Presently, USC basketball is 10-4 overall, 2-0 in the Pac-10 conference, and holds an eight game winning streak. But as of today, none of that truly matters, as the university administration, led by athletic director Mike Gerrett, has self imposed sanctions on the basketball program that include a ban on postseason play for the 2009-2010 season, thus eliminating the Trojans' hopes for a birth in the Big Dance or even the NIT come March. Such disappointment however is life for a USC hoops fan.
Here is the Official release from the school...(Emphasis added - There is also a video of Garrett's statement as well)
The University of Southern California today announced that it has implemented self-imposed sanctions on its men's basketball program for violating NCAA rules.
The sanctions are a result of a University investigation that found NCAA rules violations related to O.J. Mayo, who played for the USC's men's basketball team during the 2007-2008 season.
"USC takes allegations of NCAA rules violations very seriously. When allegations were made regarding our men's basketball program, we immediately began an investigation and worked closely with the NCAA and the Pac-10 in an attempt to ascertain the truth," said USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett. "When we've done something wrong, we have an obligation to do something about it and that is exactly what we are doing here."
The self-imposed sanctions for the men's basketball program include a one-year ban on post-season competition following the 2009-2010 regular season, including the Pac-10 Conference basketball tournament; a reduction of one scholarship for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years; a reduction by one of the number of coaches permitted to engage in off-campus recruiting activities during the summer of 2010, and a reduction in the total number of recruiting days by twenty days (from 130 to 110) for the 2010-2011 academic year.
In addition, because of Mayo's involvement with Rodney Guillory, whom under NCAA rules became a USC booster due to his role in Mayo's recruitment, USC will vacate all wins during the 2007-2008 regular season, which was when Mayo competed while ineligible. USC will also return to the NCAA the money it received through the Pac-10 Conference for its participation in the 2008 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship Tournament.
These self-imposed sanctions impact only the men's basketball program, and do not affect any other program.
While the news is incredibly frustrating, especially in light of the team's recent performance, it really comes as no surprise. After a long, drawn-out 18 month investigation, something was going to come out of it this whole mess, and on January 3rd, it did.
ESPN Outside the Lines reported nearly two years ago that Mayo had received "extra benefits" from Rodney Guillory during his freshman season at USC. However, their story has never fully been proven, and even now, Garrett and USC have failed to acknowledge the validity of the story and provide any details regarding what the violations were in the first place. Yet, the likelihood that a nationally accepted news organization such as ESPN fabricates a completely inaccurate story seems incredibly unlikely.
Were ESPN and Louis Johnson entirely accurate in their accounts? We really don't know and until Garrett tells us exactly what ‘SC is being sanctioned for than we may never know. But it has been clear for some time that something wasn't right with the basketball program. People don't generally come out of thin air and make blatant accusations about players receiving $1,000 in cash. They may not be entirely honest in their allegations, but there is always an element of truth in what they're saying.
Honestly, did any reasonable person believe that O.J. Mayo upheld a squeaky clean image and was 100% innocent of all chargers?
So the idea that USC is being punished for wrongdoings is not incredibly difficult for us to wrap our minds around. The bigger questions remaining are why were these violations able to be committed in the first place and why did it take an extraordinary amount of time for the university to conclude its investigation.
Popular sentiment right now suggests that Garrett should be the one to shoulder much of the blame. While it may be soon to jump to conclusions regarding Garrett's responsibility in this whole mess, the complaints are certainly more than reasonable. During his address, Garrett referenced Rodney Guillory in regards to his "bringing" O.J. Mayo to USC. But as it has been stated on several occasions, Garrett knew exactly who Guillory was from his prior interactions with the athletic department at ‘SC. This was the exact same Guillory, who was responsible in the NCAA's suspension of former USC basketball player Jeff Trepagnier for one-third of the 2000-2001 season after Guillory had purchased airfare for him. So with such prior knowledge why did he allow Guillory become a USC booster and let Tim Floyd allow him access to the basketball offices? In doing so, Garrett turned a blind eye and allowed the infractions to take place that were sure to come. Bad Apples like Guillory don't change. They do not become benevolent over night. They are in it for one thing and one thing only.
But assuming Garrett knew what was going on, why then did it take him and administrators 18 months to come to this conclusion? Wouldn't such violations have been obvious almost immediately? I don't have an answer for you. I don't work in the USC athletic department or have inside access. Thus, I have no idea what why Garrett and others acted they way they did in the post-Louis Johnson allegations period.
But I can tell you one thing: something doesn't smell right. Judging by the duration of the investigation, I get the sense, that this was some preemptive move by USC to mollify the NCAA while it prepares to make its ruling regarding the status of the basketball program. There has to be some horse trading going on here, as Garrett and company are obviously hoping that the NCAA will grant favor toward them for taking the initiative in issuing these sanctions.
But if USC is not working collaboratively with the NCAA and does not have some sort of agreement in place, this will end up reflecting badly on Garrett, the athletic department, and the school as a whole. To have USC go ahead and impose sanctions and then not have them be recognized by the NCAA will only provide a perfect example of how inept the athletic department is and how they its trying to manipulate the NCAA.
As of right now, the best thing we can hope for is that Garrett does have some deal with the NCAA in place that makes these current sanctions the worst of what is yet to come. If they truly are the biggest hammer that is to drop, then Kevin O'Neill and company appear to be in pretty good shape.
No, this current team won't have the opportunity to earn a postseason bid (a real tragedy for the seniors, Mike Gerrity, Marcus Johnson, and Dwight Lewis), but the future of the basketball program appears to be just fine, as it will theoretically be eligible for postseason play next season. As a result, it's incredibly unlikely that any players attempt to transfer for that would require them to sit out an entire year. It's even more unlikely that the recruits in the highly-regarded 2010 recruiting class attempt to opt out of their letters of intent. They knew what they signed up for, and heck, they'll be competing for a postseason birth as freshman anyway. As for the loss of a scholarship, in all reality, it means a player such as Kasey Cunningham, Romeo Miller, or Donte Smith, will have to start paying tuition or leave the school. It's unfortunate, but in terms of the program's future, it means very little.