There are many sports prognosticators that nonchalantly say that USC will return after some massive NCAA sanctions.
I would argue that USC is in such a mess right now that it is a question of not "when" USC will get back up, but "if."
Many may laugh at that notion, but trust me, this comes from an alum from the University of Alabama. While I was earning my degree, from 2003-2008, I witnessed how brutal NCAA sanctions can be.
USC will have to overcome many obstacles before they can even think about challenging for a championship.
First things first, recruiting. Duh, they will lose 30 scholarships over three years. Alabama lost 21 over three years. Now if it took Alabama nearly a decade to recover from that, which includes hiring a hall of fame coach at a bargain bin, it more than likely will take USC even longer to recover, at least depth wise.
Adding to that the types of players you will be able to get. I don’t care if USC is offering gold to recruits, when you mention to them that they can’t play for anything for two years, while they have offers from Florida, Texas, Alabama, etc., they won’t even sniff your offer.
Thus you are left with kids that want to play at USC, but aren’t necessarily the greatest in the world.
For example, Alabama got similar sanctions starting with the 2002 season. They didn’t go back “bowling” until 2004.
Starting from that point to 2007, Alabama’s records are as follows: 6-6, 10-2, 6-7, and 7-6. The lone high mark being a 10-2 campaign in 2005. But remember, one injury (Tyrone Prothro), crippled the offense and Alabama’s SEC title dreams.
In closer examination, those last two years, the seniors and juniors were the “leaders” you recruited during the two years of the bowl ban. No matter the situation, all juniors and seniors are leaders on their team. Thus if the quality of the players you get drop, the quality of leaders drop. Thus you end up going to the Independence Bowl back to back years, even with Nick Saban at the helm.
However, the most important reason why Alabama has been able to recover is the fans.
While Alabama was on probation, every game was still a sellout. People still supported the brand, and the base’s hunger for championships kept the university from fading as a “has been” program.
Fans still cared about Alabama, enough to not let it die.
Will USC’s fans do they same?
Will they come out to the Coliseum to support a team they know can’t win the Pac-10, can’t win a Rose Bowl, can’t win a national championship for two years?
Will they support the team when it goes 7-5, 6-7, maybe even losing seasons?
That is what it comes down to—care. Will the fans care to come? Will the players care about their pride instead of championships?
Will the coaches care to not put themselves in any situation that might call the NCAA to question them?