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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

The Burden of Proof, From Balogun to Bush

In the grand scheme of the 2009 college football season, Mike Balogun doesn’t mean much. The hardscrabble 25-year-old ex-construction worker is no Butkus Award winner, but he would have given Oklahoma some nice depth at middle linebacker. Maybe he could have boosted his stock with the pro scouts and won a spot somewhere in the back of the pro draft.

Instead of fighting for a starting spot on the Sooner defense, though, Balogun is now fighting an uphill battle against the most rigid of rigid bureaucracies, the NCAA.
Over what, exactly? Well, according to court filings submitted in his lawsuit against the Association, there’s a box score floating around the Internet that says Balogun played in a semi-pro football game. There’s also the recollection of a former assistant coach that Balogun suited up for the Maryland Marauders of the North American Football League after his 21st birthday.
That’s it.

That was enough evidence to lead the powers that be to rule Balogun ineligible for the season. Nevermind that Balogun says he didn’t do it. Nevermind that the team’s former owner says Balogun didn’t do it. Nevermind that the league’s former commissioner says Balogun didn’t do it, the box score being presented against Balogun is unreliable and the league records don’t show Balogun playing. Nevermind that we’re talking about a fly-by-night semi-pro where it looks like the game is just a warm-up for the beers afterwards. Nevermind that the NCAA already cleared Balogun before he suited up for OU last year.

In the grand scheme of USC’s return to glory earlier this decade, Reggie Bush meant a lot. The decade’s most dynamic player helped propel the Trojans to conference and national titles, winning a Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in history along the way. When he was done dazzling college fans, he took his act to the pros, where he signed a lucrative contract as a high draft pick.

Since then, of course, accusations have surfaced that Bush and his family accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit benefits during his three years in Troy. The people who have come forward against Bush claim to have all kinds of documentation backing up their stories. Bush himself hasn’t exactly done much to defend himself against the allegations, reaching an out-of-court settlement with one of his accusers who was suing the now New Orleans Saints running back.

Yet, the NCAA has been investigating the USC athletic department for going on four years now, supposedly tying even more scandalous allegations against the men’s basketball program into the Bush investigation. So far, nothing.

If the case against Balogun is supposed to be strong, the case against Bush looks airtight. To be fair, we have no idea what kind of case has been presented in USC’s defense. (Assuming a case has been presented at all.) However, that doesn’t make the difference in apparent standards of proof any less glaring.

Of course, there are some important differences in the two cases—chiefly that Balogun met with the NCAA in-person to explain his situation, while Bush has blown the Association off. There’s also the matter of OU willingly handing over the goods that put the nail in Balogun’s coffin, while USC appears to be doing its part to vigorously observe the NCAA doing its digging.

Oh, and one other difference: Balogun is a backup linebacker who few outside of Oklahoma will miss, while USC is one of college football’s golden geese.