Pac-10 isn't an expansion loser (cont.)
Stewart, what is the "real" skinny on USC players with this latest ruling? Do this year's recruits have to honor their commitment to the school, or can they be recruited by other schools? I've heard that upperclassman can change schools and the NCAA has waived the requirement for them to sit out one year. When speaking of "upperclassmen," is that with one year, or two? Please clear the air.
-- Wes Davis, St. Augustine, Fla.
The only real provision is the one you listed: Due to the bowl ban, any Trojans player with only two years of eligibility remaining is basically a free agent, so long as he's not heading to another Pac-10 school. (That's a conference restriction, not the NCAA's). So far, the only player to take advantage of the option is junior linebacker Jordan Campbell, a backup who had reportedly fallen into coach Lane Kiffin's doghouse.
I wouldn't expect some mass defection. Bowl games are just one small part of a college player's experience, and I would imagine any USC junior or senior who likes the school and/or has NFL aspirations would want to stay and play for the current staff rather than try to start over somewhere else. The one obvious candidate most people thought might bolt was terminal backup quarterback Mitch Mustain, but he immediately made it known he has no intention to leave. (Perhaps he learned his lesson the first time as to the possible pitfalls of transferring.)
There are no special provisions for USC's incoming recruits. They can certainly ask to be released from their letters of intent and thereby reopen their recruitment, but so far none have indicated they will. Kiffin better hope that remains the case, because he's going to need every one of those guys the next three years when his classes are severely limited (15 scholarships instead of 25) and depth inevitably becomes a problem for the Trojans.
Do the harsh sanctions handed to USC change your opinion about what additional sanctions might be handed to Michigan?
-- Brian B., Austin, Texas
Michigan should be fine. In fact, the two schools have pretty much offered a textbook clinic on how a school should and should NOT handle an NCAA infractions case.
As a public school, Michigan knew its various NCAA reports were accessible under open records laws, so it beat the media to the punch and self-published both the notice of allegations against it and its accompanying response, with its athletic director, Dave Brandon, offering just the right conciliatory tone in discussing them. The school has been quick to admit fault in its self-policing measures, taken steps to correct them and basically placed itself at the mercy of the NCAA. The Committee on Infractions may assess some extra, minor penalties, but nothing close to USC territory.
Contrast that to USC, which, as a private school, shielded all NCAA correspondence from the public throughout the process while continually downplaying the potential consequences. Only after the sanctions came down did the school release its original response to the allegations from last December -- the equivalent of a defense lawyer waiting until after his client's murder conviction to tell his side of the story. And once it did, we found out just how brusquely defiant the school had been in its insistence that it did nothing knowingly wrong with regards to Reggie Bush. Rather than accepting responsibility, it fixated on picking apart the credibility of the various witnesses and evidence. That might make sense in front of a third-party arbiter, but when the NCAA serves as both prosecutor AND judge, your best strategy is to beg for mercy.
I fully believe USC could have landed itself a significantly lighter sentence -- maybe a one-year bowl ban instead of two, maybe 15 scholarships instead of 30 -- had it showed any sign of remorse or made any substantive changes to its practices. But as its mentally unhinged athletic director, Mike Garrett, demonstrated with his bizarre "nothing but a lot of envy" comments, he never took these allegations seriously. The NCAA said: Well, you should have.
So in the four years it has taken for the NCAA to punish USC, Reggie Bush has made millions in the NFL, Pete Carroll made millions at USC and now is making millions in the NFL, USC has enjoyed year after year of high-profile play and top recruiting, and the AD continues to keep his job. If it always takes the NCAA this long to lay down the law are they really going to be sending anybody a message? Short of damaged legacies all of the main culprits came out ahead and I don't see this scaring any other school or player from doing the things that USC did.
-- Cristian, Washington D.C.
I don't disagree, but at the same time, what else can the NCAA really do? It can't have its people out patrolling campuses across the country on the lookout for players mingling with shady associates. Rarely does it get evidence of such indiscretions handed to it by a scorned whistle-blower and some terrific investigative journalism by Yahoo!, either. All it can do is pick its spots and "make a statement" that it's taking these things seriously. It's certainly unfortunate that an entirely new group of players must pay the price six years later, but the NCAA's job is to penalize the school -- where, as mentioned above, the same incompetent athletic director is still running the show. Mostly, the message goes out to administrators at other schools who, should they notice something fishy, would best be advised to notify someone ASAP or pay the price later.
Mailbag etiquette question: Am I allowed to use the pronoun "we" when referring to USA soccer in the World Cup?
-- Caleb, Baltimore, Md.
Hell yeah, you are.
(And yes, I do realize the hypocrisy of the double standard I just created.)
So -- now what are we going to talk about until August?!!!
-- Carlos, San Antonio
Actual football. Sweet, sweet football.
(Hopefully I didn't jinx it.)
Boomer: You're right, Melo! Knicks are a laughingstock
Pro Football Now: Jonathan Martin placed on NFI list