Update 5/26/11 at 7:57a.m.: USC released the following statement Thursday after the NCAA formally announced its decision regarding the school’s appeal:
“We respectfully, but vehemently, disagree with the findings of the NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee. Our position was that the Committee on Infractions abused its discretion and imposed penalties last June that were excessive and inconsistent with established case precedent.”
Pat Haden, USC’s athletic director, said: “I was part of the USC team that met with the Infractions Appeals Committee on January 22nd. Although I am gravely disappointed, I can assure our student-athletes, coaches and fans that we made every possible argument—forcefully and vigorously—for modifying unjust penalties.”
USC President C. L. Max Nikias added: “We are extremely disappointed in this result. 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. Further, the decisions of the COI and IAC have set a standard that leaves little, if any, room to discipline more egregious violations that will be addressed by the NCAA in the future without irreparably damaging athletic programs across the country. Notwithstanding this troubling concern and our grave disappointment, we will look forward to the future.”
USC head football coach Lane Kiffin released his own statement:
“I respect the NCAA’s decision to uphold the sanctions against USC. That being said, I am disappointed for our players, our fans and our staff that another bowl game and now a possible Pac-12 championship game has been taken away from them.
“I have been and always will be committed to making sure we are following all NCAA guidelines and bylaws to ensure that we are winning the right way.
“We have been operating with these sanctions for a year now and have felt their effects on multiple fronts. We will continue to execute the plan we have in place to make the most of the hand with which we have been dealt. I am proud of how our players have performed on the field and represented us off the field under very difficult and trying circumstances. I look forward to them continuing to do so as we move on to make the best of our situation. I also have been impressed with the reception we have received from recruits. They understand the value of a USC degree and the opportunities afforded them by playing football here.”
After several weeks of waiting, the USC football team has finally learned its fate. And the news is not good.
USCFootball.com reported Wednesday that the Trojans lost their NCAA appeal and will be forced to accept the penalties handed down last year. Multiple sources say USC is reviewing the decision of the NCAA Infractions Committee today, before the NCAA officially releases it tomorrow. The decision was supposed to be released within four to eight weeks of the hearing, but it ended up taking four months.
USC was hit with a two-year bowl ban last summer, as well as the loss of 30 scholarships over three years and four years of probation. The school was asking for the ban to be cut in half. (The team served the first year of the ban during this past 2010 season.) USC was also hoping the loss of scholarships would be lowered from 30 to 15.
The team received these punishments after a four-year investigation into the behavior of former running back Reggie Bush. Bush and his family may have received as much as $280,000 in benefits from New Era Sports & Entertainment while the football star played at USC.
USC was cited for a lack of institutional control and had to vacate all wins from Dec. 2004 through the 2005 season because of Bush’s ineligibility, which included a national championship in the 2004 season. Bush later gave back his 2005 Heisman Trophy.
Under the terms of the sanctions, USC players are allowed to transfer to other schools without having to sit out a season, an exception that several players have already taken advantage of. Now that the team has lost the appeal, it could potentially lose even more players.
This decision also means the Trojans will have to sit out the first ever Pac-12 championship game. The conference expanded from 10 to 12 teams after adding Colorado and Utah.
The USC athletic department released the following statement Wednesday:
USC has received a response from the NCAA regarding our appeal of NCAA sanctions. However, under NCAA rules, we cannot comment on this response until the NCAA releases the decision to the public tomorrow morning (May 26).