September 22, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans athletic director Pat Haden watches game action against the California Golden Bears during the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football: Penn State penalty reductions are indictment of Scott, Haden

Jul 26, 2013; Culver City, CA, USA; Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott speaks at football media day held at the Sony Studios Lot. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Just over nine months ago I wrote a piece about the painful process of opening old wounds when it comes to the NCAA.

Here we go again.

The NCAA announced yesterday that they would begin to gradually restore scholarships to Penn State, beginning with five next season and continuing until all scholarships are restored, as a reward for the progress they have made in instituting the recommendations of the Freeh Report.

USC fans are rightfully upset, and not for the first time. For years they’ve watched other schools get slapped on the wrist for worse offenses, they’ve seen mercy given to players who actually committed offenses while none was given to their players who never did anything wrong, and even though more and more sports pundits have come around to the idea that USC was wronged by the NCAA, no relief has come.

Except this time, the focus of the Trojans’ ire should turn westward and inward.

Why? Here’s why:

Jim Delany, you may recall, is the guy who orchestrated the NCAA’s decision to allow five Ohio State players to play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl despite their being suspended for their roles in the Buckeye’s “tattoo-gate. He’s also the guy who helped Ohio State get away with having a head coach who covered up, lied about and played players he knew were ineligible, with just a fraction of the penalties USC received.

Delany is the commissioner of the Big-10 conference, which means he looks out for schools in his conference. He has their back. He goes to bat for them.

Did Tom Hansen, the former Pac-10 commissioner, ever go to bat for USC? Does current Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott have USC’s back?

The short answer is, no.

After all, the deal that Penn State was given could have easily been applied to USC.

Former Senator George Mitchell made this statement regarding the decision to reduce the Nittany Lions’ penalties:

“While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program,” Mitchell said. “The university has substantially completed the initial implementation of all the Freeh Report recommendations and its obligations to the Athletics Integrity Agreement, so relief from the scholarship reductions is warranted and deserved.”

The NCAA ruled that USC “lacked institutional control,” so the Trojans responded by increasing their compliance department 12-fold. They expressed concern about the culture around practices, so USC closed practices. They made it clear they didn’t appreciate USC’s “arrogance,” so the Trojans dropped Mike Garrett and brought in the least arrogant figure they could — Pat Haden.

The Trojans have done everything the NCAA asked of them. Where is their “warranted” and “deserved” relief?

It’s sitting at Larry Scott’s desk. It’s wasting away in Pat Haden’s office.

Neither the Pac-12 commissioner nor the USC Athletic Director has laid pressure on the NCAA to right the wrong against the Trojans. Neither has made an effort to use their influence to recover even some of the 30 scholarships that USC will have lost over three years. Not when those other schools got off lightly. Not when evidence came to light that the NCAA botched the investigation of USC and former running backs coach Todd McNair.

Haden released this statement:

“As you know, the NCAA is currently engaged in the process of evaluating and potentially reforming its governance structure.  We look forward to having a positive impact on that process.

“We also are hopeful that the NCAA’s recently-enacted enforcement and penalty reforms will result in a consistent and fair enforcement and penalty process for all its institutions.  USC will continue to work cooperatively with the NCAA towards that goal.

“We are near the end of the NCAA sanctions imposed on us in 2010 and we look forward to their expiration.”

Haden is looking forward, so he doesn’t see the opportunity that has been sitting right in front of him all along.

The NCAA’s problems are well-documented and there are few who would dispute the fact that the enforcement system is fatally flawed, but that is nothing new.

The NCAA is not self-motivated. It relies on Yahoo! Sports investigative reports to shed light on scandals and reacts accordingly. The NCAA was never going to correct itself once it hammered USC, just as it was never going to correct itself once it punished Penn State. It was always going to require a push.

For Penn State, that push came from Delany and Mitchell.

Unfortunately for USC, neither Scott nor Haden seem prepared to do replicate their efforts.

Tags: Pat Haden USC Trojans

  • smokeybandit

    “After all, the deal that Penn State was given could have easily been applied to USC.”

    Actually, no, it couldn’t. PSU was sanctioned off the books, under the table and ignoring the rules. If you look in the NCAA infractions database, PSU is not listed. So, therefore a deal is a lot easier to strike, no matter the politics that went on behind the scenes.

