During groundbreaking ceremonies Wednesday for the John McKay Center, the new $70 million athletic facility, USC’s Athletic Director Pat Haden said USC would not pursue any additional appeals or legal action if the original decision were upheld.
"This is it," Haden said. "There is no appeal after this. This is the final frontier."
The final frontier—is Haden giving the NCAA a way out?
You see, the NCAA is faced with a dilemma. In fact, they are caught between a rock and a hard place.
If they do not grant USC’s appeal, many will point out the double standard as it relates to the recent Auburn and Ohio State situations.
With Cam Newton opting for the NFL, it is possible that much more may emerge with regard to the play-for-pay accusations against his father, Cecil Newton, not only with his son’s recruitment by Mississippi State, but also his signing with Auburn.
To be fair, this would involve stripping Auburn of its National Title and hitting them with the very same sanctions that they laid on USC.
But in order to reduce the sanctions against USC, the NCAA Appeals Committee would need to find fault with the investigation conducted by its Committee on Infractions.
However, by playing the role of a very compliant Mister Nice Guy, Haden has given the Appeals Committee a way to slip out from behind that rock and hard place.
Reduction or No Reduction?
They can institute a conditional reduction of sanctions, stating that USC has far exceeded expectations in correcting the compliance issues raised by the Committee on Infractions and that the new administration has shown a genuine intent to comply with NCAA regulations.
The Appeals Committee can then reduce the sanctions on the condition that USC remains in full compliance with all NCAA rules and regulations. The Committee on Infractions, however, can reinstitute full sanctions should USC commit any violations over the next four years.
I have a feeling that this is the direction that Max Nikias and Pat Haden would like to see things go, and this has been their game plan since Day One.