With the Feb. 1 national signing day fast approaching, impatient USC football enthusiasts are scouring all forms of social media to see which recruits are committing to college athletic programs. Though recruiting outlets might fawn over these 17 and 18-year-old athletes and assure them future stardom, USC coach Lane Kiffin’s upcoming task is, on many levels, unenviable.
He and his staff must pore over hours of high school tape, leaf through stacks of scouting reports and recall gut impressions from house visits, all to assemble a recruiting class of 15 student-athletes — 10 fewer scholarships than other BCS teams are allowed to dole out for the 2012 class. And the total scholarship count for USC cannot exceed 75 players in each of the next three seasons.
The implications of these scholarship reductions levied by the NCAA in summer 2010 are two-fold: Kiffin and his staff cannot afford to misevaluate their recruits, and a handful of current underachieving scholarship holders will most likely be encouraged to transfer or be stripped of their scholarships.
The reality of fewer scholarships is that each scholarship player must fulfill an important role.
And though each football scholarship is awarded on a yearly basis, programs typically don’t cut a player purely for football performance reasons. Student-athletes usually lose scholarships for a combination of academic and disciplinary issues.
According to ESPN.com, USC has, at the moment, at least 59 scholarship players on its roster from last season that intend to play next year. The program has signed six players as mid-year enrollees who will count toward the 2011 class, bringing its scholarship total to 65. If all those student-athletes play for USC next year, Kiffin and his staff can only sign 10 players for the 2012 class.
The NCAA’s penalty might prevent these marginal USC players out of a degree because they can no longer afford to attend the university.
Kiffin and his staff will need to conduct sit-down conversations with several scholarship players who are buried on the depth chart.
For many players, transferring to another school to receive more playing time and exposure is not the worst outcome, although players transferring between BCS schools must sit out a year before regaining eligibility.
Instead of looking to transfer, some USC scout-team players are content to graduate from a prestigious university with a valuable degree they might not have otherwise had the opportunity to earn.