Over five years in the making, one of the longest infractions cases in NCAA history has finally come to a close. USC’s appeal of their sanctions for lack of institutional control, the hardest hitting set of penalties since the “death penalty” SMU’s football program received in the late 1980s, has been denied by the NCAA. The Trojans’ athletic director Pat Haden will not sue the NCAA for making mistakes in the case.
USC had hoped precedents of recent leniency would help them in their appeal. Namely, Ohio State using ineligible players during the season and then having those same players being allowed to play in last season’s Sugar Bowl before sitting out the first five games of this year. I don’t really know what USC was thinking by appealing. They had no shot of winning the appeal. The NCAA is not even done with Ohio State. It’s getting uglier by the day and Dan Wetzel suggests that the school should get serious about the situation. Allowing those key players to play in the game was about the market value of the bowl game, plain and simple.
The Trojan football team will lose thirty scholarships over the next three years (which is far more important than the vacated wins) and can only sign a maximum of 15 players per season and have a roster of 75 players, ten fewer than the current FBS maximum. USC is also on a two year postseason ban. Seniors on the current team are also being allowed to transfer to other schools and play right away.
The BCS will now have to meet to decide whether or not the Trojans will be stripped of their 2004 BCS National Championship. The executive director of the BCS does not know how soon the decision will occur but we should expect it “sooner, rather than later.” My organization, the FWAA, has already taken away the Grantland Rice Trophy it awards annually the national champion. The AP is not going to take away the title it awarded to USC.
Is it fair to penalize players who had nothing to do with the situation at USC that drew the sanctions? I keep saying players and not student-athletes because a scholarship reduction penalizes educational opportunities. But what about fining the school or making the institution return monies received during the time period ineligible players were used? At all but 14 schools with athletic departments which turn a profit, that money would come from the schools budget, hurting the general student population.
I wish decisions from the NCAA like this one help to push the FBS toward independence from the NCAA.