UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- USC coach Lane Kiffin said there is no way to compare the recent scandals at USC and Penn State and the corresponding sanctions the schools received from the NCAA, but he does sympathize with Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien for what he is about to face.
O'Brien, a first-year college head coach, is entering into the same situation Kiffin had to work through during his first season with the Trojans in 2010. USC's juniors and seniors were eligible to transfer then without sitting out a year in what Kiffin termed free agency, and all of Penn State's players are now allowed to do the same.
"I do think the cases are similar in that regard," Kiffin told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Tuesday. "And I do feel for their coaching staff. You're dealing with a head coach who wasn't there and has nothing to do with it and players who weren't there, either.
"They're paying the price even though they had nothing to do with it, which is obviously similar to what we went through."
Penn State was sanctioned on Monday by the NCAA in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal with a $60 million fine, four-year postseason ban and a loss of 80 scholarships over four years, as well as the vacating of wins since 1998 and several other punishments. NCAA president Mark Emmert said the investigation into the university's cover-up of Sandusky's history of sexual abuse revealed "perverse and unconscionable results."
In June 2010, USC received a two-year postseason ban and a loss of 30 scholarships for violations stemming from the Reggie Bush era, among other consequences, with the NCAA ruling the school demonstrated a lack of institutional control over its athletic programs. After a four-year investigation, the NCAA found that Bush received improper benefits while a student-athlete at USC and determined that the Trojans' staff should have been aware of it.
USC is now eligible to play in a bowl game for the first time in Kiffin's tenure and is expected to contend for the national championship. But the Trojans are still being limited by the scholarship punishment and only signed 12 players on National Signing Day in February.
"We can't speak to how these sanctions are going to impact the Penn State program," USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement released Monday. "At USC, we found that the most difficult part of our NCAA sanctions has been the reduction of scholarships."
Kiffin said the Penn State situation has made him and his staff more aware of other issues facing modern college football programs. For example, he said, all of the counselors and staff members at each of the Trojans' summer football camps are put through background checks before they're allowed to work with campers.
"We've been doing that for a couple years now, but Penn State brings it back to light and puts some attention on it," Kiffin told ESPNLosAngeles.com.