Posted by Bryan Fischer
Take a glance at MaxPreps’ team recruiting rankings for the class of 2011 and the familiar names are all there in the top ten: Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas, USC and others. It’s the number beside USC that has more than a few people scratching their heads.
How can they sign more than 15 guys after getting their hands tied behind their back by the NCAA last year? The answer is somewhat complicated.
First, start in June of last year when the NCAA Committee on Infractions released their report on USC centered on improper benefits received by Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. The Trojans were hit with a charge of lack of institutional control and placed on probation until June of 2014. In football, the penalties included a two year bowl ban (2010 and 2011) and a limit of 15 scholarships per year for three years (class of 2011, 2012 and 2013) with a maximum of 75 scholarships total.
USC filed their appeal to the penalties on June 25th and specifically asked that the postseason ban be reduced to one year and that they be limited to 20 scholarships per year instead of 15.
“A successful appeal in my mind would be getting what we’re asking for in really splitting the penalty in half,” athletic director Pat Haden said in a video on the school’s website. “I’m not terribly optimistic that we’ll win the appeal. If you look, statistically only about 10 percent of appeals win. Having said that, we feel like we have some very good points to make.”
According to the NCAA, once the penalties are appealed, they are stayed. So USC could sign 25 players but they have elected to serve the one year bowl ban in 2010 and sign, at most, 20 players. USC’s Infractions Appeal Committee hearing is scheduled for January 22nd but it is highly unlikely – if not downright impossible – for the committee to render a decision between then and National Signing Day on February 2nd.
Last year, in Alabama’s appeal of penalties stemming from a textbook scandal, the Infractions Appeals Committee took 39 days from the hearing day until releasing their final report. Before that case, Florida State’s appeal involving their academic fraud case took 51 days from hearing to decision. USC’s case is far larger and more complicated than either.
At least one USC player might have given a hint on USC’s expected timeline. Starting quarterback Matt Barkley, on the Dan Patrick Show this week said, “We haven’t heard anything… I’ve been trying to ask around but no one really knows. Apparently we’ll find out in March what will happen in the fall.”
USC’s roster, as currently constructed, has 13 seniors, 13 juniors, 14 sophomores and 11 redshirt freshmen. That’s a total of 51 scholarship players for the fall. USC recently signed nine early enrollees a few weeks ago. Those scholarships count towards the class of 2010. USC could have signed a maximum of nine and they did so, bringing the roster count to 60.
As a result, USC can sign up to 25 players for the Class of 2011 and they would stay under the NCAA-mandated roster size of 85. If USC signed 20 players, they would be at 80 players for the upcoming season unless somebody transferred or took a medical redshirt. USC currently has 17 players verbally committed to be Trojans so it would appear they are leaning towards signing 20 players on Signing Day.
“I do believe that USC is the only school that could make it through these penalties as they are and still be able to operate at a championship level like we’re going to,” head coach Lane Kiffin said. “It’s because the kids still want to come here.”
So what happens after Saturday’s appeal hearing? The answer is not much until the appeal is ruled on. If USC wins the appeal, they would play in a bowl game after the 2011 season and be able to sign 20 recruits to letters of intent as part of the 2012 class. If they lose? Although details are sketchy, a source close to the situation but unable to speak publically about the matter, said that the scholarships USC uses above the original limit of 15 will be taken away in the class of 2014. If they go over by five for the class of 2011 for example, they’ll have five less scholarships in 2014.
“I think, in the brief that we’ve filed, we made a good case that the penalties that were imposed are more severe than perhaps they should have been given the violations compared to other cases,” associate athletic director for football J.K. McKay said. “We’ll see, we’re putting our best foot forward and keeping our fingers crossed. We’ll see what happens.”
It’s long, it’s complicated but bottom line, look for USC to sign as many as 20 recruits on National Signing Day and deal with any scholarship limitations later.