Little did the USC football community know what lay in store for them that June day in 2010 when the NCAA came down with the outrageously out-of-whack sanctions.
Little did USC know that the sanctions, bad as they were, wouldn't be the worst part of an additional 4 1/2-year penalty period that keeps playing out. As it did once again Friday when the last of Penn State's equally unfair NCAA sanctions -- although unfair for completely different reasons -- were wiped away.
The NCAA had already given back the scholarships and the bowl ban and now in settling a lawsuit brought by two Pennsylvania state legislators, the NCAA agreed to give back the 112 wins it had taken from Penn State, 111 from Joe Paterno, restoring him with 409 and retuning JoePa to No. 1 on the winningest coaching list in FBS football.
The NCAA also agreed, in a settlement that will allow it to avoid a trial in state court about to start, that it will follow Pennsylvania state law and allow Penn State to keep the $60 million fine in state to go to prevention programs for child abuse after the shocking crimes of former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky under cover of the Nittany Lion program.
One of the legislators suing the NCAA, Jake Corman, said "The NCAA has surrendered. The agreement we reached represents a complete victory for the issue at hand."
Just another in the long line of slaps against a USC program that determined at the outset that it would not litigate the NCAA's actions and penalties against it. USC would accept the 30-scholarship deduction over three years, the two years of bowl bans, the four years of probation, the 75-scholarship limit on squad size, the prohibition on boosters at practices and on team trips and sidelines, the limitations on media. It wouldn't agree with those but would accept them.
And then came the added pile-on penalties for USC. While the Trojans had to sit back in the penalty box as the all-time NCAA football felon second only to death-penalty-receiving SMU, Alabama, Ohio State, Auburn and Oregon were all making runs at national championships.
And all with the blessing of a very incurious NCAA Committee on Infractions that had pursued USC for more than four years for one amateurism/eligibility issue with Reggie Bush and his family but no recruiting, academic or direct involvement of USC personnel in a case the NCAA pronounced as showing a "lack of institutional control" on USC's part. In a brand new standard never before and never again invoked -- "USC should have known" about what was going on with Bush and his family, COI chair Paul Dee announced.
And yes, that's the same Paul Dee, who as athletic director at Miami, famously said he had no idea what booster Nevin Shapiro, who was running onto the field with the Hurricanes, paying them off and partying with them on his yacht and fighting university personnel in the Orange Bowl pressbox, was doing.
And yes, one after another, the NCAA came down gently on a series of NCAA violators like Ohio State and Oregon, each of whom had their head coaches directly involved in a series of transgressions that gave them a clear competitive advantage. Sure, those were worse than what happened at USC. But so little was done to those programs they played one another this week in the first-ever College Football Playoff championships game.
And USC was dressing 57 originally recruited scholarship players in the Holiday Bowl.
And please don't mention Auburn and Cam Newton. As some have pointed out, while the NCAA said USC and Reggie had a duty to know what his parents were doing, no one thought to wonder what Cam knew about his dad shopping him around the SEC for big bucks. And another national title went to a team while the NCAA was looking the other way, making sure no boosters showed up at USC practices.
And don't remind USC fans of how Miami escaped relatively unscathed after an aggressive response luckily discovered NCAA investigative malfeasance. Or how no one at the NCAA seemed at all interested in two decades of fake courses at North Carolina benefiting athletes until state authorities got involved.
USC's Su'a Cravens picked up on the discrepancy, tweeting "They must really dislike USC. Just looking for some equality over here."
USC AD Pat Haden, who has defended the university's decision not to pursue the unfair treatment in court, has been looking for some "equality" as well. But after asking at least three times for the NCAA to show some mercy on USC over the years after other programs were treated with much more leniency for arguably far more serious violations to no avail, Haden now has to await the possible final straw.
Within the next two weeks, 700 pages of NCAA emails produced in an attempt to get the defamation lawsuit of former USC assistant Todd McNair dismissed, could be released by the Court of Appeals. And if the characterization of LA Superior Court Frederick Schaller is any indication, the "hate" and "malice" reflected there will not go down well with the USC community.
No surprise the NCAA didn't want the Penn State case to get to court. In depositions released already, we've learned that the NCAA was basically "bluffing" a scared interim president and board of trustees at Penn State to accept the Draconian consent decree penalties -- as heinous as the Sandusky crimes were -- that the NCAA knew it almost surely had no legal authority to level.
We also learned that Oregon State Pres. Ed Ray, then chairman of the NCAA's all-powerful executive committee that assumed the authority to rule against Penn State, hadn't bothered to read the disputed Freeh Report that was the basis for the penalties since the NCAA did no investigation of its own. Ray said he'd gone to Hawai'i and didn't have a chance to check it out.
The media has noticed. And unlike in the USC case now all these years later with all the intervening history, is not pleased. Here's what Jim Litke, the AP's national sports columnist, had to say about the NCAA Friday: "Feckless, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, inept -- if you needed just one episode to illustrate everything wrong about Mark Emmert's tenure as NCAA boss, he just handed it over, tied up with a bow.
"No matter how Emmert and his lawyers try to spin it, the settlement announced Friday in the Penn State case was another big blow. Gone are the last of the sanctions levied against the school and coach Joe Paterno in a 2012 consent decree. Back are Paterno's wins and maybe now his statue, too, small consolation though they may be."
CBSSports.com's national college football columnist Dennis Dodd concluded that, "In reality, it was an admission of a massive overreach by the NCAA. It deflects the blame back on the association for the penalties in the first place . . . Where does college athletics go from here?"
Former USC running back Ty Isaac, now at Michigan, had a suggestion, tweeting "When does Reggie’s Heisman get reinstated?"
Not any time soon, apparently. But it didn't take them long at Penn State. The men's hockey team showed up Friday night with "409" decals on their helmets honoring Paterno's restored wins while the basketball team was preparing "409" t-shirts for Saturday.
We're guessing USC isn't printing up decals or t-shirts in anticipation of an NCAA cave-in, just yet, even if the McNair emails are released. That's just not the way things have ever gone for USC. Not once.You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.