USC football is going to walk. There will be no NCAA jail. What, you haven't heard? Lane Kiffin told me. Actually, he told all of us the day he took the job in January. USC's coach is a lot of things and stupid isn't one of them. He didn't replace Pete Carroll knowing that his program was going to get The Big Haircut from the NCAA.
|Someone as smart as Lane Kiffin wouldn't willingly take a job on a sinking ship. (US Presswire)|
No one knows for sure. It's just that this thing has to end soon, doesn't it? The investigation has lasted more than four years. The NCAA usually waits six-to-eight weeks between infractions hearing and penalty announcement. USC has waited more than 14 weeks since its February meeting with the NCAA to go over the details. Watergate looks like a traffic stop in comparison.
At stake is the long-term future of USC's two major sports. We've already found out what AD Mike Garrett thinks of basketball by throwing it under the bus with self-imposed penalties. It's meant as a show of contrition in order to save football.
If you really want to get dewy-eyed, the balance of college football is in play with this USC investigation. A national champion has never had its title ripped in college football. We found out a couple of weeks ago that USC might be the first.
But the past is less important than how USC looks going forward. It seems like Kiffin, with his seven career college coaching victories, is going to be able prove himself (or not) with unencumbered by major sanctions. Postseason ban? It ain't happening. Crippling scholarship cuts? No way. Those are really the only two issues USC has to worry about. Anything else, USC can handle. If there was a hint that either one was on the table, Kiffin wouldn't be with the Trojans.
I'm not claiming to know how USC has wriggled free. I'm just telling you it has happened. That was part of Kiffin considering the job. There had to be assurances that he wasn't walking into a tar pit after Pete Carroll had built skyscraper.
We won't know for sure until Friday at the earliest, but take it for what it's worth. I'm trusting the man Tennesseans wouldn't trust to take Smokey out for his morning constitutional.
There has been significant documentation showing that Reggie Bush competed while ineligible. The question is whether USC knew or should have known. The answer -- by Kiffin's presence in Troy -- is no.
The coach doesn't want to test the theory that his program is among a handful that could survive a postseason ban and scholarship cuts. But he has to know it's true. Take away 10 scholarships, 15? USC with 75 scholarships is better than the vast majority in the Pac-10 with 85.
All Kiffin has to do is look at the neighborhood USC plays in. In the first three years after a crippling NCAA probation in 1988, Oklahoma won seven, eight and nine games. Nine years later, it won a national championship. If Alabama makes it to 2014 without another NCAA hiccup, it will have been technically eligible for the NCAA's death penalty for 19 consecutive years. While dodging that guillotine, things have worked out lately for the Tide.
"These kids [recruits], since they were in fifth grade, watched USC play in a BCS game," Kiffin said. "They watched them have three Heisman Trophy winners in four years. SC football has the attention of those recruits. You don't need to go grab that attention."
That's why Friday could be a day of liberation for USC and the Pac-10. The league can officially count all those conference championship banners. All of us can move on. I'm expecting your USC-as-cheaters e-mails but they will be misdirected. Imagine your annual physical ("Turn your head and cough") lasting four years. After that long, the NCAA better have something. It won't. Not enough to hurt Trojan football.
How do we know? Check the coach's office. He's in.