After years of investigations, the NCAA has finally sanctioned USC, hitting the Trojans with a two-year postseason ban, loss of scholarships, and vacated wins from prior seasons.
The common perception was that USC has been above the law, allowed to do whatever it wanted because of the large amount of revenue the program generated. There was talk that USC would escape the allegations with merely a slap on the wrist. Instead, the NCAA levied the strongest penalty they could have outside of a death penalty, which is virtually non-existent presently. By hammering the Trojans, the NCAA is sending a message to all program that serious infractions will not be tolerated.
There was little question in anyone's mind that O.J. Mayo and Reggie Bush were responsible for some kind of misconduct. Bush was sued by a marketing firm looking to recoup costs from his days at USC. The story was that Bush's family had been living in a house paid for by that firm during Bush's time playing for the Trojans. Mayo was allegedly paid by Rodney Guillory before and during his stint at USC, with Tim Floyd allegedly handing Guillory $1,000 at one point.
The question was always whether the NCAA would be able to tie these misdeeds to USC.
The Trojans at least somewhat acknowledged guilt when they stripped their basketball team of postseason eligibility and scholarships during the 2009-2010 season in a move that was widely seen as an attempt to keep the NCAA away from the football program.
USC fought tooth and nail for the football program, ultimately losing, it appears. The goal was to show that there was no connection between the Bush allegations and the program itself, essentially pleading ignorance. By hammering USC, the NCAA has severely damaged the program and limited its ability to recruit. Without being able to play postseason games, the luster in L.A. is gone for at least the two-year period. The blow dealt by the NCAA is near crippling for USC both in the short and long term. If schools hadn't already started capitalizing on USC's decline, they sure will now, both on the field and during recruitment.
For the Pac-10, this means that their main revenue program is out of commission for the next two years. Make no mistake about it, this hurts us all. While the expansion talk has excited us all for the future, this is going to hurt us in the present. USC is, for better or worse, the most recognizable Pac-10 team in the country. They've been splashed across national headlines and on television shows for the better part of the last decade. The amount of money they've brought in to the conference has dwarfed everyone else. Losing the bowl money they may have earned in the next two years, and possibly some of the television revenues, creates a hole the conference will be looking to fill. While some teams stepped up last year, USC was still in a league of its own.
USC and the NCAA will both be holding press conferences on Thursday to address the findings. For now, just be glad that after four years the investigation is over and we can all move on. The Pac-10 will recover, especially if/when they expand, but it may take the Trojans a while to dig out of the hole they've been placed in.