USC Can Survive Sanctions

USC is going to be impacted by NCAA scholarship limits for the next seven years. That's the long term impact of being limited to 15 initial grants-in-air for the 2011-13 recruiting years. Yet it's not that hard to remain competitive during that stretch. Being capable of winning a conference championship is another matter.

Florida went through this in the late-80s when NCAA sanctions led to the Gators having about 20-25 fewer players than their opponents in the years 1985-89. Yet despite that handicap and playing in the ever brutal SEC Galen Hall and his staff kept the Gators head above water.

The Gators were 9-1-1 in 1985, but the next two years were the most difficult physically and the Gators posted 6-5 and 6-6 records in 1986-87. As the numbers came back the Gators managed 7-5 records the next two seasons. In 1989 the Gators were almost back, losing four regular season games by seven points or less despite an in-season coaching change.

Florida did a lot of things (but not all of them) right to get through that time and some of those lessons could be used by USC going forward. Having covered the Gators through all of that and watched other teams cope with sanctions, here are some key items to making the most of a bad situation. This outline ignores obvious items like getting the best 15 players for your limited scholarships.

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No. 1 --- Redshirt everyone you possibly can this year. Take your lumps up front so recovery can begin in 2011. The Gators didn't do this in 1986, but recovery would have been faster and more impressive had they held some guys out and re-built depth.

No. 2 --- Actively "recruit" walk-on players who might be willing to invest two years in helping rebuild the program. Get them in for this year if you can, but the next 2-3 years for sure. After two years on campus they can be put on scholarship without counting against the annual limit (15), just the cap which USC is unlikely to be near. 10-12 such players could dramatically improve them by 2012. Pat Moorer was the most notable walk on in this time, but the Gators also kept a couple of guys on scholarship whose families could easily have paid tuition. That should have been emphasized.

No. 3 --- Make sure your recruiting emphasizes better students/citizens. That's the best way to minimize attrition. The Gators did pretty well in this regard.

No. 4 --- Take a page out of the Texas A&M playbook and recruit kids from the student body to help create your 12th man unit. I suspect the turnout would be pretty impressive. As a result you'd have less wear and tear on your limited number of scholarship players. The Gators did not try this.

No.5 --- Cut down the playbook and become a power running, ball control oriented football team. Shortening games will be an important competitive strategy for the next few years. Florida, beginning in 1986 was a run dominated team, especially with Emmitt Smith 1987-89. It kept the Gators in games against superior teams on a regular basis.

I'm not exactly trying to help Lane Kiffin and USC here. It's not like he's going to read this and follow the blueprint. But it will be interesting to see how USC goes about trying to be as good as they can be with the limit resources they'll have in the years ahead.


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