After reports the NCAA would reveal its findings this week in the long-running investigation into former USC running back Reggie Bush and allegations he and his family accepted improper benefits, it now appears that announcement might be again weeks away.
At the crux of the issue will be what former coach Pete Carroll, his staff, specifically running backs coach Todd McNair, and the athletic department knew or should have known regarding Bush's relationship with two would-be sports marketers. There have been depositions, settlements and other legal wrangling running parallel to the five-year investigation.
Every time it looked like resolution was near, some new issue or detour would pop up.
Regardless it is coming, so what forms of punishment could be on the table? From the implausible to probable, here are six avenues the NCAA could take:
The NCAA's nuclear option was so damaging to SMU, to the point that the program is only finally digging out more than two decades later, it hasn't been used since at the FBS level in any sport.
If Alabama didn't get it for the Albert Means recruitment scandal, it's back in the box for good.
ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports sent a clear message when it announced its early selections for what games it will broadcast in the 2010 season: USC moves the ratings needle. With the Trojans set for 10 nationally or regionally televised games, it would be too punitive to the Pac-10 or its media partners to take away its biggest draw.
With 70 teams set to participate in postseason play this year, the NCAA is going to need everyone with a winning or .500 record to fill those spots, lest those with 5-7 records or two wins against FCS schools be brought in to eliminate what little credibility middle and bottom-tier bowls already have.
Only if the NCAA finds McNair knew about the extra benefits does a postseason ban seem likely.
Now here is where the NCAA has been most willing to penalize violators, by taking away the most critical commodity in college sports.
Alabama was hit with a loss of 21 scholarships over a three-year span. USC could see a similar result, being limited to say signing 21 players for four years.
The biggest hit could come with walk-ons, eliminating the opportunity to reward them with scholarships later in their career.
With Bush likely to be found ineligible, the 2005 season or even earlier is likely to be erased from the record books. Alabama and Florida State lost several seasons for textbook and academic fraud incidents.
The biggest question would be Bush's Heisman Trophy and would the trust that presents the award actually revoke it?
The NCAA's way of saying, "don't do it again," this will be the most effective inducement to make sure new coach Lane Kiffin and his staff walks the straight and narrow.
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