When the NCAA decided to throw a haymaker at USC by banning them from a bowl for two years and stripping them of ten scholarships per year, the decision reached beyond the facts of the case. As Bryan Fischer of USCFootball.com has revealed in several past articles, there are so many inconsistencies in the case against USC. Yes, USC needed some sort of punishment, but the one levied against it shattered all precedent and entered into the realm of ridiculous.
While outside pressure played a large factor into the decision, its safe to assume the NCAA despised the way USC defiantly denied any wrongdoing. Athletic director Mike Garrett was willing to place a postseason ban on the basketball team, but he fought the football allegations tooth and nail. Throughout the report, the committee cites the fact that USC failed to cooperate on many instances. The NCAA had to have felt that USC was making a fist instead of extending a hand and trying to clear the air. Reggie Bush and Lloyd Lake dug the grave and dumped USC in it, but it was defiance that threw the dirt on top. As a result, it exercised its unchallenged power to dole out whatever punishment it damn well felt like.
Even after the decision was handed down, USC continued to spit in the NCAA’s face. At a booster meeting, Mike Garrett drew cheers from the crowd by proclaiming, “I read between the lines and there was nothing but a lot of envy, and they wish they all were Trojans. As I told my staff, I said, ‘You know, I feel invigorated by all this stuff … with the penalty we got today I know we’re bigger than life.”
As fall camp begins on Wednesday, USC can’t take solace in the idea of playing for a national title or even battling in the Rose Bowl. Among pride and the desire to get better, one of the Trojans strongest motivations should be defiance. Although it is partially responsible for the current mess, an “us against the world” mentality would serve the Men of Troy well.
Already, many are talking about the fall of Troy. USC didn’t finish first place in the Pac-10 media poll, a sure sign of the apocalypse. For years, people have been searching high and low for signs that the most impressive run in college football history was ready to come crumbling down. Right now, the storm is raging as a new skipper takes the wheel.
But this is exactly what the NCAA wanted. It wanted to maim USC and send it back to a dark period. In its anger with the handling of the case by USC, the NCAA took out their pent up frustration on an innocent group of 18-24 year olds. These young men have the opportunity of a lifetime to demonstrate their character. How satisfying would it be to go out each week and show the country that USC football is alive and well? More importantly, its a chance for the Trojans to throw a haymaker of their own. If USC can continue to operate at a championship caliber level, it speaks volumes about the talent on the roster and the tradition of playing at USC. Even though the players got absolutely hosed, they have a chance to embarrass Paul Dee and the rest of the committee by showing that the punishment the school received for something none of the current players did is meaningless.
For the first time in quite some time, USC isn’t the prohibitive favorite. Right now, few seem to believe that USC can bounce back right away. Few believe in the current players and coaching staff. Many see this as an opportunity to surpass USC and return the favor after being the victim for the past seven seasons. The players need to channel the frustration on the football field and demonstrate that nothing can stop Tribute to Troy and Fight On from playing continuously in every stadium USC plays in. Charging out of the tunnel each week, the Men of Troy should come out looking to prove their worth and represent the Cardinal and Gold with pride. Already, the attitude seems positive. As Matt Barkley said on ESPN last week, “You can’t sanction heart. You can’t sanction the will to win.”