Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

Various outlets have cried "Wolf!" so many times concerning the results of the NCAA's investigation into Reggie Bush's last two years at Southern California that no reader of any disposition can be expected to trust yet another outside report about any aspect of the timeline. But maybe we can believe Wednesday's inside scoop from USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the latest to report that a verdict is on the way – and it will include significant sanctions (emphasis added):

A source within USC’s athletic department said Tuesday the NCAA sanctions on the school’s football and basketball programs could be announced this week.

The source, who wished to remain anonymous, said a player on USC’s football team had given him knowledge that the NCAA’s report will be coming in the next two days.

The player reportedly said penalties will likely include disqualification from bowl eligibility for the coming season and loss of several scholarships. ... The brunt of the NCAA’s penalties would likely fall on the basketball team, said the source, despite the school’s self-imposed sanctions on the team during the early part of last season.

"In the next two days" marks at least the fifth media "deadline" for a verdict, though this one is easily the best-sourced and most specific. (It helps, too, that Annenberg was the first to cry foul on the last media "deadline" last week.) ESPN's Joe Schad confirms that penalties will be announced Thursday, as does Yahoo! Sports' Charles Robinson, one of the reporters who initially broke the Bush scandal in 2006 and has followed it through years of secrecy, denials, legal wrangling and long stretches of silence.

Robinson predicts a press conference Thursday, which – if Bush is declared retroactively ineligible for 2004-05 – will be only the beginning of the fallout, regardless of sanctions (or lack thereof) against USC. Then begins the obligatory appeal process, followed by reviews of USC's 2004 BCS championship by the BCS and Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy by the Heisman Trust. If Bush somehow isn't declared ineligible for allegedly accepting nearly $300,000 in cash and prizes from would-be agents during his sophomore and junior seasons, every non-Trojan partisan observing this case over the last four years will lose consciousness due to shock. Probably including Reggie Bush.

Of course, that's assuming this is really it. It's a dangerous assumption given the super-secret nature of the NCAA and the recent history of flops by people trying to guess when the association will act, much less what the consequences will be. When USC officials appeared with a truckload of documents in front of the Committee on Infractions in February, the committee's decision was expected (based on previous cases) to come down in six-to-eight weeks, i.e. early to mid-April. That loose "deadline" was pushed back in April when a San Diego judge ordered Bush to testify — along with one of his alleged USC money men, marketer Michael Michaels — in a breach-of-contract lawsuit by Michaels' one-time partner, Lloyd Lake. Lake was suing the former Heisman winner for ditching he and Michaels for another agent when he turned pro in 2006. Bush cut off that avenue by promptly settling with Lake, as he'd done with Michaels a couple years before.

Last month, Yahoo! Sports colleague Dan Wetzel got word the verdict was only days away; that timetable was quickly revised on account of the "lengthy" report supposedly being assembled. Last month, tiring of the interminable wait, the L.A. Times concluded that "logistics" of assembling the report and the various committee members was keeping the conclusion in limbo. The most specific deadline yet passed last Friday with no word, reportedly because the NCAA was a little slow on the draw with the paperwork.

By several accounts, those documents will arrive in Heritage Hall on Wednesday and be made public either Thursday or Friday. You have been warned.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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