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Notre Dame, USC’s Sanctions & an Offseason for the Ages

It has been an off-season for the ages, one filled with an endless amount of news, tragedies, rumors and everything in between.

For Notre Dame fans, it has been a complete whirlwind.

First, Charlie Weis was fired and that was followed up with two of the most talented players in school history leaving early for the NFL.

The program was thrown into question until Brian Kelly stepped in and took over power.

Then, Kelly successfully signed a very strong recruiting class, only to see his crown-jewel prospect die in a tragic accident in Florida.

What’s more, there have been the questions at quarterback and how Dayne Crist’s knee would heal after tearing his ACL on Halloween 2009.

There was the god forsaken "We are ND" video and the news of a three game series with the Miami Hurricanes starting in 2012.

Now, we’re directly in the eye of the storm with conference realignment and the fate that has apparently befallen the Trojans of Southern California.

There are so many different scenarios that could play out with the conferences that it makes me dazed and confused. It’s like college football has descended into the Twilight Zone and there’s no end in sight, no light at the end of the tunnel.

Can you imagine if the realignment discussions continue into the 2011 off-season?

I’ve never wanted to sit back and just watch football more in my entire life. Three more months until the season starts might as well be three years at this rate.

With everything that is going on in the world of college football, it’s hard to make sense of it all.

Which is why I am fairly apathetic to the news of Southern California’s sanctions handed out by the NCAA.

There’s still so much uncertainty about the impact of these sanctions, that it is hard to have a strong opinion on the matter.

And just when I’m ready to put some good thought into it news comes that Colorado is leaving the Big 12 and joining forces with the Pac-10.

Around and around we go, like a bad carnival ride.

I guess I’ll have to get used to it.

Let me try and elaborate on the USC situation as best I can before I am sidetracked by Missouri leaving for the Big Ten, Texas jumping to the Pac-10 with their buddies or the Sun Belt surprising us all and creating their own TV network and 16-team conference.

On the surface, the USC sanctions couldn’t make me happier. It has been clear for quite some time that there were some serious violations going on under the previous coaching staff and that something needed to be done about it.

And as best as I can tell, the punishment has fit the crime.

The ruling handed down by the NCAA is reported to have included:

Forfeiture of victories
Loss of 30 scholarships over three years
Two-year bowl ban
Four-years of probation

While not quite a death blow, it is still a rather significant Chuck Norris-like punch to the face that should leave USC reeling for quite some time.

So for the rest of the summer Irish fans everywhere will be able to gloat and smile, content in the fact that the sinners were caught and punished.

Yet, this moral victory for Notre Dame still feels hollow and somewhat empty.

Deep down, I believe most Irish fans knew it would feel this way.

No matter what the NCAA ruled, it will not change the fact that Notre Dame has lost eight straight to the Trojans and that, sanctions or not, USC will still be ridiculously talented and a tough team to beat in the future.

Maybe I’m wrong and this will have an incredible snowball effect and USC’s fortunes will be diminished rather quickly.

Maybe we’ll see a dozen athletes transfer and a whole pack of verbal commitments change their mind and back away from wanting to play in the Coliseum.

Maybe new head coach Lane Kiffin will continue his pattern of underachievement and the program will slip into eight-win seasons, or worse.

However, even if this doomsday scenario comes true, should Notre Dame fans really be that excited?

I’ve spoken at length on various websites that I am not in favor of beating weaker USC teams and that with conference realignment happening by the minute, Notre Dame has a vested interest in a strong and elite USC program.

Now more than ever, the Irish need to lean on the respect that a strong USC team brings to their schedule.

Without that powerful Trojan presence, Notre Dame may have to kiss independence goodbye, especially with the state of the Michigan’s program and all of their problems.

So, the NCAA did what needed to be done and it is important that they punished USC for their wrong doings. From that aspect, it was a very good day for college football.

But I’m not convinced it was a great day for the nation’s greatest inter-sectional rivalry.

Let’s hope this whole mess serves as a lesson for USC and the rest of the country. That’s the least we can hope for.

But I also hope that Notre Dame and USC will continue to play high-level football and numerous classic games in the future, all without the blemish of the activities that pervaded the last decade of the Trojan program.