The NCAA announced on Tuesday that it would gradually restore scholarships to Penn State after the school "clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program." It seems as though USC AD Pat Haden interpreted the move as his chance to make a case to lessen the sanctions currently affecting the Trojans. Haden and vice president for athletic compliance Dave Roberts met with NCAA officials, including president Mark Emmert, in Indianapolis this week. Haden released a statement regarding the discussions:
"After learning of the NCAA's actions on Tuesday (Sept. 24) regarding Penn State and the lessening of the sanctions that were imposed on that institution, when viewed in the context of the events that have shaken intercollegiate athletics over the past year, we felt compelled to discuss USC's sanctions in a new light. As I have stated on numerous occasions, I believe the penalties imposed on our football program in 2010 were unprecedented and inconsistent with NCAA precedent in prior cases. I also believe the sanctions have resulted in unintended consequences both for our football program and our student-athletes. Although the sanctions reduced our total football scholarship limit to 75 (down from 85), attrition resulting from injuries and transfers has resulted in less than 60 recruited scholarship student-athletes suiting up for our games. The current situation is certainly not what was envisioned, nor is it in the best interests of our student-athletes' welfare.
"During our meetings with the NCAA's leaders over the last two days, we discussed enforcement and sanction issues impacting both the NCAA membership at large and USC specifically. We proposed creative 'outside the box' solutions to the scholarship issues resulting from the injuries and transfers experienced by our football team over the past three seasons. After candid discussions, the NCAA asked us to provide additional information and indicated it would study our suggestions. Because time is of the essence regarding these issues, we have asked for the NCAA's response as soon as practical."
At first blush, it's probably unlikely the NCAA will reduce the penalties on USC, but it's clear Haden smelled blood in the water after the Penn State ruling. This is why Tuesday's announcement -- while certainly positive for the future of Penn State football -- might have longer-term consequences for the NCAA. Other schools could call foul on their own rulings, and the organization has now established a precedent in which it has proven willing to overturn prior decisions, although the Penn State situation was extremely different than standard fare sanctions cases.
SI.com's Stewart Mandel gave his take on the NCAA's Penn State decision earlier this week.
The NCAA is going down a slippery slope by reversing course while trying to maintain that it wasn't ever at fault in the first place. Still, give Haden credit here. USC's AD saw an opportunity, and he's trying to capitalize.