A fun slate of conference championship football games kicks off this week, but a major disservice is being perpetuated by the NCAA against the USC Trojans.
USC is banned from postseason play for a second straight year due to illegal benefits offered to ex-Trojans Reggie Bush (football) and O.J. Mayo (basketball).
As a result, the No. 8 Oregon Ducks (10-2) will host the UCLA Bruins (6-6) in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game Friday in Eugene.
USC (10-2) is the No. 9 team in the country and would otherwise be playing in this game.
I am not a fan or even admirer of USC and obviously do not like the idea of illegal cash and benefits being offered to amateur athletes.
But the NCAA is getting it wrong by punishing players that weren’t even on the team five or seven years ago. The argument is not a new one, but it extends past just the players.
The NCAA’s attempt at self-gratification at the expense of innocent parties does nothing but make them appear undeservedly righteous and out of touch with reality.
This slideshow details three populations or entities unfairly and adversely affected by the current sanctions against USC.
I first mentioned the USC players. These are young men putting their bodies and future careers on the line for nothing more than hometown glory and a chance at the NFL.
Granted, those are noble and valuable reasons to risk long-term personal injury.
But imagine what a team with 10 wins and nothing to play for could have done in the midst of a BCS run.
When the NCAA completed its investigation stemming from incidents as far back as 2004, they took action along with the university.
Wins were vacated, future scholarships were taken away and USC disassociated itself with Bush altogether.
Athletic director Mike Garrett was shown the door in 2010. Plenty of effort was put into changing the public perception of the sports environment at USC.
But by then, Bush and Mayo were out of the NCAA's jurisdiction. I just don’t see the point of holding back student-athletes who were not part of the original problem.
From a business standpoint, Fox stands to lose considerable ad dollars.
With corporations looking out for their own bottom line, they have by now weighed the value of running commercials during a watered down conference championship game.
Compared to other matchups this weekend like Wisconsin-Michigan State and Georgia-LSU, the Pac-12 version looks boring on paper.
Clearly, the game will draw suitors. It is being shown on a network in prime-time. That fact is where the value comes from, not the teams showing up.
According to Ad Age, a 30-second spot in prime-time costs over $85,000 during a regular season college football game.
Companies on the fence may pass on a number like that. As a result, their brands don't receive exposure, and Fox doesn’t get the additional money.
Since Oregon should be blowing out UCLA by halftime, the only worthwhile ad spots will take place in the first quarter.
Had USC been in this game, all business entities would be in a win-win situation.
The biggest losers of the USC sanctions and most ignored people in all this are the fans. Diehard Trojans fans, BCS analysts and all fans in between are being left out in the cold right now.
How can the NCAA possibly justify taking away good football from the fans who most support it?
We show up to all the games we can and watch the rest on television. We buy up all the merchandise and drink overpriced beer just to see some good football.
Keeping a top-10 team out of its own conference championship game for no reason should upset fans.
I give much credit to Oregon’s fans and the enthusiasm they bring to Autzen Stadium.
But I have to wonder if those fans will be as excited this week as they would have been with USC in town.
Will they really stay loud for three hours, even after their team has secured a win by halftime? To put it in perspective, we should consider what we’re getting versus what we should be getting.
UCLA finished 6-6 and only beat one team with a winning record—the 7-5 California Golden Bears. The Bruins were just 1-5 on the road, a sobering fact that doesn’t bode well for them come Friday.
USC lost a head-scratcher to Arizona State, but only Stanford handed them another loss all season: a triple-overtime loss.
Since October 1, the Trojans have not scored below 30 points and have surpassed 40 on five occasions.
Only two weeks ago, they beat the very Oregon Ducks they should be playing for the Pac-12 title.
The game was in Eugene. Just imagine the buildup of a rematch for the title and a BCS berth.
The real capper is USC’s utter dismantling of UCLA last week by a 50-0 score. Talk about sending a message.
But we are all losing. The fans, the players and anyone who supports the spirit of college athletics. We are all missing out to help fuel the NCAA’s ego.
The sanctions are unjust. Enough damage was done before the current players showed up.
No matter what Oregon accomplishes the rest of this season, I will harbor doubts of legitimacy.
Josh Greller has been an editorial intern for Bleacher Report since September. He is a Bay Area resident and has written for various sports sites and startup companies.