Ah, fall camp is finally here. And just when you thought you could breathe a sigh of relief, the NCAA rears its Cycloptic head once again.
Not only could USC lose its appeal, which some expect, but there could even be more restrictions to come.
It is difficult for any of college football coach to outrun his past unless you have an NFL owner willing to give you that golden opportunity.
For Lane Kiffin, that opportunity came and went several years ago. Now he may find that, in addition to all of his other problems at USC, he cannot evade the long arm of the NCAA.
That long arm can reach across the country with a “show cause” order and place severe restrictions on a coach or coaches who are no longer at the same school where the violations occurred.
That is why Lane Kiffin’s good fortune in landing his dream job at USC was not only a misfortune for so many fans of the University of Tennessee but could prove to be the final shoe that drops on USC as well.
When former USC athletic director Mike Garrett hired Lane Kiffin away from the University of Tennessee along with several assistant coaches last January, he may have inadvertently tied together the fate of their too respective football programs.
It was common knowledge at the time that Kiffin and his staff had committed several secondary recruiting violations during his one and only year as head coach of the Vols.
The most severe violation, sending Volunteer hostesses to high school football games in order to entice recruits into considering enrolling at Tennessee, had also been reported by several media outlets.
News of the infractions was so well disseminated that SEC fans gave Kiffin the moniker, “Lane Violation.”
Of course, Garrett knew that USC was embroiled in a huge NCAA investigation and that sanctions could be imposed at any time. He also knew or should have realized that the NCAA was also launching an investigation into Kiffin’s recruiting tactics at Tennessee.
Nevertheless, with Pete Carroll’s abrupt exit to the Seattle Seahawks and all of Garrett’s top coaching choices turning him down probably due to those impending sanctions, Garrett reached out to Kiffin hoping Pete Carroll’s former offensive coordinator and recruiting guru could keep USC’s recruiting class intact.
Kiffin came and, along with his recruiting coordinator, Ed Orgeron, did just that. But whatever violations he and Orgeron committed at Tennessee may have followed them.
While it is true, on the one hand, that a school cannot be punished for violations that occurred at another school, the USC football program may have already been punished indirectly.
Many were surprised by the severity of the sanctions imposed on the Trojan football when it was just one player, Reggie Bush, and his family who had accepted benefits.
The Committee on Infractions reasoned that Bush was a high-profile athlete who played in two bowl games while he and his family were receiving illegal benefits, and therefore the University must undergo a two-year bowl ban.
The COI also stated that the university showed a lack of institutional control by not having a stronger compliance program do deal with such a situation. They, in turn, reduced USC’s football scholarships by ten per year over three years—an extremely harsh penalty, indeed.
But, my question is this: were the sanctions, especially the large scholarship loss, in part due to the fact that USC had hired Kiffin as head coach along with Orgeron, Monte Kiffin and several other coaches from Tennessee?
Since the NCAA had launched its investigations of the Tennessee violations back in December, the COI could have very well imposed a larger scholarship reduction in light of the Kiffin-Orgeron hiring.
And it may not be over.
The Committee on Appeals could refuse USC’s appeal depending on what their investigation into the Tennessee infractions reveal without anyone being any the wiser.
Furthermore, they can slam Kiffin and Orgeron with a “show cause” restriction that limits the amount of contact and the kind of contact they can have with recruits. In addition, they can impose these restrictions over any number of years.
So, not only will USC have a greatly reduced scholarship limit, but also their head coach and recruiting coordinator could have severely restricted contacts with potential recruits.
And what of Tennessee?
Well, if the COI decides that all the minor violations amount to a major violation, the Volunteers could be hit with severe sanctions based upon that nasty catch phrase—lack of institutional control.
Finally, Trojan fans can join with their Volunteer counterparts and hope, in the manner of Shakespeare, that the NCAA investigation is Much Ado About Nothing.
But more than likely, both schools may need to get out their crying towels as misery loves company.