It has been a crazy month in Tinseltown, as Jay recaptures late-night television while leaving Conan jobless. Pete Carroll has left for the Great Northwest and Lane Kiffin is the new man in charge of Trojan football, both storied franchises in complete disarray.
The bigger story is how out of control the USC athletic program has become, and the school’s reaction by running for cover during difficult times. Athletic Director Mike Garrett is presiding over two scandal-ridden programs that are constantly under the microscope of the NCAA, and so far, he hasn’t been held publicly accountable for their actions.
The mens basketball program is in complete shambles after self-imposing sanctions against itself in response to allegations of illegal payments made to OJ Mayo and his handlers. USC banned the program from postseason play this year, trimmed the amount of scholarships offered, curtailed the amount of recruiting days for the coaching staff, and returned revenue earned from prior NCAA tournament appearances. USC was coming off winning a Pac-10 tournament title and securing a school-record third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
The average sports fan will say, who cares, it’s not about the football program. Well hold on, there are accusations of starting tailback Joey McKnight driving an SUV that is owned by a university booster, and let’s not forget the Reggie Bush money-laundering ongoing scandal.
We may be getting way ahead of ourselves and should wait until the NCAA has completed their investigation of the football program. However, the school hides behind the stance of not commenting on internal investigations that are also being handled by the NCAA. But quietly, McKnight didn’t play in the Emerald Bowl victory over Boston College and their high-profile coach has since left for greener pastures.
Difficult times will bring out the best in someone, and major questions will need to be answered this offseason by the school. Will USC’s major donors request to have the sports programs be reeled in? Is the school’s reputation as an academic institution more important than winning a few lousy national championships? Can Kiffin retain the blue-chip recruits who are wavering on their verbal commitments? How do the other coaches in the athletic program feel being associated with two troubled programs?
At some point, the USC administration will have to address the current state of their sports program. The NCAA will hold in account their cooperation in all phases when factoring their final decision against the school. They’re being compared to other athletic factories that offer meaningless diplomas to five-star recruits. Currently, the ethical standard in the classroom and locker room are on different ends of the spectrum. And that is sad.