On June 10th, 2010 the NCAA handed down sanctions on the USC Trojans that would void the 2004 national championship and the entire 2005 season. They also banned USC from bowl games for two seasons and reduce their scholarships by 10 each season for the next three years.
Losing 30 scholarships over three seasons will be too much for the Trojans to overcome and they will be forced to dwell in the land of mediocrity for the next decade.
This is how it was supposed to play out. However, the Trojans will come out of this situation with nothing more than a small scratch on their elbow.
The NCAA thought they would crush the Trojans but they underestimated the intelligence of the Trojans' coaching staff and administration. USC saw this coming and they prepared themselves for the storm.
The first brilliant move that USC made was appealing the initial ruling. There were slim chances that the Trojans would get any reductions. However, this allowed them to have one more recruiting class before the sanctions went into effect.
The Trojans would sign a whopping 30 players in the 2011 recruiting class. This, in part, allowed USC to have an astonishing 46 freshmen or redshirt freshmen on their roster.
Why is this important? It is important because the Trojans can only have a maximum of 75 players during their three-year sanction period. At the same time, they can only offer 15 scholarships each season. For most teams this would have meant they would only have around 55 players on scholarship in their third year.
However, because of the young players they have stockpiled, they are going to be around the 75-player limit in year three. Yes this is 10 players less than the other NCAA schools will have, but USC’s 75 will be able to compete with almost any other team's 85.
How will the NCAA sanctions hinder USC?
The Trojans played less than 50 players this season many times. This gives them less room for error than other programs, but who in the Pac-12 is going to match them in talent? Oregon? Possibly, but that is it.
The proof is in this season's recruiting class. The Trojans only have nine players currently committed, but they are still second in the Pac-12 in recruiting.
Injuries, transfers and academic causalities could hurt the Trojans. However, they will still have more talent on campus than almost every team they face.
Seeing into the future, USC decided to go through a youth movement to be able to maintain success during the sanction period. They were able to manage the last two seasons with an 18-7 record and the future remains bright despite the sanctions.
I must admit I have never been a fan of the Trojans during the Pete Carroll years. Moreover, I never thought I would cheer for USC with Lane Kiffin at the helm. However, how can you not cheer for a team that gave the NCAA the middle finger and are going to come out victorious?
Like it or not, USC fought the law and the Trojans won.