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Senior College Football Columnist

Amid latest allegations, does 2012 still hold the same promise for USC?

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USC has re-emerged as a national title contender after a two-year bowl ban. (US Presswire)  
USC has re-emerged as a national title contender after a two-year bowl ban. (US Presswire)  

Last week #FightOn was trending.

This week USC fans are bumming.

At least some of them. It's not so much whether you think last week's allegations reported by the Los Angeles Times are serious enough to land Southern California in a deeper NCAA dungeon. It's more about the buzz kill that was dropped on Troy.

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On opening day, Scott Schenter replaced Lloyd Lake.

Joe McKnight subbed for Reggie Bush.

And, eventually, Alabama jumped the Trojans.

That No. 1 AP ranking lasted for exactly one 39-point win over Hawaii. Did the NCAA being back on campus again make a difference even in the polls? You can feel the angst from SoCal to Nap Town. (That's L.A. to Indianapolis in case you don't get the obvious reference to nonstop flights between NCAA headquarters and Heritage Hall.)

Trending? Monte Carlo. That would be the make of car that McKnight allegedly was given by a Los Angeles County assessor's office employee, not the casino that attracts jetsetters.

There have been a few days to digest this latest bomb. If, after the pain of the Bush investigation, how was this overlooked? Wasn't the legitimacy of ol' Reggie's ride a rather prominent issue back in the day?

The temptation is to dismiss it all and focus on Saturday's performance against Hawaii. It was vintage USC, 2003-2005 -- except that the 2004 title (and Bush's 2005 Heisman) were vacated.

The future could hold a vintage of another kind. A fine Trojan whine: Why us? We're talking about a group of fans who already believe they're been screwed having to endure a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships. Now the Cardinal and Gold wake up every day knowing the football program may have to walk the Green Mile.

During the week the nation's (previously) No. 1 team takes its show to New York to play Syracuse, CBSSports.com asked three noted compliance experts their take on the situation.

"I don't expect it to be serious. I don't expect it to affect this team. I think it's going to take until at least the end of the year to sort out the case if it was going to be anything serious. I think there is a possibility it might only be considered a secondary violation." -- John Infante, Colorado State compliance officer whose popular Bylaw Blog has moved to athleticscholarships.net

USC's biggest advantage may be turnover. The irascible Mike Garrett is gone. Paul Dee has passed. Besides Bush, Garrett and Dee were arguably the central figures in the case. Garrett was USC's former AD whose combative attitude may have made it easier for the NCAA to come down hard. He famously said detractors were "jealous" of USC's success when the sanctions were announced.

Dee's hypocrisy has become legend. The former Miami AD was the infractions committee chairman who admonished USC for not keeping a closer eye on its top player. Meanwhile, as we have learned, Nevin Shapiro was allowed free reign inside Miami's program. Dee died in May.

Meanwhile at USC, everything has changed in wake of the scandal. AD Pat Haden instituted a culture of compliance. Media must be credentialed for practice. The compliance department has been bolstered. In March 2011, Haden couldn't give a baby shower gift to a former player who had exhausted his eligibility. That was the ruling he got from compliance, so he didn't.

Think that would be scrutinized under Garrett and Pete Carroll?

"I don't know if the NCAA is particularly interested in going that route [punishing USC]," Infante added. "Especially with a school that has become the poster child, for if not compliance, the effort of compliance."

"If true, I imagine USC will take strong action based on what I have seen from Haden so far, but it will fall short of what should happen … After the football and basketball problems with boosters, this does not look good and likely where there is smoke there is fire -- but I don't think the NCAA has any stomach to punish USC more severely than it already has." -- Dave Ridpath, professor at Ohio University and academic reformer.

Remember, this isn't nearly as big a story if the average Trojan loyalist was still getting over being shafted by the NCAA on June 10, 2010. In that sense, Saturday was a win-win. On the same day, the Trojans beat the Warriors and probably any rap that they are a repeat violator. The latest allegations seemingly occurred before June 2010. Had they occurred after that day, USC would be in line for the death penalty.

Just sayin'.

Is it possible that the NCAA take into account it's almost an impossible situation in Los Angeles? Will the promise of these 2012 Trojans be realized or will the NCAA come down hard -- again?

Maybe it's just a simple case of hiring a parking lot monitor.

"We used to tell kids, 'When you get a new car, let us know.' Fifty percent of the time they would. I used to joke they would be driving around campus and honk. You'd go, 'Hmm.' I didn't see that a month ago." -- former compliance director for a BCS conference institution.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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