Earlier this week, the NCAA announced that it would begin restoring scholarships to Penn State, after the school "consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to fulfilling the requirements of the athletics integrity commitment." USC, under scholarship reductions of its own following the Reggie Bush improper benefits scandal, reportedly met with the NCAA to seek similar leniency.
Here's USC Athletic Director Pat Haden's statement on the meeting and what they discussed:
"Dave Roberts, USC's Vice President for Athletic Compliance, and I visited the NCAA in Indianapolis yesterday and today (Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 25-26) immediately after the NCAA announced its reductions to the penalties previously imposed upon Penn State. During our visit, we met with the NCAA's President, Mark Emmert, and several members of his management team.
"Our meeting had actually been scheduled weeks earlier, and we had planned to discuss a variety of topics, including the NCAA's governance structure, the need to address student-athlete welfare concerns, and other current issues such as 'pay for play.' We also wanted to thank NCAA staff members for their cooperation with and assistance to USC on a wide variety of compliance-related matters ranging from numerous waiver requests to the positive resolution of the Joe McKnight/Davon Jefferson matter earlier this year. Our work with the NCAA is not confined to the big 'breaking news' media stories that everyone reads about. Rather, we work with them on a daily basis to address and resolve issues involving eligibility, academics, transfers and graduation that never see the light of newsprint.
"After learning of the NCAA's actions on Tuesday (Sept. 24) regarding Penn State and the lessening of the sanctions that were imposed on that institution, when viewed in the context of the events that have shaken intercollegiate athletics over the past year, we felt compelled to discuss USC's sanctions in a new light. As I have stated on numerous occasions, I believe the penalties imposed on our football program in 2010 were unprecedented and inconsistent with NCAA precedent in prior cases. I also believe the sanctions have resulted in unintended consequences both for our football program and our student-athletes. Although the sanctions reduced our total football scholarship limit to 75 (down from 85), attrition resulting from injuries and transfers has resulted in less than 60 recruited scholarship student-athletes suiting up for our games. The current situation is certainly not what was envisioned, nor is it in the best interests of our student-athletes' welfare.
"In reducing Penn State's scholarship penalties, the NCAA specifically noted the 'progress' it had made regarding athletics integrity. Since the Committee on Infractions (COI) issued its sanctions in 2010, USC has been held up as a model and praised for its integrity and commitment to compliance, a fact often mentioned by the NCAA itself. Although USC had two unsuccessful bites at the apple (the original COI hearing and the appeal to the Infractions Appeals Committee), given the changing landscape impacting intercollegiate sports over the past year, the recent action regarding Penn State, the impact of the sanctions on our program and the efforts we have under taken at USC to compete with integrity, we again argued for some consideration regarding the 2010 sanctions during the last year of our penalty.
"During our meetings with the NCAA's leaders over the last two days, we discussed enforcement and sanction issues impacting both the NCAA membership at large and USC specifically. We proposed creative 'outside the box' solutions to the scholarship issues resulting from the injuries and transfers experienced by our football team over the past three seasons. After candid discussions, the NCAA asked us to provide additional information and indicated it would study our suggestions. Because time is of the essence regarding these issues, we have asked for the NCAA's response as soon as practical."
The decision to reduce Penn State's penalties has set an interesting precedent for the NCAA, which has left open the possibility of removing or reducing the postseason bowl ban as well. This will be the final season that USC has to operate under reduced scholarships, which is likely why Haden met with the NCAA so quickly -- by stating his case now, Haden has the chance to impact the incoming 2014 class, still limited to 15 players. An increase -- if any -- would be invaluable for a Trojan team that has lacked depth in recent years.
It should be noted that Mark Emmert referred to the Penn State situation as an "extraordinary circumstance."
Lane Kiffin had some thoughts of his own following the news about Penn State, knowing full well the impact that sanctions have left on his roster:
Congrats to Coach Bill O'Brien and his team!— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) September 24, 2013