Mailbag: Scholarship hits and USC's appeal

Confession: Sorta ducked most of the expansion notes.

With Nebraska now joining the Big Ten, and Texas set to lead a migration to the Pac-10, things will be less speculative next week.

Surely we will all enjoy a return to cold hard facts.

Jeffery from Long Beach writes: Could you explain who [USC's] scholarship reductions mean?

Ted Miller: Here's what the NCAA wrote: "Reduction of football athletics scholarships to 15 initial grants and 75 total grants for each of the 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years. This represents a decrease of 10 scholarships for each of the three seasons."

What that means is USC can sign only 15 players in each of the next three recruiting classes AND it can't exceed 75 scholarship players (duh, I know). The latter number isn't terribly relevant because it's unlikely the Trojans roster will have more than 60 players on scholarship heading into the 2011 offseason (the guess here is there will be some extra attrition, some of which might be encouraged by coach Lane Kiffin, some not).

USC hasn't signed a full class of 25 since it signed 26 in 2006. The last four classes had 20 (three times) and 18 scholarship players.

The way this becomes painful for a program, however, is that, after the first year the Trojans attrition likely will outnumber 15 scholarships, so they'll be losing numbers each season. By 2014, USC's scholarship numbers figure to be in the 60s instead of the maximum 85. And then, even with full classes of 25 starting in 2014-15, it will take probably three years to get numbers fully replenished.

One thing can help: creativity with walk-ons. ESPN's Bruce Feldman had an interesting takeInsider on how Miami handled itself during severe scholarship reductions:

Miami was hit with hefty scholarship reductions (31) in the mid '90s, and had a one-year postseason ban. Butch Davis' program later ended up with little depth and was forced to play a lot of younger players well before they were ready. Davis and his right-hand man, Pete Garcia, had to be very creative in getting talented players into the program without some scholarships, either juggling with academic scholarships or track scholarships and also getting some help from a former pro baseball player.

Josh from Puyallup, Wash., writes: As a SC fan I can't help but wonder if it's not worth trying to appeal the sanctions because you seem to only be prolonging the inevitable, I want us to get this over with as fast as possible to be able to compete with Texas when the Pac-16 is in effect? Thoughts?

Ted Miller: Infractions committee chair Paul Dee made that very point and it's a legitimate argument. If USC appeals the bowl ban and scholarship reductions, it means the Trojans could play in a bowl after the 2010 season and sign a full recruiting class of 25. But it also means that, if they lose the appeal, which has a longshot of winning as it is and likely wouldn't be decided until next spring or summer, they'd be out of the postseason in 2011 and 2012 -- the potential first year of the Pac-16. They would take the scholarship hits (10 per year over three recruiting classes) from 2011 through 2013.

It's not an easy choice. You'd think USC would like to be on the upswing as soon as possible as it heads into a new conference.

Keith from Bend, Ore., writes: I did not realize that the split was not equal for each school [in the Pac-10] Do you have any info on what each Pac 10 school receives (most recent year)?

Ted Miller: You are correct. The Pac-10, at present, does not equally share TV money. Schools that are on TV more get to keep more money. I can do better than even show you how the TV money was divided. I can send you to Bob Condotta's article on the very topic that includes a nice graphic and explains why teams get more and what that means. It's a year old but it's very informative.

Matt from Denver writes: In reference to your answer to where Colorado Football ranks historically among Pac-10 members, CU is second all time behind USC in total wins, fourth in winning percentage, and are one of four pac-10 teams to actually ever win a national title.

Ted Miller: Matt is right, and I must confess I was surprised to find out that Colorado is 17th in all-time victories. USC is 10th and Washington is 22nd.

So don't be fooled by recent records. The Buffaloes are a quality football program.

Russell from New York writes: Regarding the Pac- 10 expansion. As a CU alum I might mention something that hasn't been discussed at all but if you add up the alumni base of CU in every state in the big 12 (except colorado) you still wouldn't come close to the amount of Alums that live in California (SF and LA mostly). It might as well be a California school.

Ted Miller: Another good point.

Larry from Macon, Ga., writes: How do you feel about saying USC wouldn't get slammed like Alabama now, smart guy?

Ted Miller: Wrong.