions committee struggled to keep its facts straight, too.

Look, I know many of you hate USC. I know there are USC-hating blogs out there that have blistered me over my belief the NCAA treated USC unfairly, even though that is a widely held perception among sports writers who actually know the details of the Bush case. I don't mind getting blistered. Just get the details right.

My position on USC and the Reggie Bush case has not changed and is entirely based on my perception of fairness, not some sort of pro-USC bias: USC deserved significant sanctions for major violations, and those penalties should have fallen under the penalties Alabama received in 2002.

There is no conceivable way -- and I'd be glad debate anyone at the NCAA over the matter -- to insist that the widespread, booster pay-for-play scheme uncovered at Alabama shouldn't be considered a worse case than USC-Bush. Just read the USA Today article on the Alabama case.

This is when someone throws out "repeat violator" as a rationale for USC getting worse sanctions. Er, so was Alabama.

(Alabama fans: I am not picking on you. It's just the most relevant, recent case to compare to USC).

Some have suggested that the NCAA wanted to make an example out of USC by handing out game-changing penalties that might act as a deterrent for others. Sorry, I didn't get the memo on that one. If that is, indeed, the case -- that the NCAA took unprecedented measures against one program without formally announcing a policy change -- well, that my friends would be the definition of unfair.

And, by the way, more than a few schools should be worried if that's the case.

As for USC being a big "cheating" school, well, let's just put it this way: List the major football violations the NCAA's four-year investigation uncovered other than Bush getting extra benefits.

Yes, you hear crickets.

"One of the worst cases in NCAA history"? Well, you compare.

I believe USC was treated unfairly by the NCAA. I have yet to read a reasoned account -- from the media or from the NCAA -- that makes a convincing argument otherwise.

Spencer from San Francisco writes: I'm hearing a lot of concern about Cal's chemistry on the offensive line. Shouldn't the return Jim Michalzckzyckyikxzixkxik ease some of these doubts?

Ted Miller: You, of course, mean Jim Michalczik, who shortened his name when he moved from the old country of Port Angeles, Wash.

Cal's offensive line has been disappointing since Michalczik left for Washington (briefly) and then the Oakland Raiders. The first place to point, logically, would be talent. The second, Michalczik's absence. I've consistently heard from people that he's one of the best offensive line coaches out there.

So, yes, I think it's fair for you to ease some doubts about the Bears O-line due to his return.

Andrew from Seattle writes: With the resignation of Jim Tressel, do you think that Mike Bellotti would consider taking a job at Ohio State? Would they be a good fit?

Ted Miller: Bellotti was a serious candidate for the Ohio State job in 2001, when Tressel was hired. Ohio State certainly could do worse than Bellotti. It could make for an interesting Rose Bowl if the Ducks and Buckeyes met again.

But Bellotti turns 61 in December, and keep in mind this is a pending hire for the 2012 season. Ohio State probably wouldn't want a coach at that age who'd have to learn the Big Ten and Big Ten recruiting on the fly. And I doubt Bellotti would want a job that came with significant NCAA sanctions.

So, no, it doesn't seem like a good fit.

If Bellotti is going to coach again -- he's done an outstanding job as an ESPN color guy since leaving Oregon -- it almost certainly would be at West Coast school. Don't be surprised if his name comes up as some Pac-12 hot seats get hotter during the fall.

Joey from Chicago writes: What does Arizona's depth chart look like on offense and defense with all the injuries? Can you name the starters if the season started today?

Ted Miller: Arizona has lost two starters and two backups to ACL injuries since the end of last season: safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer are the starters, and running back Greg Nwoko and defensive tackle Willie Mobley are the backups.

That's certainly not good, but it doesn't exactly send Arizona into disarray. Hall and Fischer are big losses. Hall is a budding star, and Fischer's loss is worrisome because the Wildcats are thin at linebacker. The depth in the secondary is pretty good: Robert Golden moves from cornerback to safety beside Marquis Flowers, which doesn't hurt badly because Trevin Wade, Jonathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson are three quality corners.

Linebacker is a bit more tricky. Two backups from 2010, R.J. Young and Trevor Erno, quit the team before spring practices. Redshirt freshman Kyle Benson is listed as Fischer's backup on the spring depth chart, while walk-on Bilal Muhammed is listed as the backup at the other two spots. It's almost certain that at least one of the touted incoming freshmen -- Rob Hankins, Hank Hobson and Dominique Petties -- will be immediately in the mix.

Vince from Scottsdale writes: Ted, You forgot to mention that ASU is @22 in Phil Steele's top 30 rankings..... that scorches the butthole Ted.

Ted Miller: Or, just maybe, when I included the link, Phil Steele had only reached No. 17 on his count-up.

You'll note Steele has Stanford at No. 16.

Cody from Okinawa, Japan writes: Just wanted to point out what some Beaver football players and other athletes are up to. Going to Macedonia to build a house for others.

Ted Miller: Good show. Here's the link to a short video on "Beavers Without Borders."