Athletic director Pat Haden and coach Lane Kiffin were among the many dignitaries that attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the John McKay Center, a $70 million project that will house new weight rooms, meeting space and academic support to be built behind Heritage Hall, but their focus was clearly on the upcoming appeal.
"There's a lot of unknowns here. All we're doing is preparing our appeal," Haden said.
USC is seeking to have its two-year bowl ban, which would also bar the program from playing in the inaugural Pac-12 title game next season, and scholarship reductions reduced.
The Trojans will only be allowed to sign 15 players in its upcoming recruiting class, but were able to add nine at the midyear break by counting them against last year.
As he has been throughout the process, Haden was pessimistic at the prospect of relief.
"I'm just realistic," he said. "I'm just going with the odds. 10 percent of appeals are successful. Those are the odds we face. We think we have a good basis for our appeal request, but it's not a judiciary proceeding."
Whatever the result, expected to follow six to eight weeks after the hearing, it will be the last word as Haden said USC would not pursue further legal remedies.
"This is it. This is the appeal. There's no appeal after this. This is the final frontier," Haden said.
And despite recent rulings regarding the eligibility of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and five Ohio State players, Haden said that will not be a part of the university's appeal.
"It's apples and oranges. I don't think it helps or hurts us. It's just kind of irrelevant," Haden said.
Asked if he will be part of the entourage that will make the trip, set to include Haden and university president Max Nikias. Kiffin joked, "No, I've done enough time."
As for Wednesday's groundbreaking, Haden, who played quarterback under McKay, described it as a breath of fresh air after a year of turmoil for the program.
"Despite the fact we're on probation for another three years, this gives us something to look forward to. This adds a touch of joy to what we're going through right now," he said.
Kiffin was more interested in the tangible results of the new complex for recruiting, given the stigma long attached to the historic but outdated Heritage Hall.
"The one thing that we faced in recruiting over the years, the one negative was our facilities comparable to some other places around the country. Now we don't have to face that anymore," Kiffin said.
While only about 60 percent of the necessary funding has been raised, Haden said, the timing couldn't be better with stadium renovations coming at California and Washington while Oregon will soon begin construction on a new Nike-funded football complex.
"There's kids coming this weekend and they see the movement," Kiffin said. "It's so valuable for this to happen at this time."