USC Punished For Hubris, But Claims of a Trojans' Demise Are Premature

Baxter Holmes’ LA Times Magazine article details how USC football’s excessive hubris – emboldened by Mike Garrett and Pete Carroll – led to and exacerbated its NCAA sanctions.  There’s animosity toward USC.  This story will delight the program’s many critics, but claims about the Trojan’s imminent demise might be premature.

Pete Carroll’s “Win Forever” philosophy inspired on the field, but was detrimental off it.  USC was defiant when faced with NCAA inquiries.  The athletic department was combative and summarily ignored potential lines of inquiry.

Within USC’s athletics department, a key early media report that alleged star tailback Reggie Bush had a relationship with an agent was considered “sensationalistic,” the NCAA stated. Even limited inquiries were not undertaken.

School officials waited more than two years after accusations surfaced to contact would-be sports marketer Lloyd Lake, who said he had given Bush cash and other perks while Bush played at USC.

Instead of refuting Lake’s evidence, USC painted him—perhaps the key figure in this case—as a convicted felon who couldn’t be trusted.

The sanctions are gratifying. Immodest USC is getting its comeuppance, but, in our zeal, we may be overstating their effect.

USC loses 30 scholarships over three years. That sounds devastating, but they emphasize quality over quantity anyway. USC generally uses 18-20 of their 25 scholarships. They have enrolled more than 20 players once since 2003. Instead of losing 10 scholarships per year, it is three to five. The postseason ban will be a minor issue and only for this class. Depth problems may bite them in a few games, but, as long as the Trojans continue getting top level recruits they should be fine.

Lane Kiffin has not proved himself to be a good coach. He has not proven himself to be a bad one either. He may be a jerk, but he can coach offense. He can recruit. His father’s issues defending the spread should be sorted out eventually. Even if Kiffin falls on his face, USC can find a top-level replacement. It’s probably the top job in college football. It’s a great lifestyle. It’s easy to recruit there. The Pac-10 is not the SEC.

On multiple occasions, USC officials approached Carroll about the possibility of self-imposing sanctions on the football team to stave off harsher penalties. Each time, Carroll refused, said a source close to the program.

USC may tumble catastrophically from its perch, but its equally, if not more, likely USC will be back competing for a national title the moment they are eligible.

[Photo via Getty]

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