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Joe McKnight Returns to the Practice Field

The Joe McKnight saga continues to unfold despite the fact that no decision regarding his status for Saturday's Emerald Bowl has been made. However, the latest reports seem to indicate that McKnight might actually suit up for the contest against Boston College, as he joined his teammates on the practice field Thursday after being cleared by USC's compliance office:

Southern California tailback Joe McKnight rejoined the Trojans for practice Thursday after missing their early preparations for the Emerald Bowl.

McKnight still hasn't been cleared by the school to play against Boston College on Saturday night, but coach Pete Carroll was optimistic he'll be available. USC is investigating whether McKnight violated rules by using an SUV that doesn't belong to him.

McKnight practiced with the Trojans in Los Angeles on Monday, but stayed home to deal with compliance issues when the Trojans traveled to San Francisco. Carroll said McKnight arrived in the Bay Area on Wednesday night.

Bruin fans are already boiling over McKnight's return to the field (you would think they would be a little more concerned with their own bowl game, but oh well, nothing new), comparing his predicament to that that of DeShaun Foster's. In 2001, Foster, a tailback from the Bruins, was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for driving a Ford Expedition of a friend of an agent. As a result, UCLA quickly suspended the running back for the final three games of the season even before the NCAA came out with its ruling regarding Foster's eligibility.

But the two situations are not entirely identical even if the folks from Westwood would like them to be. Foster's use of the SUV was directly tied to an agent, while McKnight's alleged use of a similar automobile has yet to be deemed improper by the NCAA or by USC officials. So far, all we know is that the vehicle in question was purchased by Scott Schenter, a Santa Monica businessman and University of Washington alumnus, and was expected to be solely used by McKnight's girlfriend Johana Michelle Beltran, who happens to be a family friend of Schenter. Whether McKnight was actually driving the car has yet to be determined, as there are conflicting stories presented by both sides - The Los Angeles Times and McKnight.

While the Louisiana native may have in fact ben driving the vehicle and breaking NCAA rules as a result, finding him guilty of such a violation is not a slam dunk. The relationship between Schenter and Beltran complicates the matter and makes it where it becomes quite challenging to come to a conclusive decision. Therefore, all we as fans can do is sit back and hope that the NCAA and USC are able to make the best possible decision based on the facts that are presented to them. It's all we really have to lean on.