The NCAA Committee on Infractions issued its penalties to Southern California football program Thursday. Sanctions include a two-year postseason ban, a major reduction in scholarships and increased scrutiny over the team's recruiting practices.
How this will affect head coach Lane Kiffin and the Trojans is a major source of speculation in the aftermath of a press conference presided over by Committee on Infractions chair and University of Miami (Fla.) lecturer of law and education Paul Dee.
Some current players could rush to the NFL. There may be a transfer or two. But will it decimate USC's recruiting efforts for years to come?
Kiffin's attitude and personality are well-suited for this type of situation.
The NCAA is ostensibly dropping the hammer on USC and other programs are now on alert. Playing the role of the bad guy was something Kiffin did well in his brief stint at Tennessee, and it's something he will continue to embrace at USC.
Players that commit to Kiffin understand that he is cavalier head coach with a name often soaked in controversy.
That will ring even more true now that USC's rule-breaking is being spotlighted, whether Kiffin had a hand in making this bed or not.
It remains to be seen what will happen with the incoming class of 2010. A major shake-up would be a surprise.
The class of 2011, however, will be more interesting to follow.
Seven rising seniors are currently committed to the Trojans, including Crenshaw (Los Angeles, Calif.) standout De'Anthony Thomas and Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) duo Max Wittek and Victor Blackwell. Mission Viejo linebacker Tre Madden, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) defensive end Jalen Grimble, Centennial (Bakersfield, Calif.) quarterback Cody Kessler and Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) defensive tackle Antwaun Woods are also on board.
Most of these players come from USC pipelines. All except Grimble go to school in or near Southern California. Mater Dei has sent both Matt Leinart and Matt Barkley among many other Monarchs, while Mission Viejo delivered Marc Sanchez.
Taft and Bishop Gorman both produced USC commitments in the class of 2010 in D.J. Morgan and Xavier Grimble. Crenshaw's Hayes Pullard also signed a national letter of intent to USC.
Since this group won't play a down for USC until Sept. 3, 2011 at the earliest (a home game against Minnesota), they will likely only endure one year of the postseason ban, which isn't entirely devastating.
Calls to Mater Dei were not immediately returned, and Crenshaw head coach Robert Garrett declined comment.
Every school in the Pac-10 and elsewhere will now attempt to leverage the situation against the Trojans for their own gain through negative recruiting.
However, USC appears to be way out in front in the recruiting cycle, and it will have plenty of time for damage control. Think seventh grade-commit David Sills is worried about a two-year postseason ban? Current 2012 commit Jordan Payton would also be unaffected.
This issue of reduced scholarships will be the trickiest to overcome. It greatly narrows Kiffin's margin of error. USC will need to hit its mark on player evaluation and development. Kiffin and staff will need to make sure that the next Joe McKnight is not really Vidal Hazelton in disguise; the next Taylor Mays is not actually Antwine Perez.
No matter how you slice it, a reduction of 30 scholarships over three years is a brutally harsh penalty, a bitter pill to swallow for even a group of outstanding recruiters at Heritage Hall headlined by the likes of Ed Orgeron.
The team's depth will be tested. The Trojans will still land elite talent, but even if every recruit they reel in pans out, the depth chart will still be lean.
The situation will thrust Kiffin and his resourcefulness into the spotlight – a position he seems to relish.