PFT: BUSH HAD AGREEMENT WITH NEW ERA?
In what could be the next big step toward a finding that USC tailback Reggie Bush was ineligible for all or part of the 2005 football season and that USC knew or should have known about Bush's ineligibility, Liz Mullen of the SportsBusiness Journal reports that sworn testimony from two hearings regarding a parole violation indicates that New Era Sports & Entertainment had an agreement of some sort with Bush.
Michael Michaels and Lloyd Lake founded New Era in 2005. Earlier this year, Lake faced the revocation of his parole from federal prison. At one of the hearings, Lake's lawyer, Marc Carlos, testified that "Mr. Bush — or through his associates — had made some type of agreement with Mr. Lake's group."
Carlos also testified that, after Bush signed with another group, there was a dispute over "representations made by Bush and his family to Mr. Lake's group" and that "they were going to discuss potential litigation — or a settlement involving Mr. Bush's involvement with that agency."
David Caravantes, an NFLPA-certified agent who reportedly was being lined up by New Era to handle the negotiation of Bush's football contract, testified as well. Caravantes confirmed his arrangement with New Era: "Lloyd [Lake] and I had got together in October  to start a new sports management company with Sycuan. . . . Since October, Lloyd was a viable part of the company, helping recruit players, and in the process of merging this New Era Sports with Sycuan. In the process of this happening, you know, it obviously hurt the company because he had some relationships with certain players who ended up not signing."
Lake gave the following testimony: "I had a sports agency that we had formed, and we had a guy in, Winston Justice, from USC. . . . Reggie Bush came into town. And at that time he was going to go out with us."
The initial significance of this testimony is that it removes any credible doubt that, at some time after Bush's family moved into the house owned Michaels but before the completion of the 2005 football, Michaels was an "agent" within the meaning of the relevant NCAA bylaws. Thus, if it ultimately is shown that Bush's family paid anything less than fair market rent after Michaels became an "agent," then Reggie was necessarily ineligible under the NCAA rules for each subsequent game.
More importantly, the reference to "potential litigation" suggest that New Era had (or at least thought it had) some type of binding commitment with Bush. If such an agreement was reached prior to the completion of the 2005 football season, Bush was ineligible regardless of whether his mother and stepfather were paying fair value for the house owned by Michaels.
Also intriguing is Caravantes' reference not to Michael Michaels, but to his tribe -- Sycuan. The Sycuan tribe previously has denied involvement in Michaels' sports venture. The testimony from Caravantes potentially muddies the water.
Folks, this thing has gotten a lot uglier over the past 48 hours, and we've got a feeling that it will get uglier long before it gets un-ugly. As more evidence of the ties between Bush and New Era is revealed, it will be harder and harder for USC to claim that it didn't know -- and shouldn't have known -- that Bush had forfeited his eligibility either by striking a deal with New Era or through the receipt of benefits from New Era by his family.
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