The USC football program is rarely considered an underdog, but the Trojans surely knew their presentation before the NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee on Jan. 22 would be considered a long shot.
More than 17 weeks later, the committee announced its decision to uphold all penalties against the Trojans. In the public report, the appeals committee found “no basis on which to reverse the pertinent findings.”
“I am very disappointed, but I am not surprised,” USC Athletic Director Pat Haden said.
The penalties against USC include a two-year postseason ban, and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years. In the appeal, the Trojans requested the penalties be reduced to a one-year postseason bowl ban and the forfeiture of 15 scholarships over three years.
The Trojans will serve the second year of the two-year postseason bowl ban during the 2011 football season.
“I feel badly for our seniors, who had two years of [postseason bowl bans], even though they had nothing to do with what went on,” Haden said.
The university expressed disappointment in the appeals process.
“We are very concerned that the historical value of case precedent and the right to fair process in the NCAA adjudicative process, both in terms of the ability of an institution to defend itself or prove an abuse of discretion on appeal, have been substantially eroded,” President C. L. Max Nikias said in a statement.
Nevertheless, Haden stated USC would accept the penalties and not sue the NCAA.
“We have decided to move on and make the most of our situation,” Haden said. “We disagree with the findings, but I do think that the [NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee] itself is fair-minded.”
Haden made it clear the university takes responsibility for the infractions committed by the football program.
“We have to look at ourselves in the mirror here,” Haden said. “We could have, and should have, done things better. We had a player [Reggie Bush] who knowingly did things wrong. We are not innocent here. We deserve some penalties, but it is the severity of the penalties that we think are unfair.”
Haden expects that the 2004 BCS National Championship will be stripped, but that the Trojans will remain 2004 AP National Champions.
Moving forward, he vowed to improve communication and the relationship between the university and the NCAA.
The Trojans held a brief team meeting Thursday morning, with coach Lane Kiffin telling his players to be smart with their social media reactions to the decision.
“Ultimately, there have been a lot of changes that have been made from last year’s team to now in regards to the attitude that the majority of the guys have,” Barkley said. “I definitely think it will turn out better than it did last year.”
Anticipating that he might be handicapped by scholarship restrictions, Kiffin signed 31 players for the 2011 football recruiting class.
“[Kiffin] is going to have challenges that other coaches have not had here,” Haden said. “No matter how many we get going forward, I think we will get a lot of good players. We will have to get a little bit lucky, but I think there is no reason we cannot be competitive.”
The Trojans open the season at home against Minnesota on Sept. 3.