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USC - Poster child for tough love

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The proverbial smoke has cleared in regards to the highly successful but controversial years of plenty at USC, and it seems that the old adage that cheaters never prosper still rings true.

Make no mistake about it, USC's "cup runneth over" under Pete Carroll, but the NCAA and BCS have since come together to effectively erase the memory banks and wipe that run from the record books.

It is relatively common knowledge at this point that USC broke the rules, as former star running back Reggie Bush received impermissible benefits during his time with the Trojans. It cost Bush his Heisman Trophy and resulted in a two-year postseason ban for USC, a loss of 30 scholarships, forfeiture of victories and a four-year probationary period.

The NCAA recently rejected USC's appeal to reduce those sanctions, as the governing body has made an example of the Trojans and in turn, set into record a clear-cut precedent for future transgressions.

Both USC Athletic Director Pat Haden and University President C.L. Max Nikias were less than pleased with the NCAA's findings.

Reggie Bush received impermissible benefits during his time with the Trojans.
"I was part of the USC team that met with the Infractions Appeals Committee on January 22nd," said Haden. "Although I am gravely disappointed, I can assure our student-athletes, coaches and fans that we made every possible argument -- forcefully and vigorously -- for modifying unjust penalties."

Nikias added to that sentiment.

"We are extremely disappointed in this result. We are very concerned that the historical value of case precedent and the right to fair process in the NCAA adjudicative process, both in terms of the ability of an institution to defend itself or prove an abuse of discretion on appeal, have been substantially eroded. Further, the decisions of the COI and IAC have set a standard that leaves little, if any, room to discipline more egregious violations that will be addressed by the NCAA in the future without irreparably damaging athletic programs across the country. Notwithstanding this troubling concern and our grave disappointment, we will look forward to the future."

While the NCAA closed its case on the Trojans, it did not have the authority to vacate their national championship. That task was left to the BCS, which added a rule in early 2007 allowing it to do just that if any school was found guilty of major rules violations.

On Monday, the BCS formally stripped USC of its national title following the 2004 season in addition to its appearance in the 2006 Rose Bowl, where the Trojans lost to Texas in that season's national title game.

"The BCS arrangement crowns a national champion, and the BCS games are showcase events for post-season football," said BCS executive director Bill Hancock. "One of the best ways of ensuring that they remain so is for us to foster full compliance with NCAA rules. Accordingly, in keeping with the NCAA's recent action, USC's appearances are being vacated.

"This action reflects the scope of the BCS arrangement and is consistent with the NCAA's approach when it subsequently discovers infractions by institutions whose teams have played in NCAA championship events."

It is certainly a benchmark ruling. It is the first time that a major college national championship has been vacated since the polls began in 1936.

The Trojans are heading into the second year of their two-year postseason ban, so there will be no Pac-12 championship game appearance, nor a bowl game of any kind for Lane Kiffin's squad in 2011.

While some view the penalties incurred by USC as "heavy handedness" on the part of the NCAA and the BCS, the reality is that the bar has been set extremely high.

It is now a cautionary tale for other programs thinking of "coloring outside the lines."

Those in Columbus are just starting the process.

If it follows the USC blueprint, it will get much worse for the Buckeye Nation before it gets any better.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.

Follow Scott Haynes on Twitter and Facebook.

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