    Unfortunately for USC, since they were sanctioned within the NCAA’s own rules (with no regard to the appropriateness of the sanctions) there was no deal available.

    • PenguinOfTroy

      The NCAA has a history of changing/making up rules when they feel like it. And they usually only feel like it when they’re put under pressure to do so. Given the shift in public perception about the way the NCAA has handled penalties, I think Haden/Scott had all the leverage they needed to go to the NCAA and say “Look, you screwed up Miami, you clearly screwed up with Todd McNair, everyone agrees these penalties were way too harsh. Let’s do something to fix that.” The fact that the NCAA felt ok doing Penn State off the books is exactly why they could have gone back and ignored rules again to address the USC problem.
      From the NCAA’s perspective, it actually might have been a positive PR move to correct the mistake.

    • Matthew Moreno

      The argument can certainly be made the NCAA may have acted outside their powers in reprimanding Penn State, but let’s not forget what occurred there.

      What the children suffered through goes beyond all the misdoings at other programs. By no means is this to downplay the improprieties that took place at USC, Miami, Ohio State, etc., but those acts fail greatly in comparison to what took place at Penn State.

      Quite frankly, Penn State’s least concern should be how fairly or unfairly their football program was sanctioned.

      • smokeybandit

        Then one could cite criminal (murder/death and rape) improprieties at Montana, Notre Dame, UVA, Baylor and other schools that never drew any eye from the NCAA.

        • Matthew Moreno

          Perhaps it isn’t fair, but if they were on the large scale like the issues at Penn State were, then yes, the NCAA could have/should have gotten (more) involved.

          If the culture at a school its lending itself excuse an excessive amount of repeated criminal acts, then that’s a big time issue… perhaps a “lack of institutional control”?

          As I’ve stated before, USC was made an example of. It’s frustrating to see the NCAA actions since then, but honestly I’ve given up and lost hope that USC would one day be granted any sort of relief.

          The sanctions will end when they end.


    I don’t see the point of them doing anything now. The sanctions are over next year, and we can go to any bowl. It’s not like they are going to give those 30 scholarships back to USC on top of what we have. Even if we were given the full 25 scholarships back for the 2014 class, the intent of Emmert and Co. Is done. The majority if all our great players will graduatein the next two years or jump to the NFL. They new what they were doing, when they imposed the sanctions. I know I’m in the minority, but Kiffin has done an admirable job with the crap sandwich he was given. I may be wrong, but no coach was going to to any better, not even Nick Saban! The sanctions were meant and designed to cripple USC. We were lucky to have some success, but it’s not over. Year 4-6 is when these sanctions realky hurt because your losing 15-25 kids to graduation and the NFL or some just don’t ever develope to difference makers. We are going to be stuck at 55-70 players max for a few years until the numbers catch up. I for one am proud of the entire football team and staff for fighting through such a jacked up situation. I hope we still have a great season, but playing only 45-50 players every game against teams that put 75-85 scholarship players will wear on any team. I’ve ranted enough, just tired of all the negativity! Fight on!

    • PenguinOfTroy

      Great points across the board. The long-term effect of scholarship reductions was something I’ve been banging the drum about since they first came down. The media like to point to bowl bans as killers, but taking that many bodies away for three years was going to affect our roster for much longer than that. The genius of what Kiffin did is managing the numbers so that we can bring in near a full class this last year and limit the roster damage from grad/NFL.
      Having said all that, the failure of Haden (Mike Garrett by extension) and Scott I’m talking about goes back a long way. Yes, giving back scholarships right now wouldn’t help a ton — more a moral victory than anything — but a large portion of the national media has been behind USC wrt sanctions for a couple years now. There was enough goodwill there to stir up a national outcry for relief ala Miami if USC had actively pursued it.
      Every time the NCAA does something, the media jump to ask Haden about it because they *want* him to say something big. They want him set things on fire and every time he declines.

  • Matthew Moreno

    Looks like Mr. Haden was on it after all… Very stealthy.

    It will be interesting to see what, if anything, comes of it.

    • PenguinOfTroy

      I’ll still argue that Larry Scott could be a great voice for USC if he decided to step up and put out a statement of his own…

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