USC's scholarship numbers don't add up

2015 media guide makes it clear sanctions still here.

With the USC football media guide out this week, we thought we'd count the biographies in the scholarship players section for this first post-NCAA sanctions team.

Each player entering fall practice with a scholarship gets his own bio so here we go. Not all that many it seems but by the time we got to the last man -- Antwaun Woods -- we were only at No. 55.

Hmmmm? Are we sure the sanctions are over? Or is Paul Dee reaching out from the grave?

Wait a minute. We have to add in the newcomer bios, the ones without photos. Another 19 here since the freshmen and any JC transfer in for spring are veterans for bio purposes. So now we're at 74.

And that number does include the two new scholarshipped -- and well-deserved -- walkons for the fall: holder and backup QB Conner Sullivan and snapper Zach Smith.

They replace last year's two walkon scholarship winners for the year -- wide receiver George Katrib and corner Ryan Dillard, two more great kids in a program so dependent on walkons to survive the last four years. Both seniors remain with the program

Unlisted thus far are the four blueshirts who won't be scholarshipped until Day 2 of August practice. They are Taylor McNamara, the tight end grad student transfer from Oklahoma with two years of eligibility left; Daniel Imatorbhebhe, the redshirt freshman tight end transfer from Florida applying for a hardship waiver but most likely sitting out 2015; Clayton Johnston, the offensive lineman from Servite; and Deontay Burnett, the impressive wide receiver from Serra.

They can't be involved in official team activities, weightlifting, conditioning, can't get equipment and can't get into the media guide until after practice starts. But that gets USC to 78 -- or 77 for this fall if Imatorbhebhe sits out his transfer season. Subtract Ajene Harris after his hip surgeries and it's 76.

Not a bad number compared to previous seasons. But no one else in a Pac-12, where many favor USC to win the league, will be starting the season with 76. And the question should be: Why should USC have to do so? Aren't the sanctions over? Shouldn't they be allowed to have 85 on scholarship now?

Especially in light of the revelations about how many of the NCAA's own Committee on Infrations bylaws were violated and lied about in the USC case, as revealed thus far in the Todd McNair lawsuit.

The one modest proposal we've always felt USC should have honored -- at the very least -- would have been a commitment to the young men playing for the Trojans in this season, after the sanctions have run their course, to make sure the sanctions have run their course.

And a commitment that these young men in 2015, more than a decade after whatever the NCAA alleged went down, as minimal as those infractions actually were, would not be saddled still with lingering penalties. It's the least that men making millions of dollars from USC athletics could do for those asked in some cases to pay hundreds of thousands to participate.

We're thinking here of a young man like walkon tight end Connor Spears, who could not have acquitted himself better in his year-and-a-half here. Only he can't be scholarshipped right now. According to NCAA rules, the Columbia transfer must be at USC two full years before being awarded a scholarship or he counts as an initial grant -- and those are all gone.

Even if USC has one -- or a number -- of the permitted 85 left to award.

But how can USC not make the point -- as publicly and loudly and strongly in every forum the point can be made -- that the COI maliciously designed the USC penalties limiting initial grants to 15 for three years running. They knew full well that would extend the scholarship penalties into Year 4 and probably Year 5 and well past the specified three years of sanctions.

How this would happen is for USC to figure out -- or have figured out the last four years. Appeal to the current COI directly. Get the Pac-12 behind it . . . finally. Approach as many national college football media folks to get them to make the case. Push it hard.

It's unfair to USC, to its players and coaches and fans. It extends the unsafe nature of the USC penalties one more season at least. It allows an NCAA that broke so many rules in pursuing USC to benefit from its violations. Appeal to the members any way you can. To the leadership groups wherever they can be found. Do it publicly. Do it privately. Cajole. Threaten. Just don't give up.

But don't keep saying the sanctions are in the past. Sure, USC has done a miraculous job getting through them. But here they are, still having to borrow against the future with five blueshirts necessary to handle the yearly limitations that the NCAA should have set aside when it was revealed how they took USC down.

It wouldn't be the first time the NCAA backed down. Penn State, Miami, UCLA come to mind. Backing down is something the NCAA has been very good at. But you have to push them. No bowing and scraping.

Force the NCAA to say no in as public, and uncomfortable, a way as possible. Make them look like the elf-serving jerks they are. And don't ever give up. Stay after them.

USC has the right on its side here. And needs to get on the right side of its own players -- if only for Connor Spears and any other deserving walkon here less than two years.

This is one of those things you do because it's the right thing to do, not because it offers USC some sort of serious advantage on the playing field. It doesn't. Connor will still be here this fall. And probably make a big difference at a position of need.

But now it's time for USC to step up the way Connor and all 28 walkons without bios pictured in the USC media guide have. Their names, in addition to Dillard, Katrib and Spears: Reid Budrovich, Joey Augello, Kevin Carrasco, Joel Foy, Erick Jepsen, Joe Harding, Matt Lopes, Jalen Jones, Robby Kolanz, Jeff Miller, David Mellstrom, Aaron Minor, Grant Moore, Stefan Smith, Davonte Nunnery, Wyatt Schmidt, Nick Schlossberg, Yoofi Quansah, Michael Bowman, Reuben Peters, Richie Wenzel, Alex Wood, James Toland IV, Larry Tuileta and Christian Tober.

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


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