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USC's Recruiting Sanctions: Will They Have an Impact?

<em>Show me the money!</em>
Show me the money!

HydroTech:  News Flash!  USC's appeal of its recruiting violations has been denied by the NCAA!  Hooray!  Good triumphs over evil!

So what does this mean for USC?  They lose 30 scholarships over three years.  In other words they can sign ten less players per year.  Since the recruiting cap per year is 25 players, that means USC can only sign a paltry fifteen players per year.  Hmmm.... can anyone say "depth problems"?

Quite interestingly, USC has eight commitments so far this year [Editor note: at the time this roundtable discussion occurred there were eight commitments, now there are nine].

Since they can only sign fifteen players this year, that means they only have seven scholarship slots remaining.  Oh noes!  

So how many scholarships does USC have outstanding to fill those seven scholarship slots?  20?  30?  Nope.  How about 51.  Yup, as of right now,'s recruiting database shows that there are 51 outstanding scholarships extended to non-committed players.  Ouch!

I think this situation is quite interesting because the NCAA sanctions have basically cut USC's supply of scholarships way down... meaning demand will go up.  Those kids who really want to go to USC will now feel more pressure to commit early to "secure" their scholarship spot on the team.  If the continue to play out their recruiting, they face the possibility that another player could take one of the few remaining scholarships!  

So what do ya'll think about this?  How should USC control the remaining seven scholarships?  Should they start revoking outstanding scholarships so they don't oversign?  Should the scholarships be "conditional" in some way?  What happens if come signing day 18 kids commit to USC?  How should USC choose which of the 15 they will actually accept?  Discuss.

Berkelium97:  What USC should do is withdraw scholarship offers from those players they deem less desirable.  Sure, it is unfortunate to be one of those players.  But it is certainly better than the alternative: commit to SC, send in your LOI, and sometime later receive a notice that there aren't enough scholarships to go around and're out of luck.

Of course, withdrawing several offers is what SC should do.  Whether they will remains to be seen. All too often players find themselves in the miserable position of having enrolled at a school before finding out that their scholarships were revoked and given to another player.  Lane Kiffin doesn't exactly have a reputation of being an upstanding citizen, so I wouldn't be surprised to see some players get stuck thinking they have scholarship offers, only to find out too late that they no longer have those offers.

Ragnarok:  What USC *could* do is float this very possibility to some of the players they desire less, which should hopefully scare them off towards other schools.

The numbers aren't as bad as 51 guys fighting for 7 spots, as no school, not even 'SC, has a 100% acceptance rate, but I feel confident that they've been running better than 14% on guys that they're really after.

Norcalnick:  Here's another question - now that USC officially won't be eligible to win the Pac-12 or go to a bowl game, will any seniors hoping for a reprieve from the NCAA elect to transfer without having to sit out a year?

Kodiak:  Well, they're going to have to take a hard look at class balance by positions and start being really selective about where they maintain depth.  Say good-bye to having 5 AA rb's sitting on the bench.  I wonder if they'll have start having guys play two positions - either going both ways, or trying to use more safeties as LB's and vice-versa.  If there's a place to keep depth, it's probably in the trenches.  

I guess if they were smart, they'd really push the whole Trojan pride thing, go with the available early playing time angle, and dangle the possibility of playing two-ways as a means to improve a player's draft stock.

What they actually will do is probably start forcing out non-contributors into injury retirement, or keep incoming oversignees in limbo as greyshirts.  

What I hope they will do is offend everyone with their arrogance, drive recruits and current players away in droves, and implode upon themselves in as catastrophic and ugly a public spectacle such as the world has not seen since Vesuvius nuked Pompeii.  

HydroTech:  Are players allowed to transfer without penalty still?  Or are they only allowed to transfer without penalty during that first year of probation?  

Another issue which should come up due to USC's lack of scholarships, is the resulting lack of depth on their team.  No longer will USC have 18 five-star bluechip runningbacks to run the rock.  Instead, now they may only have 15 or so.  The horror!  If USC faces a lot of unfortunate injuries in the upcoming years, they may be forced to play far inferior players or have players play on both sides of the ball.  This doesn't seem conducive to winning football games, in my opinion.  

Likewise, USC will face a lot of pressure to not whiff on any of the players they recruit.  Because if X player turns out to be a complete dud and ends up riding pine immediately upon arriving on campus, he will essentially be taking away another scholarship spot for the next four, five, or six years.  How unfortunate (for them)!  

On the other hand, I do think USC can make their situation into something positive.  Because the supply of USC scholarships has dwindled, the value of a player who receives a scholarship just went up.  Imagine what their coaches can say when they tell the kid that they're getting a scholarship: "Hey sonny, we only have seven spots remaining for this year, and we think you're worthy to be one of those seven kids -- you're that good."  That kid will probably feel a little bit more extra special knowing that he's got to be that good to get one of the remaining scholarships when other schools who have 25 scholarships can hand them out haphazardly and like they're worthless.

