Looking back on the last four years on the Coliseum gridiron probably doesn't bring the fondest memories to the typical Trojan fan. The first thing that comes to mind would be the NCAA sanctions, which crippled a once dominant football program into what could generously be described as slightly above average nationally, finishing just 35-17 overall with two allotted bowl game appearances.
But in everything besides football, as the 2010 sanctions also punished men's and women's basketball along with women's tennis, the last four years have seen many accomplishments for the cardinal and gold as many women's, Olympic and other non-revenue sports have flourished across USC's athletically diverse campus.
Sports like women's golf, men's tennis, women's water polo, women's sand volleyball and men's water polo have all won national championships during football's four-year lull. In fact, the women's water polo team has won in twice in that span and the men's water polo team all four years as part of a record six national titles in a row.
"@MattBarkley: USC is finally finished with imposed sanctions, about time. Go get em Trojans" ABOUT TIME #FIGHTON— Devon Kennard (@DevonKennard) June 10, 2014
Trojans brought home 12 gold medals the London Olympics in 2012, more than all but five of the countries represented at the competition, as well as nine silver and four bronze medals. In addition to women's sand volleyball, programs in women's rowing and women's lacrosse have sprouted in the last four years with great success.
Not only has the performance on the field impressed, but the fields themselves have also been very impressive throughout the last four years. The opening of the Merle Norman Sand Volleyball courts, the Uytengsu Aquatics Center, a new women's lacrosse program, the McKay Center and renovations to the Coliseum have all been crucial additions.
Last but certainly not least, USC's compliance department has been essentially spotless since the sanctions were levied. Now the largest program in all of NCAA Athletics, the compliance department has sniffed out any real cases of concern for the program, even self reporting problems in and out of the classroom that could've cause big trouble.
The clean slate after Pat Haden took over as athletic director has certainly made it easier for USC to make it through the sanctions, and that's exactly the plan he had in mind when taking over the job for previous Athletic Director Mike Garrett.
"All of us in the USC athletic department want to extend our sincere appreciation to our fans and donors for their continued support during our probation years," Haden told usctrojans.com "We know it has not been easy for them, but the unwavering support of the Trojan Family is what makes USC the special place it is."
Is it fair to call these last four years a period of progress for the athletic department? Could the sanctions to the football team somehow helped the rest of the programs at USC by refocusing the school's resources and attention towards expanding and improving the other 20 NCAA Division One teams on campus.
Are the Trojans better off for temporarily vacating the title of the best team in the Pac-12 for the likes of Oregon, Stanford and maybe even UCLA (better not happen again, though) and allowing the overall strength of the conference to grow?
We know that continued success will ultimately decide whether the Trojans are in good standing, but plenty of cash keeps flowing into the programs pockets with new Pac-12 television deals and increased revenue sharing from the newly-founded final four playoff format. But imagine the cash coming in for the new Coliseum once USC football gets back on the mat as a bonafide top-10 powerhouse under coach Steve Sarkisian. Watch out!