So much for that anticipated championship showdown between USC and Texas in an expanded Pac-10 Conference anytime soon. The NCAA finally concluded its four-year investigation of USC by banning the team for two years from postseason play, taking away 30 scholarships over three years and forfeiting 14 games between 2004-05.
Anybody still wonder why Pete Carroll jumped to the pros?
And, oh, yes, great timing Lane Kiffin!
The investigation centered on what Reggie Bush received to come to USC, and it comes on the heels of a school-imposed sanction for the basketball program over payments made to O.J. Mayo.
The USC suspension won’t stop the Pac-10’s move to expand, but it certainly puts it in a new light.
Though Oregon won the conference championship, USC football is always the elephant in the room.
With its great tradition — and the added lure of the coeds aiming for a movie career — the Trojans have year in and year out had the best recruiting class in the conference, as they did again this year.
Kiffin was hired largely because of the recruiting ability he showed earlier as a USC assistant. Many, including me, have thought he’d get the Trojans on probation if the Bush case didn’t; he’d already been accused of recruiting violations in his one year as coach at Tennessee.
Now, Kiffin’s recruiting will be limited by the NCAA restrictions and he’ll be closely watched as well. Al Davis must be indulging in a chuckle or two.
Negotiations are just beginning for the Pac-10 expansion. Colorado was announced as the first addition Thursday, with the school scheduled to start participating in 2012.
The logical way for the expansion to continue would be to add Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and perhaps Oklahoma State.
Those six schools could combine with the Arizona schools to form one division. The West Coast schools would form another division.
That would enable the Pacific Coast schools to maintain long-standing rivalries, some almost a century old, and also continue a complete round-robin format.
The Pac-10 has been unique in having a complete round-robin schedule, which eliminated the inequities of a top team avoiding another top team because of the scheduling, as often happens in other conferences. The Pac-10 champion has had to earn its title.
Under that plan, the champions of both divisions could meet in a championship game.
For once, I commend the NCAA. It took a long time, but the organization’s investigators were thorough. Most important, the NCAA is punishing a prominent program, which it hasn’t always done.
The action opens up the field for other schools.
Oregon, which has had a very good program for years, but, before last year languished in the shadow of USC, will certainly benefit. The Ducks had an excellent recruiting season.
The USC suspension will also benefit Cal, which had probably its best recruiting year under Jeff Tedford, and Stanford, which has improved greatly under Jim Harbaugh.
It should be the most interesting season in West Coast football in years. And, there are no tears coming from this writer for USC.