USC has announced self-imposed sanctions that include banning its current 10-4 team from postseason play due to NCAA rules violations the program committed involving one-and-done guard O.J. Mayo.
The timing of the announcement is devastating to a team that has established itself as a legitimate contender for the Pac-10 regular-season title. The Trojans, using a stifling defense and a new point guard, have won eight in a row and could receive national poll recognition on Monday after beating Arizona State last night, 47-37, to complete a home sweep of the Arizona schools.
Coach Kevin O'Neill told ESPN's Kelly Naqi that athletic director Mike Garrett told him of the sanctions after last night's game when the Sun Devils were held to a low of 37 points in a single game for the second time since the 1949-50 season.
O'Neill told Naqi he met with the players this morning who were "stunned, shocked, disappointed."
The Trojans will vacate all 21 wins during the 2007-08 season under coach Tim Floyd when Mayo played while ineligible. Also, there will be a reduction of one scholarship for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years as well as limitations in recruiting activities.
"I think the University did the right thing in self-imposing sanctions," O'Neill said in a statement. "I respect and understand the action that was taken. Our players have risen to many challenges already this season and I am proud of what they have accomplished. I am confident that they will rise to this latest challenge.
“As their coach, I will do everything in my power to make our program better on and off the court every day. Our job as a team now is to move forward in a positive manner. We have 16 games left to play this season. I have no doubt that our players will prepare and play well in those games. While it is unfortunate that our players won't have the chance to compete in the postseason, that just makes every game for us now a postseason game.”
According to USC, Mayo became ineligible because of his involvement with Rodney Guillory, who under NCAA rules became a USC booster due to his role in Mayo's recruitment.
Floyd, who was not mentioned in the release, had also been accused of giving money to Guillory in 2007. Floyd resigned in the offseason, and O'Neill has said that an ongoing investigation "has basically taken over our team, since we lost so many players," with recruits backing out of their commitments.
But O'Neill is surprising people with his current team, which dominates on defense. Gerrity has been a revelation since becoming eligible and taking over at point guard. Leonard Washington became academically eligible, and along with transfer Alex Stepheson, the two have been tough in the paint. Also playing inspired basketball are Johnson and Nikola Vucevic.
Like it or not, their season ends March 6.
“When we’ve done something wrong, we have an obligation to do something about it and that is exactly what we are doing here,” Garrett said in a statement.