Another pitch the USC coaches could make is that because they will lack a lot of depth, that the younger players will get a lot of playing time.  A lot of young kids want opportunities to play early.  I think many will actually jump at this chance.  Similarly, the USC coaches could even tell some players that they could play on both sides of the ball.  Who doesn't want to become the next Desmond Howard?

Kodiak: When the sanctions where originally announced last June, the juniors and seniors could transfer without penalty.  The initial reports seem to indicate that only the current seniors are still eligible to transfer.

OhioBear:  Correction to be made: Desmond Howard was not a two-way player.  HydroTech might have been thinking of Charles Woodson.  Or maybe he was thinking of the dreamy Owen Marecic.

HydroTech:  Whoops!  You're right!

Avinash:  USC is likely finished as a dominant Pac-12 power for the next decade. Their defense was not very good last year, and the slide should continue with these reductions. The offensive line depth is about to take a huge hit and their front seven is now a shadow of the 2004-2008 incarnations. They'll still have plenty of talent stockpiled at the glamour positions (which should ensure them plenty of winning seasons), but the Trojans dominated the 2000s with great play from their defense and an offensive line that could move around almost any Pac-10 defense and provide optimal 2nd/3rd and short situations. 

Maybe they'll return with the right face, and they'll of course have their breakout years and flashes of brilliance. But they have a lot of depth issues that just weren't there during the Pete Carroll era, and we could be returning to an era where Cal and USC are on a level playing field.

So two-pronged question. 
(1) Now that Cal and USC will start converging in terms of talent level (from USC>>>Cal to USC>Cal), how do you see the Bears and Trojans matching up on the field in future contests?
(2) Are we headed for a multipolar Pac-12, or will Oregon continue to dominate the conference landscape?

TwistNHook:  Great questions, Avi.  I know for a fact that we won't beat USC at any point in the next 10 years, because God is a cruel and uncaring Lord.  As for your second question, I think that it will be multi-polar.  I don't think Oregon will be the new USC in the sense that they are so head and shoulders above everybody else for so long.  They might be in the thick of things year and year out, but I think that overall we'll see teams like Utah challenge them.  Also, hopefully, us!

OhioBear:  But Colin Cowherd said yesterday that USC has not missed a beat and that they are still the favorites to win the Pac-12.  So it must be true that USC is still a dominant power and we have no chance to ever beat them again ever.

Kodiak:  Responding to Avi's follow-up questions:

1)  I still think we could be mildly screwed with regards to trying to play 'sc this year.  Sure, the Trojans are going to have depth issues moving forward, but for the immediate future they have a roster loaded with more talent than most college programs.  The Barkley-Woods combo which lit us up last year returns with another year of experience, and they still have a stable of thoroughbred running backs.  What is unknown is how strong they'll be in the trenches, especially since their stud tackle just got drafted.  On the other hand, many of our most touted players will still be adjusting to Div-1 ball, and we're breaking in a new signal-caller.  That usually makes for tough sledding.  Next year and the following years could be very different.  I think 'sc will still be a tough out - they're going to have good players, but they'll be more susceptible to key injuries.  In a best-case for 'sc, they could be tougher because they'll need to focus more on execution, scheme, and chemistry instead of just being able to out-athlete everyone.  In a worst-case, the sanctions break team morale and there's a domino effect which cripples their recruiting and bandwagon fan base.  Door #2, please.

2)  I think we're already at a multipolar Pac-12.  'Furd, Oregon, and 'sc were all pick 'em match-ups last year.  ASU and Zona were both a tier down, but dangerous.  And we all know not to sleep on Riley and those damn Beavers once he breaks in his new QB.  I'd like to think that Cal is a year away from contender status.  With 'sc being down, ucla should really get a boost...except that Neuheisel seems like he's spent waaaaay too much time in the sun.  Oregon would still have to be considered the conference favorite in the pre-season, but I just don't see them run-away shoe-ins for the title.  There are too many experienced quarterbacks in the league and Coach Pendergast gave everyone a possible blueprint for slowing down Chip Kelly's system.  When 'sc went on their dynasty run, they had a combination of good coaching and an unreal run of incredible recruiting.  Kelly certainly has a brilliant offensive mind, and Alliotto really stepped up the last couple of years.  Despite their world-class facilities, I'm not sure if their recruiting is going to be up to par to prevent them from going through up/down cycles associated with rebuilding instead of reloading.  

norcalnick:  I have no idea how Cal and USC will match up.  There was a certain familiarity surrounding the old Pete Carroll - Jeff Tedford games that is gone now that Lane Kiffin is in charge of the Trojans, and to me he's something of an unknown quantity.  I don't have the slightest idea what he's planning to do to work around USC's sanctions.  It's going to be interesting to watch.

Regarding hypothetical Oregon dominance - I suppose it's reasonably likely that the Ducks (at least temporarily) assume the mantle as the Pac-12's best program, but I don't think Oregon (or anybody else) will come anywhere near the level of dominance that USC exerted in the 2000s.  I think it's important to note just how unique and unprecedented that level of success is.  The only other run that comes to mind was Florida St's ACC dominance in the 90s, but I'd like to think that the Pac-10 was a bit stronger conference compared to the ACC in the 90s.