The NCAA's announced reduction of sanctions against the Penn State football program Tuesday will have a ripple effect across the nation. The aftershocks should reach Los Angeles, if the NCAA makes the right choice regarding USC.
Penn State will retain five of the 10 scholarships the NCAA initially pulled from its 2014 scholarship allotment. It will regain another five in 2015, and finally return to full strength in 2016.
Penn State's original, four-year scholarship reduction plan was the most severe since the NCAA handed a similar, three-year reduction to USC. But with the beginning of a pull-back this year, USC will have severed a more severe penance with its two years of 15-scholarship allotments.
The NCAA flung open a door to finally make the right decision about USC’s ongoing punishment . President Mark Emmert and Co. must lift the final year of the Trojans’ scholarship sanctions immediately.
Others just might see it the same way, too. Sports Illustrated college football reporter Pete Thamel offered the following from USC athletic director Pat Haden.
I asked USC AD Pat Haden about the Penn State decision. He forced a smile and said, "I'd love to have some scholarships back."— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) September 24, 2013
Lane Kiffin also, perhaps sarcastically, weighed in on the ruling.
Congrats to Coach Bill O'Brien and his team!— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) September 24, 2013
Honestly, Haden and Kiffin shouldn’t have to appeal. This is more of a hat-in-hand situation for the NCAA, which was much too harsh in its verdict against the Trojans even before reversing course on Penn State.
USC took the first steps, issuing a statement via USCTrojans.com.
"[T]he NCAA is currently engaged in the process of evaluating and potentially reforming its governance structure. We look forward to having a positive impact on that process.
"We also are hopeful that the NCAA's recently-enacted enforcement and penalty reforms will result in a consistent and fair enforcement and penalty process for all its institutions. USC will continue to work cooperatively with the NCAA towards that goal.
"We are near the end of the NCAA sanctions imposed on us in 2010 and we look forward to their expiration."
Reinstating scholarships doesn’t turn back the clock to 2011 and give USC its shot in the Pac-12 championship game that a mandatory postseason ban erased. Nor does it restore Todd McNair to the collegiate coaching ranks.
But because every injustice cannot be corrected doesn’t mean that none should be. USC is still paying the consequence for infractions committed almost a decade ago, and is scheduled to continue doing so for the next few years.
USC began a three-year scholarship reduction plan in 2012. The thinning of its roster has been the program's greatest scourge, rendering the Trojan roster only slightly larger than that of a Championship Subdivision program, and made head coach Lane Kiffin’s margin for error on the recruiting trail razor thin.
The NCAA's heavy handed approach to USC is among the more confounding decisions the oft-criticized organization has made in recent years.
Furthermore, the nature of USC's infractions differs so profoundly from the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, even mentioning the two in the same conversation is insulting.
Penn State's scandal was a matter for the courts, but the NCAA set a precedent when it intervened from a football perspective.
The proverbial line-in-the-sand was drawn July 23, 2012. Tuesday, the NCAA stepped back over its own arbitrary designation for what it deems lack of institutional control. In that regard, the circumstances should be compared—and some are beginning to do so.
Sports Illustrated college basketball writer Andy Glockner broached the topic via Twitter.
The NCAA will have to explain why an overreach concerning amateurism (USC) remained intact but one involving child rape will not.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) September 24, 2013
Were the sanctions ever fair to Bill O’Brien, or the Penn State players who had no connection to the atrocities committed there? In the same vein, how much did the NCAA accomplish punishing USC players with no connection to Reggie Bush?
The time for the NCAA to offer its mea culpa to over-punishing USC has long since past. Tuesday’s Penn State reversal makes it an absolute necessity.