A Suspension for Baxter Not out of the Question, but Unlikely

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 01: Running back Dillon Baxter #28 carries the ball during the USC Trojans spring game on May 1, 2010 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

As previously reported yesterday, our fine athletic director Mike Garrett sent formal letters to five schools apologizing for false allegations regarding the improper recruitment of freshman running back Dillon Baxter. Just one day after the NCAA announced its sanctions on the football program in early June, USC's compliance department notified the media that five schools - Alabama, Florida, Fresno State, Oregon, and Washington - had all contacted Baxter without notifying USC, a violation of NCAA rules. Immediately, however, there were doubts regarding the claims, as Baxter told ESPN's Joe Schad a day later that he had lost his phone, and thus, was unable to prove that he had actually received calls from any any of the schools to begin with.

And you thought this story was going away.

Now, there is some chatter, as to whether Baxter could actually be suspended for allegedly fabricating this whole story. I say allegedly, because at this point in time, it's unknown whether Baxter initially lied or USC twisted his words. One of the contributors over at Bruins Nation, Blue Me, raises this very same point and it certainly has some validity.

If Baxter did indeed lie about this, then it would appear he violated a NCAA Bylaw and would be subject to suspension by the NCAA:

NCAA Bylaw 10.1, which addresses "unethical conduct" and includes "Knowingly furnishing the NCAA or the individual's institution false or misleading information concerning the individual's involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a possible violation of an NCAA regulation."

There is a precedent in this matter. Oklahoma St.'s Dez Bryant was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for most of the 2009 season for violating this very bylaw when he lied to the NCAA about being in contact with Deion Sanders (which was, in of itself, not a violation per se).

It would seem that Baxter's fabrication would meet the criteria for a violation of this bylaw, as he apparently gave false information to his own institution regarding matters relevant to a possible violation.

It's perfectly clear based on this bylaw that if Baxter is proven to have lied to USC about those phone calls, he could certainly be talking to the NCAA sometime soon. I guess he may be the next Reggie Bush after all.

But what complicates this whole mess is that we'd be assuming that the Garrett, as well as USC's compliance office, all behaved with the utmost professionalism. That's assuming a lot at this point. What motivation does Baxter have to lie to Garrett? What would he seek to gain from it? Not much that I can see.

On the other hand, Garrett and co. would seek to gain a lot more from this, especially in terms of P.R. "Hey, look they're violating rules too."

But whether Baxter lied or not remains to be seen. The thing is can the NCAA prove that Baxter, not USC, lied? Now, that's tricky. It's a lot easier to prove that Bryant lied, as he misled the NCAA directly. On the flip side, Baxter's fabrication was his own institution, not the larger governing body. In the end, there's a lot more ground to cover. As a result, even if he did violate the bylaw, the NCAA will be challenged to prove that it's the fault of an 18 year-old kid, and not the same program that it just found guilty of a "lack of institutional control."

Good luck.

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