Bush implicated

Bush implicated
By Charles Robinson and Jason Cole, Yahoo! Sports
November 8, 2007

Audio recordings that allegedly establish an improper financial relationship between former USC running back Reggie Bush and a would-be sports marketing agent were played for NCAA investigators this week, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Lloyd Lake, a partner in failed sports marketing agency New Era Sports & Entertainment, played "portions" of the recorded conversations for the NCAA, which is investigating claims that Bush and his family received cash and benefits during the running back's USC playing days in 2004 and 2005. Lake has filed a lawsuit against Bush and his family, seeking to recoup nearly $300,000 in benefits Lake claims he helped provide.

Lake's meeting with the NCAA lasted approximately six hours Tuesday night.

Lake and San Diego businessman Michael Michaels were partners in New Era Sports & Entertainment, which they claim Bush agreed to join while playing for the Trojans. Bush later reneged, Lake and Michaels said, after he and his parents were provided with rent-free living in a new home, money for a car and payment of credit card debt.

Yahoo! Sports also has learned that the NCAA requested and has been given phone records of USC officials, including coaches, as part of the investigation.

The request for phone records is standard procedure for the NCAA.

Lake recorded more than two hours of conversations with Bush and LaMar Griffin, Bush's stepfather, starting in December 2005. Four sources have said the recordings show there was a financial relationship between the parties, one which Lake's attorney Brian Watkins has said dates to late in the 2004 season. That's the season USC went undefeated and won the national championship with a win over Oklahoma.

The allegations against Bush, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints in the NFL, could bring NCAA sanctions against USC. Penalties could include forfeiture of victories in 2004 and 2005. The fate of the 2004 national championship would be in the hands of the Bowl Championship Series committee. The NCAA could rule Bush retroactively ineligible, leaving the Heisman Trust to determine Bush's eligibility for the award.

Attorney Paul Wong, who also represents Lake in a lawsuit filed last week against Bush, declined to comment. Lake, Watkins and Wong met with two NCAA investigators Tuesday night in Pasadena, Calif.

USC general counsel Todd Dickey declined to comment, saying it is strict policy not to say anything about ongoing investigations.

But Dickey said USC was not allowed to sit in on the interview with Lake despite asking to take part. The school has participated in previous interviews regarding this case.

"USC was not permitted to participate in the Lloyd Lake interview," Dickey said via email. "We have repeatedly requested that USC be allowed to participate in every interview and every aspect of this investigation."

One of the reasons USC was not allowed to take part in the Lake interview, according to two sources, was that any information Lake divulged to USC could be relayed to Bush and/or his attorneys.

Because Lake has filed suit against Bush, it's unlikely he wants Bush to be aware of the information he holds at this time.

The NCAA is expected to meet with Lake at a later time. The organization also has set up interviews with other people close to New Era and Lake.

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Updated on Friday, Nov 9, 2007 1:04 am, EST

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