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Talk to the Hand: NCAA Upholds USC Sanctions, What’s Next for Troy?

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As of this morning there still hasn't been anything released officially, but according to numerous sources in the know, the NCAA will uphold the sanctions placed on the University of Southern California and its football team.

Were you worried those fine folks at the NCAA weren't going to stick to their guns on this?

I really wasn't as I always felt USC had no chance in this appeal process. There were just far too many bridges burnt by the time Mike Garrett left as AD of the school.

I will admit I did a couple fist pumps when I heard the news last night about USC having to deal with all of the sanctions placed upon them. But at the same time, I've been pretty vocal in my apathy towards the whole situation.

There will be a ton of fascination and intrigue surrounding how USC goes about handling this, and that's something I look forward to, yet I don't really wish to see the Trojans fall into a pattern of relatively mediocre 8-win seasons for the next five years or so.

As an independent, it's simply not in Notre Dame's best interests for their major rival to be down in the dumps.

It's bad for the Irish and it's bad for college football.

But alas, there's nothing we can do now but sit back and watch Lane Kiffin and Pat Haden try and overcome these obstacles.

What's next for Southern California?

The impact of the scholarship reductions is a slippery slope, with every source having a different opinion on how many the Trojans can take this year and in the future.

I find this sort of fascinating in the sense that this is the first major penalty like this for a big time program in the modern age of recruiting. We've never really seen a team like USC have to deal with such major sanctions in an era where recruiting is as popular as ever for the masses, 7 on 7 camps are booming, and with so many fans clearly emotionally invested in the whole enchilada 365 days a year.

USC signed 30 prospects for the 2011 class, but a handful of that group are expected not to qualify.

There's already speculation that Kiffin & Co. will grayshirt players, or gently ease as many non-performers out the door as possible. Good luck doing that under the media scrutiny.

Whatever USC ends up doing to skirt some of these rules, move guys around or out of town, eventually they will end up having to rely on:

A. Young Players

B. Inexperienced Players

That's not a great recipe for success even if you're bringing in highly talented recruits as they have in the past, including last February.

We've already seen some of these effects take place and it has resulted in USC coming down to earth and not looking like half the team they were a few years ago.

The Men of Troy are 17-9 over the past two years and by the time their bowl ban ends they will not have won a major BCS game in three years. That's a decent record for most schools in the country to be sure, but three years (minimum at this point) out of the spotlight is an eternity in today's game.

Remember when Notre Dame was last in the Sugar Bowl? It might as well have been 20 years ago.

I'm convinced that USC is not going to fall off the map or even return to their pre-Carroll level of winning (or should I say losing), though.

From 1991 through 2001, the Trojans were 71-58-3 (.549).

I think the chances of a .500 season (something deemed unthinkable as little as 12-15 months ago, and still somewhat true today) is becoming more likely, at least once over the next two or three years.

Nevertheless, I still believe this is going to be a program that will persistently win 8 or 9 games every year at minimum, with perhaps an outlier season thrown in there. I would be somewhat shocked to see USC's winning percentage fall below .600 from 2009 until the sanctions are done.

The bad news for USC is that even when the sanctions are done, they will still be affecting the program well into 2015 and beyond.

Right now, what are the odds that a Lane Kiffin-coached USC team overcomes all of this and posts a 10 or 11-win season in the next three years? Pretty low, right?

It's still amazing that Kiffin is even the head coach at USC, let alone the person responsible for digging the Trojans out of this mess. How he and Pat Haden get along is a mystery that needs to be solved.

What isn't a mystery is that 2011 is an important year for USC and especially for Kiffin. I am sure a major reason why Trojan supporters on and off campus want Kiffin around is that he will recruit high level players to Los Angeles.

But how many mediocre seasons are they willing to accept from Kiffin in return? I doubt he'll be fired anytime soon without some major catastrophe occurring, but you have to think 2011 is a momentous season for the long term health of the program.

If there was ever a program that would be able to survive this ordeal, USC would probably be in the top 5 candidates, but even the best have to succumb at some point, and having Lane Kiffin as a head coach can't inspire too much confidence right now.

It's not like USC has a cake walk schedule this year either:

Minnesota, Utah, Syracuse, @ Arizona, Arizona State, Bye, @ Cal (AT&T Park), @ Notre Dame, Stanford, @ Colorado, Washington, @ Oregon, and UCLA.

Brutal.

12 games against BCS opponents. Possibly as many as 5 ranked teams.

How will they handle this test?

It's been 10 years since USC came to Notre Dame in mid-season with more than one loss on their record. What's it going to be like if the Trojans have already lost 2 games prior to coming to South Bend this October?

We know things are going to be different now between the Fighting Irish and Trojans, but how different?