USC Football News: Pac-12 Response to McNair Documents Fits Recurring Theme


It took the Pac-12 two weeks to comment on the released NCAA emails relating to Todd McNair and the USC sanctions.

Said emails included a non-voting observer discuss losing sleep over the matter of punishing the Trojans harshly enough, bemoaning the standard of proof required by some Committee members.

They featured questionably appropriate jabs at USC’s hiring of Lane Kiffin, blatant examples of “because I said so” logic and admissions of a shoddy investigation.

SEE MORE: Reviewing the NCAA’s Todd McNair emails

Yet the Pac-12 waited two weeks to acknowledge the documents.

When conference commissioner Larry Scott finally weighed in Monday, in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, at least the response was strong:

“As we’ve maintained from the beginning, the USC case is a good example of how the current enforcement system is not fair and consistent across the board,” Scott’s statement to the Los Angeles Times said.

“The punishments on USC were too harsh and after an initial review of the documents released recently, we share USC’s serious concern regarding the process undergone by the NCAA and its Committee on Infractions, as well as the substance of their actions in the case.”

Scott’s words echo those of USC athletic director Pat Haden, full of questions of fairness and deep “concern” over the NCAA’s process.

To be fair to Scott, and contrary to popular belief among Trojan fans, the Pac-12 commissioner has not been completely silent on the issue of the USC sanctions.

In fact, in 2011, when USC’s appeal was denied by the NCAA, Scott and the Pac-12 expressed their disappointment over the decision. Notably, Scott seemed to foretell the hypocritical leniency which would be given to Ohio State later that year:

"“We join the fans, alumni, staff and leadership of USC in being extremely disappointed with today’s decision… “I respect USC’s decision to take the high ground and not pursue any further recourse to the NCAA ruling. At the same time, I fully expect that every NCAA member institution be held to the same high standards. These sanctions, notably the postseason ban, have a devastating effect on current student-athletes, most of whom were in elementary and junior high school at the time of the alleged violations. “To me, that is a source of great frustration and disappointment. Going forward, we can and need to do better in terms of the enforcement process.”"

In August of 2011, Scott also took a jab at the allegations which surfaced regarding Paul Dee’s Miami program, telling the Los Angeles Times, “If the allegations prove true, the words irony and hypocrisy don’t seem to go far enough.”

More recently, in June of last year, Scott was again quoted in the Los Angeles Times calling out the NCAA’s infractions committee: “Anyone looking at this thing objectively saw a lot of inconsistency in the way the cases were handled.”

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Scott has been consistent in his disagreement with the NCAA over USC’s sanctions.

The trouble is the conference and Scott have never looked up for a fight with the NCAA.

That is likely because USC itself has never looked up for one either. At least not from outside the system, as McNair has waged in the courts.

Instead, the Trojans fought their battle through official channels and behind the scenes. Haden, surely with Scott’s backing, played ball with the NCAA and struck out.

In January, Haden told KFWB’s Marques Johnson and Jeanne Zelasko that he had gone to the NCAA multiple times since 2011 asking them to reconsider the penalties only to be told no. He made an official request for sanctions relief in 2013 after two failed appeals. That request was promptly denied.

Why did the Trojans favor the more polite policy instead of the blunt instrument of legal action?

A source quoted in the Daily News, referencing infractions cases related to Joe McKnight and Davon Jefferson which cropped up around the time USC was appealing, answers that question pretty clearly:

"“Anything that came up with those cases might make us eligible for the death penalty,” said an administrator, who did not wish to be identified. “We didn’t want to antagonize the NCAA. People didn’t understand the risk (fighting the sanctions). “We were always one issue away from being in deeper trouble.”"

With the sanctions completed, many have expressed dismay over the “too little, too late” response from USC and the Pac-12.

Rather than thinking of it like that, however, perhaps it is less “too little, too late” and more “right time, right place,” with USC free from the specter of the death penalty and now armed with proof of wrongdoing instead of just the suspicion of it.

More from Reign of Troy

Even now, as USC ups the ante on their statements of “disappointment and concern” to include the potential for “further action,” the Pac-12 has followed suit by raising their stakes to include acknowledgement that the conference has “expressed its concern about the matter to the NCAA.”

Still, the possibility of action finally being taken to force the NCAA to acknowledge Haden and Scott’s displeasure over the sanctions remains an unknown.

Just as there is no good explanation for the conference taking so long to publicly address the documents, which were stunning enough to warrant immediate comment, there is no good answer to whether or not the will to fight has officially arrived.