Tarnished Heisman, a new book published by Simon & Schuster, examines Reggie Bush and hid family's relationship with Michael Michaels and Lloyd Lake and their short-lived sports agency, New Era Sports. I haven't read the entire book yet, so I reserve final judgment until I have had a chance to do so. I also have tremendous respect for the book's author, Don Yaeger who has written several eye-opening books on college and professional sports. (Yaeger explains his investigative reporting methodology in an online interview with All Things Trojan blog.)
That said...I have two problems with Tarnished Heisman. One, Lloyd Lake, a convicted criminal, was paid by Simon & Schuster for his "story." Lake clearly had an axe to grind against Reggie Bush for allegedly taking the money and running to a different sports agency. This book falls somewhere in the middle between investigative journalism (Yaeger and his writing partner have solid reputations) and tabloid journalism (paying for sources to cooperate). Two, the book relies heavily on secretly taped conversations that took place between Lake and Bush and Lake and Bush's stepfather, LaMar Griffin. Yaeger on the tapes: "Frankly, without the tapes, I don't think you do this book." Under California Penal Code 632 it is a crime to record a conversation without all other party's consent consent. I brought this point up last January. The bottom line is that much of the most salacious information used to bolster claims made in Tarnished Heisman were obtained in violation of the law.
Judging Reggie Bush in the court of public opinion is absolutely fair game. The question is whether illegally obtained evidence is credible -- and admissible -- in other venues, including the Heisman committee and the NCAA.
In my book, Money Players, I wrote this about the Reggie Bush situation:
Reason #968 to follow NCAA extra benefits rules
Extra-benefit cases involving NCAA athletes often come to light when individuals (typically wannabe agents) claim they are owed money by college athletes...[Lake and Michaels] claimed they provided $100,000 cash and other benefits to the Bush family and invested another $200,000 to start a sports agency that would represent Bush when he turned pro. Bush signed with another agent and another marketing firm. Michaels and Lake demanded Bush pay them $3.2 million to settle their "economic loss." Their demand letter included a not-so-subtle hint that the NCAA and the media would have an interest in this matter. It read in part, "Please advise if it is your intention to involve the University [of Southern California] in these settlement negotiations. We would not object to their participation as...any lawsuit filed might have an adverse effect on them." Can you say extortion?
Despite my criticism, I look forward to reading Yaeger's book. I've already read much of the documents posted on the book's website, tarnishedheisman.com (I particularly enjoyed looking at New Era's biz plan).