ND 1st, NU next, bye bye NCAA

Nice way for Trojans to say so long to NCAA sanctions against Nebraska after finishing off the regular season against Notre Dame and the connections those two programs have had with USC's NCAA sanctions.

Steve Sarkisian was talking about the return of USC's rehabbing players after Sunday's Holiday Bowl Practice No. 6 and what it must be like for them to be out of action but coming out day after day standing on the sidelines watching.

"I't's hard to stand around out there for two-and-a-half, three hours," Sark said to the assembled media, "I don't see how you guys do it." Well, here's how we do it -- and did it Sunday.

We talk about things, not always practice things but mostly USC football things.

And thanks to ESPN's "U-2" 30 for 30 documentary Saturday right after the Heisman Trophy show, the talk got off on this Trojan tangent. It's the second 30 for 30 dealing with the University of Miami's outrageously out-of-control program that went over the top, or down to the bottom, in two different eras.

How ridiculously out of whack the sanctions were for USC's minimal violations compared to Miami's culture of corruption when you see them up close. But of course. No news there.

The numbers and nature of the transgressions and the involvement of university personnel and on and on make it hard to take even now as USC's ridiculously unwarranted sanctions are coming to an official end 4 1/2 years later.

The postseason end will come with the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska Dec. 27 following a regular season end last month against Notre Dame.

And is there any way to not make the connection that two of the Committee on Infractions panel that irresponsibly, at the very least, condemned USC were none other than the No. 2 person in the Notre Dame athletic department -- Senior Associate AD Missy Conboy and from Nebraska, Faculty Athletic Rep Josephine Potuto.

And while USC, the university, has meekly accepted the sanctions, at least publicly, the football team finally answered for itself with last month's 49-14 romp over a Notre Dame program completely unburdened by the kinds of external sanctions USC was dealing with. Sure there were their own self-imposed ones for actual academic fraud. But that's on the Irish.

And yet which team's fans were complaining that they'd run out of players? Yeah, the Irish who could have started the season with 85 scholarship players, not a Trojans team whose numbers had dipped into the high 40s.

And now here come the Huskers, the pride of Potutoland. One final shot for USC's players, cheated out of a full college football experience in their years here by the likes of the vindictive Potuto and the holier-than-thou Conboy along with disgraced Miami AD Paul Dee. No way to get back at Dee now so Potuto's team will have to do.

It just seems right, appropriate, one of those "what goes around comes around" deals that ND and NU have coming their way -- or at least two prominent people in their programs do.

But they're innocent, the Nebraska players and coaches, you say. This isn't about them. But then it wasn't about USC's players either. Stuff like that sometimes happens. Collateral damage.

And a lesson for the haters who wanted to take USC down any way they could. Well, they couldn't. Not completely. Despite the hate and envy and conspiracy to destroy the Trojans, USC will finish the four years of the sanctions period with a pair of 10-win seasons, and now maybe a nine-win year.

And possibly a couple of bowl wins. And that's despite the stupid asterisks in the media guide and the two bowl games USC was deprived of -- not to mention a national championship and a Heisman Trophy taken away.

And USC survived as well as it did despite a number of unforced off-the-field errors. Which maybe should tell us something. The haters were correct. The envy brigade got it just right.

USC was, and is, a program to be very afraid of. No other program -- Alabama and Miami come to mind -- handled similar circumstances as well. No losing records. No others could have handled that. Put anybody's name in there. But USC somehow did.

And now the Trojans have one more chance to show how well USC has survived -- and more. Sorry Nebraska, you're up next. Say "Hello" to Jo from the folks in Trojanland. Tell her that despite the NCAA's best efforts, the program still stands.

Sark on playing freshmen and recruiting them

Saying he was getting on his soapbox now that it's the height of the recruiting season, Sark used the example of redshirt freshman wide receiver Steven Mitchell, who has come on strong the second half of the season after knee surgery in the summer before his first year here.

Just because he's a four/five star guy and then doesn't impact right away, doesn't even start, people ask "What's wrong with Steven?" Sark said. Nothing. "He's going to be a fine football player for us."

And that's the norm. It takes a while, Sark said. "But now every guy wants to come in and start." And yes, at USC, "because of our numbers," that may be the case. Freshmen will almost certainly get more opportunities in camp, Sark said. But that's it.

No promises. "I'd never say that," Sark says when asked if he'd ever promise an incoming player that he'd start. "I just say I'll give them the opportunity to compete . . . I'm not going to play a guy just because I promised him he'd play . . . he has to earn that playing time whether he's a fifth-year senior or a freshman."

There are arguments both ways, Sark said. If the best thing for USC "is to play seven, eight, nine freshmen," like this year, "dynamic freshmen," well that's how it has to be. But a case can be made for a team of fifth-year seniors like Boston College, or the way Stanford has been through the years.

There is some value going forward,' Sark said of the veteran team building -- if you can do it that way.


Trojans take two days off and return to practice at 8;15 a.m. Wednesday when Sark said the Trojans will do the first Nebraska gameplan installation on a Wednesday through Saturday schedule . . . Tre Madden joined the rehabbing players who returned to practice as observers lthough not practicing, all back one way or another from surgery . . . Madden's surgery was triggered by the discovery of a chipped bone fragment that may have been made worse by his turf toe . . . Antwaun Woods not in pads after straining his pec Saturday and was to have his muscle injury tested after practice . . . no word yet . . . Sark said he's hoping the "nicked-up" guys like Woods, Kevon Seymour (ankle) and Steven Mitchell (knee) are back by Wednesday . . . "Just bumps and bruises," he said hopefully . . . Uchenna Nwosu (ankle) and Michael Hutchings also on the trainer's table and out of action.

For a wrapup of Sunday morning's practice, check out SUNDAY HOLIDAY BOWL PRACTICE 6 GHOST NOTES.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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