The question now has to be asked: Is there officially an exodus out of USC?
When blue-chip recruit Seantrel Henderson was released from his letter of intent on Tuesday, he was on his way to becoming the third USC player to transfer from USC since the NCAA penalties were handed down June 11. A fourth player said he was contacted by several schools about transferring.
Henderson is easily the biggest loss, though. The nation's No. 1 recruit had a chance to start as a freshman and was projected as a future anchor on the offensive line. Various reports had USC coaches traveling twice to Henderson's home in the Twin Cities in recent days in an attempt to keep him in the fold.
Releasing Henderson from his letter of intent conceivably allows him to transfer immediately and be eligible this fall. Most of the speculation has Henderson headed to Miami which was one of his finalists along with Ohio State. Henderson committed to USC live on CBS College Sports in February but didn't sign his LOI until late March, supposedly out of concern for the severity of the NCAA penalties.
The NCAA infractions committee came close to dealing USC the death penalty last month when it applied a two-year bowl ban and removed 30 scholarships over three years. The school is appealing some of the penalties saying they are too harsh.
With those kinds of penalties, USC has to be worried about staying competitive in the near term. If USC is nicked enough by the penalties, the suffering will be significant for a program still considered by some to be in the dynasty stage. The current losses already are eating into the depth. Without those 30 scholarships, Kiffin will have to play more and more walk-ons. Also, he absolutely cannot miss with the scholarships he has to hand out.
Even when all the penalties end in 2014, the lingering effects remain to be seen. And will the USC administration be patient enough with Kiffin for him to slog through what is looking like a considerable downturn?
" ... this thing regarding USC and the NCAA is to me the closest thing to death without dying," Reggie Bush told the New Orleans media last month.
For now, USC has lost Henderson, defensive end Malik Jackson (transfer to Tennessee) and linebacker Jordan Campbell (Louisville). Both Jackson and Campbell took advantage of NCAA bylaws that allow rising juniors and seniors from programs hit by major NCAA sanctions to transfer immediately without sitting out.
We’ll see if the flow of players out of Troy continues. USC freshman sensation Dillon Baxter reportedly told the school's director of compliance last month that he had been contacted about transferring by five schools -- Florida, Washington, Alabama, Oregon and Fresno State. Florida, Washington, Alabama and Oregon denied they had contacted Baxter.
USC AD Mike Garrett contacted Florida AD Jeremy Foley recently telling Foley, Baxter "has now confirmed that he did not receiver a call from your instition." The letter, dated July 1, was obtained this week by CBSSports.com. Alabama received a similar letter according to the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register. Oregon and Washington officials expect to get a similar letter according to a source at each school.
It is considered an NCAA violation to contact a player about transferring before he has been released from his scholarship.