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May 25, 2011It's been more than 11 months since the NCAA Committee on Infractions hit USC with the harshest penalties in the modern era of college football since the "death penalty" meted out to SMU in 1987.
Wednesday, according to multiple sources inside and outside the university, the final decision of the NCAA's Infractions Appeals Committee was in hand and being reviewed by USC before its Thursday release by the NCAA.
And it's not good news for USC football.
Despite speculation and media reports that there might be a willingness on the part of the NCAA to listen favorably to a USC appeal that had asked that the 30 scholarships lost over three years with a maximum of 75 allowed and a two-year postseason bowl ban be cut in half, USCFootball.com's sources indicate that USC's appeal has been denied completely.
The Trojans football team will be allowed to sign no more than 15 players to scholarships for the next three seasons (against a top limit of 25 for schools not under sanction).
And of even more immediate impact, USC would not be able to compete for the first-ever Pac-12 championship or appear in the first-ever postseason championship game in 2011 as well.
Of further concern, the NCAA's unprecedented additional sanction allowing players affected by the postseason ban this year to immediately transfer to another institution without sitting out a season would still be in play for this year's seniors.
While USC did not release the appeal it filed with the NCAA for its Jan. 25 hearing, the hope has been that the NCAA's favorable treatment of both Ohio State and Auburn, who were allowed to play in this year's BCS bowl games despite serious allegations against each program, would play in USC's favor.
At the time in Indianapolis, USC Pres. Max Nikias said: "All I will say is that I want to thank the NCAA for giving us an opportunity before the appeals committee to have a good and fair hearing. Now we have to wait for the ruling."
Now that they have the ruling, it appears much in line with the complete denial the NCAA's Infractions Appeals Committee made in the case of former USC assistant Todd McNair three weeks ago. And while McNair has clearly reserved the right to consider a lawsuit against the NCAA for a number of mistakes in his case, USC Athletics Director Pat Haden had removed that possibility from the school's potential responses.
"A lot of people say it's going to help you," Haden said of the Auburn and Ohio State cases in January before the hearing. "I don't think so. I don't think it helps or hurts us; I think it's irrelevant.
"This is it," Haden said of further action by USC. "There is no appeal after this . . . This is the final frontier."
USC did issue a statement on receiving the appeal Wednesday afternoon saying that "USC has received a response from the NCAA regarding our appeal of NCAA sanctions. However, under NCAA rules, we cannot comment on this response until the NCAA releases the decision to the public tomorrow morning (May 26)."
Dan Weber covers the Trojans program for USCFootball.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.