After years of wrangling, the final word has come down in the case against the USC Trojans. On Thursday, USC lost its appeal to the NCAA regarding sanctions handed down in 2010 stemming from improper benefits received by Reggie Bush during Pete Carroll's tenure as head coach. The penalties include a two-year bowl ban, the loss of 30 scholarships, four years of probation and other recruiting limitations. USC has already served one year of the two-year bowl ban.
Because of the penalties, the Trojans sit at a significant competitive disadvantage for violations that occurred years ago by players and coaches no longer associated with the program. The head coach is gone, the player is question is long gone and the athletic director was also ushered out the door. Now, almost seven years after the NCAA violations took place, players that bare no responsibility will be affected and the program will likely be crippled for years to come.
The length of the process, which stretch four years before the penalty and appeals phases, is mind-boggling, to say the least. By taking such a great amount of time to both figure out what USC did wrong and how to punish it, innocent parties became collateral damage. One can argue the penalties are just -- though the consistency put into practice by the NCAA is tough to figure out -- but it's hard to argue the timing was anywhere near right.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott joined USC athletic director Pat Haden in lamenting the penalties while also taking a back-handed stab at Ohio State and the way the NCAA operates its investigations and doles out punishments in a statement on Thursday. In the statement, Scott vows to ensure Pac-12 athletic departments are compliant, but expresses frustration with the NCAA's process.
"We join the fans, alumni, staff and leadership of USC in being extremely disappointed with today's decision. I want to state emphatically that our Conference is committed to adhering to the highest ethical standards and compliance with NCAA rules. USC's new leadership has certainly demonstrated this with its handling of the sanctions and by establishing a new culture of compliance for its athletic programs with its win-by-the-rules approach. I respect USC's decision to take the high ground and not pursue any further recourse to the NCAA ruling. At the same time, I fully expect that every NCAA member institution be held to the same high standards. These sanctions, notably the postseason ban, have a devastating effect on current student-athletes, most of whom were in elementary and junior high school at the time of the alleged violations. To me, that is a source of great frustration and disappointment. Going forward, we can and need to do better in terms of the enforcement process."
While the sanctions may benefit other Pac-12 schools, they are bad for the conference as a whole. As a fan of a rival school, I don't mind seeing USC on the decline, but as a fan of college football, the entire NCAA investigation disturbs me. As a fan, it's difficult to deduce the rhyme or reason behind the punishments the NCAA hands down, and lends one to wonder why one school gets the hammer while another gets a slap on the wrist and a finger wag.
And by dragging the process out, the NCAA got it wrong. Innocent athletes are being punished for transgressions they had nothing to do with -- many of the players on the roster were in elementary and middle school when they occurred.
For more on the sanctions, visit SB Nation's USC investigation StoryStream.