It would have been easy for USC and its football program to hang their heads after they were hit with some of the toughest sanctions ever imposed by the NCAA.
It would have been expected of them to sit back and wait out the sanctions, watching as other teams built up their programs and left them in the dust.
It would have been expected—but it would not have been USC.
Rather than whither under the heat of the NCAA's scrutiny, USC calmly (and rather quietly) put together a top-five recruiting class, then sat back and watched as two of their brightest defensive stars took the field in Sunday's Super Bowl.
Over the past three decades, USC has developed a tradition of recruiting some of the best football players in the country.
In most cases, USC players themselves are responsible for the recruiting and you don't have to look any further than Sunday's Super Bowl to see the benefits of attending USC. Green Bay's defensive leader and Pro Bowler—Clay Matthews—as well as the heart and soul of Pittsburgh's defense—Troy Polamalu—both starred at USC.
If you are a school looking to bring in some of the country's best talent, the task of competing with USC must seem impossible. Certainly, other schools outranked USC's 2011 recruiting class, and USC has definitely been out-recruited in the past, but there is no arguing with the results.
Year after year, USC sends some of the most talented players in the country to the NFL. While not every player pans out, more often than not, they do. And when USC players hit the pros, they often make immediate impact.
This year's recruiting class was ranked fourth in the country. It is filled top to bottom with talented young stars looking to make an impact, both in college and in the pros.
Yes, other schools had better a National Signing Day, but somehow, there's still a sense that the next big impact player to hit the gridiron was sitting around on Sunday, watching two Trojans lead their respective teams to the Super Bowl, all while trying on a nice new USC jersey.