USC athletic director Pat Haden announced big news on Monday, news that could be a game-changer for the Trojans' recruiting strategy going forward. Effective July 1, USC will offer four-year athletic scholarships in the revenue sports (football and men's and women's basketball) in lieu of the one-year renewable scholarships currently in place:
The new 4-year commitment replaces the current practice of 1-year renewable scholarships for the revenue sports effective July 1, 2014.— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) June 23, 2014
USC AD Pat Haden: "In taking this action, USC hopes to help lead the effort to refocus on student-athlete welfare on and off the field."— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) June 23, 2014
The NCAA first allowed multiyear scholarships to be offered back in 2011, and while some schools have quietly been doing so for a few years, USC is the first to make it public knowledge. And that's a shrewd public relations move for the Trojans, who also have a long, established history of covering expenses for former athletes to return to USC and complete their degrees:
Haden reaffirmed USC's practice of assisting former athletes in achieving their degrees, which has served 250 Trojans in the past decade.— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) June 23, 2014
As Haden stipulates, having a four-year scholarship secured is more beneficial to the student-athletes. Under the current practice, student-athletes can be forced out of scholarships for performance reasons, and for many, their opportunity to complete a college degree is over. Under this new practice, as long as a student-athlete is in good academic standing, he or she retains his or her scholarship through graduation.
For high school football players that maintain they want to come away from college with a degree, this news makes USC an even more desirable target.
In fact, 5-star defensive back Iman "Biggie" Marshall tweeted his reaction to the news shortly after the announcement:
USC is now offering four year scholarships to all student athletes in lieu of one year renewable scholarships, #GAMECHANGER!— Biggie (@iman_marshall8) June 23, 2014
Recognize Whats Real.... Athletes Need their security ✊— Biggie (@iman_marshall8) June 23, 2014
If the Trojans didn't have the upper hand in recruiting Marshall before, they are sure to have more pull with him now.
In this social media age, recruits are increasingly aware of how little they get in exchange for the billions the NCAA makes off their efforts. As more and more dialogue is created about how the cartel-like NCAA has little interest in the welfare of the student-athletes it claims to protect, USC's new scholarship practice is sure to show recruits that it is actually talking the talk and walking the walk.
An academic degree is a game-changer for regular college students, and particularly so for student-athletes who wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford college. The fact that USC has taken a step toward ensuring graduation for all its academically eligible athletes is major and should keep the Trojans at the top of the recruiting game.
While USC cannot guarantee each athlete it recruits an NFL career, it can guarantee them a college degree should they maintain academic eligibility. The Trojans now stand as the lone program in the Pac-12 that can offer that, and it is sure to be a major selling point down the recruiting trail, even this summer.
There's no doubt that it will also be very popular with parents of recruits, who have an incredibly influential role in the decision-making process.
For now, this scholarship plan only applies to the revenue sports, but it's an important step in the right direction to ensuring that student-athletes aren't merely exploited for their talents.
All recruiting information provided by 247Sports.com.