by Eddie Mayrose
USC Football Program Left Holding The Bag
As has become tradition in college sports whenever the NCAA investigators show up, Pete Carroll, Head Coach of the USC Trojans, beat it out of town a step ahead of the sheriff. Laughably, Carroll denied that the investigation into his USC Football program had any bearing on his decision, citing opportunity as the only reason for his departure to the Seattle Seahawks. The fact remains, however, that the three year probe into alleged infractions involving payments made by boosters to USC stars Reggie Bush and Joe McKnight has been concluded, with the NCAA Committee on Infractions scheduled to announce its findings in late February.
Carroll is merely the latest coach to turn tail once improprieties have been exposed. These snake oil salesmen jump at the first job offer made to them once it all hits the fan, leaving their former players and employers holding the bag. Now, the universities are just as culpable as the coach due to their responsibility for their own compliance with NCAA regulations. But what of the players that committed, not only to the university, but the coach himself? A coach that sat in their living rooms and promised their parents that he’d take care of their sons. What becomes of them?
Right now, they have but two options: stay or transfer. Stay; and take the chance that the new coach, one that did not recruit them, owes them no loyalty and may espouse a system not suited for their talents or transfer to another school and sit out an entire season. Some choice.
When will the NCAA, charged with protecting the best interests of these student athletes, realize the gross inequity that currently exists? There is no way to prevent a coach from moving to another school; nor should there be, as many more of these changes are legitimate upward moves than not. However, the NCAA can easily establish two rules that give the player some security.
First, make the coach carry the sanction with him to his new job. USC gets two years probation? Carroll’s new employer goes on probation for the same amount of time should he ever return to the college ranks. Think that’ll promote compliance? How hard would the University of Kentucky have pursued John Calipari if the sanctions against the Memphis basketball program would be theirs, as well? Second, and most importantly, allow the player to transfer without sitting a year whenever the coach leaves; no matter the reason. Why punish them for infractions committed before they even arrived on campus?
Unfortunately, there is collateral damage with each of these moves. After just one season as Tennessee Football coach, Lane Kiffin takes over for Carroll, leaving behind an entire class of kids that came to Knoxville after being promised by Kiffin that he would be their coach. Worse, there are nine high school recruits committed to Tennessee that graduated early in order to enroll in January and participate in spring practice. What happens to them should they decide to transfer; especially now that many schools have committed to other players? Don’t ask Pete Carroll or Kiffin because neither one of them care. Nor, apparently, do the stuffed shirts at the NCAA.