Trojans present appeal to NCAA

USC took another step Saturday toward a final resolution in the NCAA infractions case stemming from allegations involving former Trojans Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo.

Pleading its case· President C. L. Max Nikias and other school officials hope to soften NCAA-levied sanctions handed down last June. - Carlos Acenas | Daily Trojan

A USC contingent consisting of President C. L. Max Nikias, athletic director Pat Haden, vice presidents Todd Dickey and David Roberts, general counsel Carol Mauch Amir and outside counsel William King III  spent four hours and 13 minutes outlining their appeals case Saturday for reduced sanctions in front of the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee in Indianapolis.

“I want to thank the NCAA for giving us the opportunity before the committee for a good and fair hearing,” Nikias told reporters following the meeting. “We just have to wait for the ruling.”

A decision is expected to be rendered in four to eight weeks.

On June 11, 2010 the NCAA levied severe sanctions on the Trojan football program, including a two-year bowl ban and loss of 30 scholarships over the course of three seasons.

Through the appeals process, USC hopes the sanctions brought against its football program will be cut in half. In an ideal scenario, USC would be bowl eligible beginning in 2011 and would be allowed to carry 80 scholarship players, as opposed to the previously restricted 75.

The appeals committee can decide to reduce the bowl ban, reduce the scholarship restrictions, reduce both or leave the entire punishment as prescribed. Before the hearing, Michael L. Buckner, a lawyer who has handled NCAA appeals cases before, told Michael Lev of the Orange County Register, he believed USC had a chance to win back scholarships, but that the bowl ban would likely remain intact.

In January 2008, the NCAA changed its procedures for appeals hearings and made it harder for institutions to win their cases. Schools must now prove that the Committee on Infractions made procedural errors or used egregious discretion in its initial ruling. Since the rule change, only one out of eleven appeals has been successful.

Before the hearing, Haden said he hoped for a favorable outcome, but was “realistic” and aware of the chances of winning.

Even after the hearing, the question remains as to exactly how many players USC can sign for its upcoming 2011 recruiting class, with players able to sign letter of intents beginning Feb. 2.

If the committee rules before the signing period ends April 1, the NCAA could decide to levy the scholarship reductions on the 2011 class. If a decision comes after April 1, however, the penalty will be stayed and the reduced scholarship numbers will be in effect from 2012 through 2014.

At this point, it appears USC coach Lane Kiffin plans to sign 20 players with the hope of winning the scholarship portion of the appeal. To date, the Trojans have 17 verbal commitments that make up the fourth best recruiting class in the country according to Yahoo! Sports’

No matter what decision the appeals committee renders, it will be the resolution to the case, according to Haden.

Earlier this month, Haden described Saturday’s hearing as the “final frontier” and promised that USC would not take legal action against the NCAA if the penalties are upheld, despite a recent report insinuating differently.

Having pleaded their case, the only thing remaining for the Trojans to do is to wait for a verdict.