USC Football: Is Vindication Enough After Release of NCAA Documents?


Up until (most of) the NCAA sealed documents relating to the investigation and sanctions against USC football and Todd McNair were released, the word “vindication” has always invoked a feeling of joyful redemption, a sense of righteous victory.

Until now, I had no way of knowing that, with vindication, can come a feeling of sorrow and violation.

I’ve always gotten the feeling that, post 2010, outsiders have viewed USC fans as spoiled, lunatic, conspiracy theorists. At best, the reaction I got when I detailed what I KNEW (but didn’t know) to be true about how the NCAA targeted us, was a head tilt and a glorified, “Uh huh, sure…” At worst, among some of the more clear-cut haters in my life, I got volatile eye rolls and snarky comments.

Fast forward to March 24, 2015. The second I found out the documents had been released, I bolted to my computer and opened up the almost 500 page PDF. This was it, the moment I, the moment we all, had been waiting for. We would finally have proof that we were attacked, wronged and unfairly punished!

I scrolled through document after document for almost two hours. I rolled my eyes at the three days of sleep Rodney Uphoff lost fretting over whether we’d truly be punished for our heinous crimes. I was outraged to learn they hadn’t even reached a consensus on McNair’s and USC’s guilt when the verdict came down. The illegal influencing, the Lane Kiffin impact, Paul Dee (seriously?), it all came tumbling out, clearer, and more outrageous, than we could have hoped.

Apr 6, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; NCAA president Mark Emmert speaks at a press conference before the national championship game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, I was vindicated. There it was, in print, in the words of the NCAA investigators themselves. We were targeted. We were made an example of with absolutely zero proof of any wrongdoing, aside from the uncorroborated rantings of a felon with a dog in the fight. We, the fans, were right all along.

What I didn’t expect was to feel truly sad. Tears were in my eyes by the time I was done. Yes, we were right. But being right doesn’t give us back our wins, our scholarships, our reputation, hell, maybe even Pete Carroll. Our program was violated unjustly.

Without the NCAA, our last five years would most likely have been dramatically different. There’s no way of knowing to what extent but, at the very least, we’d have a Pac-12 Championship Game under our belt. We don’t get a redo on all of that. We cannot get back the intangibles of the past.

The masochist inside me wants to see those final 200 pages. I need to see it all, to know how far they went. Supposedly, they’re the worst pages of them all, the “Granddaddy” if you will. The Vindication of the Trojans is truly important, for our pride, our program and our perception. We have our proof now, and we get to be a part of deciding what to do with it.

I personally believe we have a responsibility to take further action. While it may be the Zen way to peacefully move on from this experience, as the quote attributed to Edmund Burke says, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Perhaps that is elevating the Trojans and athletics to a much too important level, but the truth of the matter is we are one of the most historic and well known athletic dynasties there is. If we lie down and roll over, who will stop them from hurting others? Who will protect the teams in the future who don’t have the strength and resources to survive like we did? So many kids survive because of athletics. It gives them a purpose, it gives them an out.

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This may be a game, but it’s also a lifeline, and arbitrarily taking that away out of spite is unacceptable and sickening.

Singlehandedly, we will probably not cause the crumbling of the dictatorial NCAA. But we can put a chink in the armor, one of, I’m sure, the many to come.

For years, our story has been told for us. Lies, truths, inbetweens, none of it has really been from the horse’s mouth. We cannot rewrite history, but we can make sure our future is written the way it should be, clean or dirty. The NCAA cannot be left to tell everyone what USC is all about because they know absolutely nothing about what it means to be a loyal and proud Trojan. We deserve our day in court now. We deserve to take our dignity and our power back. We deserve to fight on.

My anger at this situation is still very alive inside of me. I’m sure some of you have it as well. Justice was not served and, from Miami to Oregon to Penn State and back, that was rubbed in our face. I never once had a doubt about our Trojans, but so many outsiders did.

Now, we are vindicated.