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Bubba Bolden: How Did It Come To This?

It appears that the status of Bubba Bolden has finally been resolved with a simple line in the USC press notes for the upcoming game against Colorado.

Under the “Delete” section of the notes for the USC roster, it listed “S Bubba Bolden, who is no longer enrolled at USC”.

Bolden had been suspended from the team since the opening week of the season for a student conduct issue, and Trojan head coach Clay Helton had been unable to provide any details of the suspension since it was a university-related issue. The suspension came just days after Bolden had been named a starter at safety, and just days before USC was to face UNLV, his hometown school.

While no details have been provided by USC, the suspension was believed to be related to an incident at an off-campus residence of a member of the women’s volleyball team last spring, where Bolden (who had been drinking) had been asked to leave and responded with a very poor choice of words that were taken as a “terrorist threat”. A police report was filed as “unfounded” on the threat, but the incident resurfaced with the university investigation as the start of the fall semester was about to begin.

Since university investigations are not public, there were again no details coming out about what he was specifically accused of, or what the penalties might be. There was a report in early September that it could be a two-year suspension, and the speculation began immediately that Bolden would likely leave the university if that was the case.

The Bolden suspension was only the beginning of the problems at safety for the football team, as Ykili Ross (who was battling Bolden for the starting spot heading in to camp) left the team following a fall camp meltdown over a missed rep in practice, and Isaiah Pola-Mao (who stepped in as the starter for the game against the Rebels) suffered a shoulder injury and was out for the year. The Trojans are now starting true freshman Talanoa Hufanga in that spot.

As for the suspension, over a month had gone by without any news, and Clay Helton was asked about it periodically with the standard response of “there is no update”. Finally last week, there was an update. Bubba got word mid-week that he would indeed be suspended for two years, so he packed up his room in an emotional scene and left school. There is no word at this point on his next destination.

So how did it come to this? What led to such a drastic suspension over words, a threat, that was never actually carried out? We may never know. Many USC fans are wondering if the ruling was an overreaction, or too strict of a punishment. There is also speculation that the university was trying to protect itself, because if they did nothing or gave a light punishment and Bolden were to eventually follow through on the threat (highly unlikely but yes, it’s possible) then the university could be held liable for not doing enough. This way the university is protected by showing they took the situation seriously. Again, without knowing all the details it’s hard to judge right now.

Any way you look at it you had some students who felt threatened enough to take their case to the university, a team that lost a promising player, and a young man who just had a pretty severe change in his life’s plan over what appears to be an ill-advised incident of alcohol-induced braggadocio.

Garry Paskwietz

A 1988 graduate of USC with a degree in Sports Information. Worked in sports marketing for LA Lakers and Miller Brewing Company. Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

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