Walcoff: USC shedding accolades from troubled era 

Tony Soprano couldn’t have done a better job in wiping away the stain of Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo’s tarnished records while playing for the Trojans. USC is scrubbing their images from school murals, removing Bush’s No. 5 jersey from the lobby of Heritage Hall and giving back its copy of Bush’s Heisman Trophy.

The NCAA hit USC with reduced football scholarships, four years of probation and a two-year bowl ban for lack of institutional control. In addition, the BCS will probably vacate the Trojans’ 2005 national football championship.

While it sounds like strong deterrents to future abuses, as long as the offending parties can leave their sordid pasts behind without consequences as professionals, the problems will persist.

It’s time for the NFL and NBA to lend a hand. Since college sports are essentially their minor-league feeding grounds, why not require that draft-eligible players adhere to amateur rules as a condition of employment. If your college résumé proves to be bogus, you get to have a special meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell or David Stern.

Obviously, the NCAA also has to get more serious about punishing sleazy agents and their runners who tempt the naive and/or greedy young athletes. But with massive money flowing into college sports like an uncapped oil well, it’s a toxic mix that is crying out for a quick fix.

By the way, give USC credit for hiring the venerable Pat Haden, a former Rhodes scholar and longtime member of the school’s board of trustees, as its new athletic director. However, the former Rose Bowl-winning quarterback does have a dubious blemish on his otherwise impeccable career.

Afraid he wouldn’t get a shot to play in the NFL because he was too short, Haden, 5-foot-10, slipped a knee pad inside the heel of his sock when meeting with scouts so he would stand 6 feet tall. Two years after getting drafted by the Rams in the seventh round, he made the Pro Bowl. Now at the NFL combine, all players are measured in their bare feet.

On the ball

Speaking of foot faults. Kudos to Giants manager Bruce Bochy for knowing that a manager who goes out to talk to his pitcher and takes even one step off the dirt portion of the mound and then returns to the mound, must make a pitching change.
In the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game, the umpiring crew in L.A. was quick to make the Dodgers pull  All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton, which led directly to a Giants victory.

Now, if only the men in blue knew the strike zone and how to consult with one another on close plays as well as knowing baseball’s arcane rules, the game would be better off.

Welcome to the jungle

Apparently bored with his NFL analyst job, Jimmy Johnson has a new TV gig this fall. The former two-time winning Super Bowl coach of the Dallas Cowboys is joining the cast of CBS’ “Survivor: Nicaragua.”

Who cares if Johnson can handle the back-stabbing cliques and bizarre physical contests? I want to see how his hair holds up in the jungle.

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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