USC athletic director Pat Haden spent two days meeting with NCAA officials in Indianapolis; where he requested a review of the NCAA's sanctions on the Trojans' football program.
Haden released a lengthy statement on Thursday explaining his trip -- which had been scheduled weeks earlier -- and the efforts made with Dave Robers, USC's Vice President for Athletic Compliance, to convince Mark Emmert and other NCAA officials to consider "outside the box" alterations to the Trojans' scholarship restrictions.
"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," Haden said. "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."
Haden acknowledged that USC has already asked the NCAA to rethink the sanctions through the appeals process, but cited "changing landscape" as a reason to take a second look at the Trojans and their compliance to NCAA rules.
"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 NCAA's decision to reduce Penn State's scholarship penalties has improved the future outlook for Bill O'Brien's squad. As Dennis Dodd pointed out on the Eye On College Football Podcast, this was an unprecedented retraction of unprecedented penalties. With the NCAA in full reform mode, it would not be surprising to see more schools under NCAA sanctions asking for reconsideration.