Fire up the grill! The NCAA is throwing a barbeque on behalf of all the folks in college football who either play by the rules or just haven’t been caught yet. On the menu: sacred cow. Cooking time: three years.
By Franz Beard — GatorCountry.com
Just when you thought the NCAA had gone soft on you — and that’s the general consensus after Florida State pretty much skated after an academic scandal that gripped the entire athletic department — the men in blue suits stuck it to Southern Cal Thursday. To the surprise of those who have come to think of the NCAA as a toothless lion, the NCAA came down hard on a school that acted like it was above the law for so long that many observers elevated USC to sacred cow status.
The penalties for Southern Cal’s transgressions? Try two years with no bowls, a loss of 10 scholarships per year for the next three years, 14 wins vacated including the 2004 BCS championship win over Oklahoma and that dreaded “lack of institutional control” label that will affect the way USC’s athletic department does business the next five years.
Additionally, the Football Writers Association of America, which awards the Grantland Rice Trophy to the national champion, is set to review the Southern Cal case and either vacate the national championship or award it to Oklahoma. The Heisman Trophy Foundation has said it will also review Reggie Bush’s Heisman Trophy in 2005 since improper benefits to Bush and his family are at the heart of the NCAA findings. No player has ever been stripped of a Heisman Trophy.
Southern Cal avoided the television ban, which would have not only kept the Trojans off television for the next couple of years but also from sharing in Pac-10 Conference television revenues, and more significantly, avoided the death penalty. Because the transgressions that got Southern Cal in trouble this time occurred in 2005, they fell during the five-year lack of institutional control window that was already in place from the last time USC went on probation in 2001.
Of course, Southern Cal acted shocked and dismayed by the penalties. No big surprise there. Isn’t that how every school that gets caught reacts?
Remember Alabama back in 2001 when the NCAA had the benefit of Federal Court transcripts to back up its case? Caught red-handed and hit with a two-year bowl ban and a loss of 21 scholarships over a three-year period, Alabama appealed and lost but continues to whine to this day that it was wronged by the NCAA.
Expect the same from Southern Cal, which has already hired lawyers to appeal the sanctions. You can also expect the same result that Alabama got.
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How will the sanctions hurt Southern Cal?
Since the television ban isn’t in effect, the sanctions won’t be that bad from a monetary standpoint unless the Pac-10 Conference decides that since it can’t go to a bowl Southern Cal shouldn’t share in bowl revenues. There is precedent for that. Just go back to 1984 and again in 1990, the last two times the University of Florida was on probation. In both situations, the Southeastern Conference piled on the penalties. In addition to the bowl and television bans and the scholarship reductions, the Gators had the 1984 SEC championship, which was won on the field, stripped and then wasn’t allowed to compete for the SEC in 1990, Steve Spurrier’s first year and a season in which the Gators would have won the SEC.
The Pac-10 might demand that Southern Cal return bowl revenues from 2004 and again in 2005. The school has already had to return more than $206,000 earned in its NCAA Basketball Tournament appearance that year. The NCAA did accept Southern Cal’s self-imposed penalties for basketball which include a reduction in scholarships and no NCAA tournament either last season or the upcoming 2010-11 season.
There is also a chance that some of Lane Kiffin’s first recruiting class, which was one of the three best in the nation for 2010, might change their minds and opt out of their letters of intent, which is their right since the Trojans are in the NCAA jail. There is a real possibility that stud offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, who was considered the best offensive lineman in the nation, could opt out. Henderson reportedly signed financial aid papers but not his letter of intent.
The Trojans have a loaded roster for the 2010 season but the scholarship cuts will do a fairly good job of sending USC back into the dark ages once they kick in with the 2012 recruiting class. Southern Cal can’t sign more than 15 players for their 2012, 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes and they can’t have more than 75 scholarship players (85 is the limit) on the roster at any time during those years.
While a 75-man roster might not sound like a big deal, this is devastating. The Trojans have approximately 63 non-freshmen on the 2010 roster (20 seniors, 22 juniors and 21 sophomores) to go with 19 freshmen and one juco transfer signed for the recruiting class of 2010.
So let’s do some math.
Southern Cal will be able to sign 22 freshmen for the class of 2011 if there are that many who want to be part of a program that has been nuked. In 2011, Southern Cal will lose 22 seniors bringing the scholarship numbers down to 63. They can’t sign more than 15 and can’t have but 75 on the roster, so if there is no attrition, USC will be only able to sign 12 in its 2012 recruiting class.
Let’s go to the next season. Southern Cal has 75 on scholarship but will lose 22 (remember there was a juco in the 2010 class) which drops the number to 53 and the Trojans can only sign 15. That means 68 on scholarship. Georgia Southern, which plays in D-1AA, can have as many as 70.
And let’s go to the final year of the sanctions. The Trojans will lose 19, dropping their numbers to 49 and they can only sign 15. So, they’ll play 2014 with something in the neighborhood of 64 on scholarship. Try competing at the highest levels of college football with 64 on the roster.
Remember this … none of these numbers include attrition such as players leaving early for the NFL, flunking out of school or just getting tired of the tomfoolery of the boy blunder, Lane Kiffin. Injury numbers aren’t included, either. What happens if there is a rash of injuries?
So think of Southern Cal football in this term — ground zero. That’s what it’s going to feel like in Los Angeles. Southern California football is about to endure nuclear winter.
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It is also worth asking what Southern Cal’s sanctions will do for proposed expansion plans by the Pac-10? Colorado bolted the Big 12 to join the league Thursday and it has been reported that five other Big 12 schools have been invited to form a 16-school mega-conference.
The 16-team Pac-10 model has no conference championship game and the league is demanding that the BCS invite the champions of its two divisions to play in BCS bowl games.
With Southern Cal banned from bowls the next two years and likely to be in no shape to go to a bowl game until perhaps 2015 or 2016 at the earliest, the league will lose a marquee player in the postseason picture and that could have a serious affect on television packages. With the Pac-10 or whatever they decide to call this intended mega-conference trying to negotiate a contract with the networks that will rival what the Big Ten Network has or what the SEC has with ESPN and CBS, it’s best to have all guns blazing.
Will the Southern Cal sanctions cause teams like Texas and Texas A&M to consider staying where they are in the Big 12 or perhaps asking their cousins to the east in the SEC if there is room for two more?
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Several years ago, Southern Cal landed stud linebacker Keith Rivers from Lake Mary. Rivers was thought to be a Gator lock until he went to Los Angeles. There were tall tales about the recruiting parties, the limos, etc., enough to make you wonder now if Reggie Bush was indeed just the tip of the iceberg.
Pete Carroll whined and cried about the severity of the sanctions Thursday, claiming that it was unprecedented for a school to go down for one player with such harsh penalties, but perhaps the sanctions are the result of a long laundry list of allegations that the NCAA knows are true but can’t necessarily spend the time, money and effort to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt.
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The penalties against Southern Cal should also send shivers up and down the spines of every Kentucky Wildcat fan. If the NCAA will come down this harsh on Southern Cal, just how hard will they come down on Kentucky and John Calipari. The NCAA has been licking its chops and trying to get at Calipari at both UMass and Memphis. Now it seems to have a smoking gun in the form of Eric Bledsoe and his infamous Swiss cheese transcript.
The guess here is that the Southern Cal sanctions are just the beginning of a tough new image that the NCAA wants to present and whoever is standing in the way better watch out. Especially if that school standing in the way is a sacred cow. So fire up the grill. The NCAA barbeque might just be getting started.