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NCAA delays USC report again

For those of you who have been following the saga with the Trojans, the NCAA was supposed to finally release its findings to the public today. Of course, this is after it was supposed to release them 6-8 weeks after the infractions committee hearing in January. The date was then moved to mid-May, followed by "sometime in May", with the latest date being this Friday. The NCAA again delayed the findings, putting them off until next week, depending on who is to be believed.

To recap the proceedings, a Yahoo! story almost 4 years ago uncovered that Reggie Bush allegedly received improper benefits from an agent while attending USC. The story by Yahoo! took eight months of investigative journalism and information contained in the findings became the basis for an NCAA probe. Along the way, the basketball team committed infractions involving Tim Floyd and OJ Mayo, resulting in self-imposed sanctions. Following years of investigations, the NCAA held an infractions committee hearing with the Trojans back in January, all leading up to a final report that was expected months ago.

This isn't about USC or any wrong doing that may have occurred there. The allegations are serious, but many in the public, including USC fans, have grown tired of an investigation that's dragged on for far too long. It's come to the point where the NCAA either needs to do something or let them walk, but whatever they do needs to come soon. Since the investigation began, New Orleans rebuilt itself after Hurricane Katrina, the Saints flourished, and Bush won a Super Bowl. In the meantime, the NCAA has been plodding away, conducting its investigation behind closed doors. Nobody really has a clue what's been going on, but we do know the pace has been snail-like.

In today's NCAA, institutions are too big, and work with too much money, to truly be controlled by the governing body. In 1987, the NCAA took 6 months to deliver the death penalty to SMU, all triggered by a local news organizations' investigation. In 2010, the current investigation has taken nearly 4 years, triggered by an online news organizations' report. The difference between now and then is that the death penalty probably isn't on the table anymore. There is too much money invested in athletics, with USC being the biggest cash cow on the West coast, to lay the hammer down. What has resulted is an awkward situation where the NCAA cannot win with the results of this case.

There are two possible outcomes in the conclusion of the report. The infractions committee can slap USC on the wrist because they can't find direct knowledge of improper benefits by the athletic department, proving the NCAA has lost its teeth in the eyes of the cynics. The committee can also hammer USC, inflicting financial damage on the Trojans, the conference, and many others in an effort that may be perceived as a show of force by the public. Either way, 4 years and a large sum of money spent on the investigation may very well result in a hollow judgment.

There are no winners in this situation. If USC is dealt a severe blow, the Pac-10, and especially WSU, suffers from the loss of revenue that results. If USC skates, even if they really did no wrong, the NCAA loses the ability to effectively govern college athletics in the eyes of the majority of the public. This is the biggest case the NCAA has had in front of them in years and has the potential to shape how college athletics operates for years to come. After four years, though, this investigation just needs to end so that everyone can move on with their lives.