Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The idea that "cheaters never prosper" isn't exactly a true statement, is it? The USC football program is a perfect example of this.
The Trojans enjoyed unprecedented prosperity under Pete Carroll's watchful (tongue in cheek) eye, playing annually in BCS Bowl games, winning two national titles, and laying claim to a trio of Heisman Trophies in a four-year span (Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush).
However, times are changing and an exhaustive, four-year investigation by the NCAA into violations by the USC football, men's basketball and women's tennis programs has recently concluded, resulting in serious punishment for the school.
Of course, the central figures, Pete Carroll, Heisman winner Reggie Bush and star basketball player O.J. Mayo are all out of reach from the NCAA, leaving the school to deal with any and all consequences.
Victories were vacated for all three sports involved, but the football program will suffer the most, forfeiting wins starting in December 2004, including the school's national championship win over Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl. All wins during the 2005 football season are also forfeited.
Pete Carroll's legacy at USC will forever be looked upon with a skeptical eye.
Reggie Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy remains with him for now. There is no timetable on that decision by the Heisman committee, but if Bush is ruled ineligible for that time period, it only stands to reason that the award will be taken away. The runner-up that year was Vince Young, who has already come out publicly and said he won't accept it if presented to him.
The real shame is that one of the most successful eras in modern college football history is now tainted, and Pete Carroll's legacy at USC will forever be looked upon with a skeptical eye.
I don't think it is any coincidence that Carroll's departure to the NFL came at just the right time.
In a video response posted on YouTube, Carroll said he was "absolutely shocked and disappointed" at the NCAA's findings.
"After going through the process, from the depositions and the interviews over years and years, and also participating in the hearing for the NCAA, I never thought there were any facts that supported these significant sanctions that have come forth," Carroll said. "The primary issue throughout the process was, did the university know? The university didn't know, we didn't know. We were not aware of any of these findings."
Plausible deniability isn't exactly a viable defense for Carroll to use. Does anyone believe he was completely unaware?
The NCAA had no compassion in that regard, citing a lack of control surrounding the football and men's basketball programs, saying the "general campus environment surrounding the violations troubled the committee."
In addition to the forfeiture of victories, the football program will also suffer a two-year ban from postseason play and will lose a total of 30 scholarships (10 each for three seasons), while the athletics program as a whole will be put on probation for four years, running through June 9, 2014.
It is clear that the NCAA wanted to make an example of USC and let schools know that similar violations will be dealt with harshly.
Carroll, Bush and Mayo are untouchable in this and that doesn't seem fair. Those that will pay the price however, include new head coach Lane Kiffin and the university as a whole.
Will USC football suffer?
Of course. The immediate future seems bleak, if the current sanctions stand following appeal. The school will go through that process, but the likelihood of the NCAA reversing its decision is slim at best.
The big picture however, is a little brighter. The Trojans will not be part of any national title hunts for the next couple of years, but rest assured, USC football will be relevant again, and it won't be long before the new-look Pac-10 has a familiar face carrying the conference banner.