NCAA Sanctions: USC's Tumultuous Journey Comes To An End

Today marks the four-year anniversary of "The Shot Heard Around the Nation", which was fired at the USC Football program on June 10, 2010, a day that the university and its fans will never forget.

American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson coined the phrase the "shot heard around the world" over 200 years ago and to which now can be used to refer to several events in history that in turn usually sparked some sort of tension or war.

There were the first shots fired at the Battles of Lexington and Concord that set the Revolutionary War in motion in 1775  and the shot that led to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, which is considered to have been one of the immediate causes of World War I.

Seemingly, it really only takes one attack to really change the game, or the course of history for the matter.

In World War II, it was D-Day, for U.S. national security it was 9/11 and for the stock market—well that’s dramatically fluctuated more than once over the course of its prolonged existence, but you get the point.

For USC football, though, the "shot heard around the nation" took place on Thursday, June 10, 2010: The day that the hypocritical institution of the NCAA handed down to the Trojans the stiffest penalties given to any university since the NCAA issued the "death penalty" to the Southern Methodist football program in 1986, which closed down their program for two whole years.

That horrid and dreadful day, USC football was fired at with heavy artillery including a two-year bowl ban, four years’ probation and a loss of 30 scholarships over three seasons.

Ohio State, Oregon and Miami’s programs lost a combined 20 scholarships for their wrongdoings, 10 fewer than USC just by itself.

So if you think that punishment sounds fair for the university’s ‘lack of institutional control’, then re-crunch your numbers and think again.

Not to forget, the vacation of all the team’s victories in which "former" Heisman Trophy Winner Reggie Bush participated including the Trojans’ national championship game victory in the 2005 Orange Bowl.

On that fateful day in June when USC was penalized for the numerous improper benefits given to Bush, the institution’s  years of winning tradition along with its dignity were unfairly stripped.

While studying various wars, battles and class struggles over the years, I’ve learned that the most humiliating and undignified acts that an invading or attacking country could commit would be to dismantle a nation of its history, past and culture.

In USC’s case, the NCAA did just exactly that, disbarring the Trojan’s from a national championship season, a Heisman Trophy (later forfeited by Bush) and one of the greatest USC football players of all-time.

Indeed, the school that has always prided itself on the idea of the conquest  of its opponents was ironically conquered by the NCAA.

Though unrelated to the sanctions, this clamorous day sparked a mass relocation, an event familiar to wars, when Colorado defected from the Big 12 over to what was then the Pac-10 and spurred rebellious conference realignment across the country.

Like a variety of wars and battles that have taken place throughout time , the NCAA’s bombshells fired at USC were excessive, unwarranted and illogical.

The sanctions handed down to the Trojans can be argued as a travesty of justice since the NCAA’s harsh penalties may have been more a result of the NCAA’s objection of the culture surrounding USC football rather than for school’s inability to control their student athletes’ off-the-field activities.

Do you seriously think that the NCAA was looking to make an example out of USC? No,  or otherwise the punishments handed down to future violators wouldn’t have been so soft.

The fact that former head coach Pete Carroll opened up the practices to the public and created a Hollywood-esque scene by bringing in celebrities like Will Ferrell and Snoop Dogg didn’t sit well with the NCAA and the rest of the nation, who thought that the Trojans were gaining an unfair recruiting advantage by using it’s ‘USC-ness’.

First of all, what does ‘USC--ness’ even mean? Secondly, it sounds more like envy and jealousy.

Yes, the program, led by former athletic director Mike Garrett, exercised poor compliance during the period in which the school was cited for,  but in this case, the time didn’t fit the crime.

The whole case was evaluated with more emotion than actual facts and that’s definitely not a rational way for a billion dollar organization to ransack an institution of homogeneous amounts of money.

And when the NCAA got its chance, it dropped what was the equivalent to just below the atomic bomb (SMU’s case), one that has shaken up USC football ever since.  The results over time: Zero Rose Bowls. Zero Pac-12 championships. And a horrific and forgettable Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech before the team bounced back with a win in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl.

Evidently, the program has been humbled down to earth in recent years and I think it’s fair to say that the NCAA got what it wanted, as they USC in its place.

In an effort to avoid future incidents, Athletic Director Pat Haden has since sought to create a culture of compliance here at USC and now currently houses the largest compliance staff in the nation with 11 full-time members.

While rumors and suggestions of noncompliance have come and gone, Haden has held a relatively clean record and no further blood has been shed since he took over in 2010.

Haden’s land of Troy may have been deprived of its history and set up for years of failure by the NCAA’s blitz, but like true Trojans, the program has persevered and will now emerge from the cloud of sanctions into a new era under the leadership of Steve Sarkisian.

At last, USC is now free.

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