One of the striking elements of the reaction to SC’s 2011 recruiting class has been the bleating about how there’s something wrong here, SC is thumbing their nose in the face of the NCAA, this just feels wrong. And it’s showing up all over the place - I can understand casual fans being flummoxed, but people who should understand better seem prey to the same problem.
It’s hard to understand the confusion if you’ve been reading through the same amount of verbiage that most of us who frequent Conquest Chronicles have been reading, about the COI and their procedural shenanigans and the like... but most people don’t care about that. What they know is: SC is guilty, and the punishment was severe, so plainly recruiting success is suspect. Because plainly SC is so monumentally stupid that in the teeth of sanctions that carry solid odds of crippling the program for years, in the middle of an appeal, they would flout the rules.
I’ve more or less given up on trying to resolve these conversations with people outside the alumni base, because when it's more about the emotional response, an argument is lost even before it starts...... lost inasmuch as regardless of whether you or I may have a point about the ins-and-outs of findings and appeals and whatever, we're not responding in the affective manner that people are looking for: they want penitence. And to be honest, whatever the range of my response to this rolling debacle may be, penitence isn't included. Perhaps you feel the same way.
It's not that matters improve much when you're trying to have a data-driven conversation. Take as an example SBN’s recap of National Signing Day concluding that the biggest loser was Lane Kiffin. I exchanged comments with the writer and completely get where he's coming from: this is just one step of a mountain's worth of climbing for SC's head coach.
But still: I get that people outside SC (and plenty of people inside SC as well) don’t like the guy, I get that he’s about take a hit for his actions at Tennessee, I get that he looked like an odd choice even before SC got hit with sanctions... but that has precisely bugger all to do with the class that SC just signed. It’s a public relations issue, an NCAA risk factor, not a recruiting failure. If the problem is the program and sanctions, then say that SC is the loser, not Kiffin. That would at least make more structural / institutional sense. Or write an article about Kiffin being a loser generally and having that aforementioned huge mountain to climb. There's no need to coddle us as a fanbase, or the football program, but at least make sure you've got the right stick to hand.
So what's the point of this free form ranting? Well, this: it's probably not worth the trouble to be pissed off and try to engage other fanbases about sanctions, recruiting, bowl bans, any of it. They don't care. And it's not that we need to revive the Mike Garrett "they’re just jealous" line, because it's largely untrue, and just giving into an emotive counter-reaction. It's just time to settle down and weather the storm, even before whatever ruling the NCAA produces on the appeal.
What we can remember as an alumni and fan base is how much outsider opinions (well, for non-recruits) count when it comes to SC football surviving three years of scholarship reductions: not at all. We don’t need drama, we need the program to focus on the only things that matter: serving out whatever sanctions remain in place, staying out of trouble, trying to keep good players on the team, and not just rolling over because people are upset.To focus, in other words, on supporting a viable team of which young men want to be a part, and when we interact with other fans / alumni, to enjoy the friendly competition and just take as writ that we see the world differently.
If Lane Kiffin and his staff can set a foundation with this 2011 recruiting class to survive through the 2014 season before starting to load back up, and do it within the rules, then that’s what important, opinions be damned. Anyone else, in our position, would do exactly the same to reduce risk and increase overall utility. If people don't get that this is being done within the rules and think that responses to the contrary are an indicator of denial or trolling or whatever, so be it. We can nod politely and move on. Why waste the energy on trying to convince people of anything otherwise? I don't begrudge them their response, they don't have to see the world the way I do. I just don't have to get involved with competing worldviews.
And, all in all, it could be worse... we could be UCLA and flailing at exactly the time that their rival starts to be vulnerable. Even if all Kiffin does is stay at 8 - 4 every year, he’d still be better than Neuheisel. I guess that's setting the bar pretty low, but we're going to have to take our consolation where we can during the next several seasons as the scholarship reductions take effect.