A bad season for USC may get worse

First USC loses its hold on the Pac-10 for the first time in eight years, then the Los Angeles Times reports on more potential NCAA violations.

Things have been better for the Trojans.

The Times report concerns a 2006 Land Rover that running back Joe McKnight allegedly has been seen driving. It belongs to a Santa Monica, Calif., businessman, Scott Schenter, who reportedly employs McKnight's girlfriend and owns a company that registered a Web site called 4joemcknight.com, the Times reported.

McKnight told the Times he has only been a passenger in the Land Rover.

Coach Pete Carroll told the Times that USC is investigating the matter.

The problem for USC is these allegations are similar to the Reggie Bush case, the still unresolved matter that involved would-be sports agents providing cash and gifts to Bush and his family. It's a violation of NCAA rules for athletes to accept gifts, particularly from those who have a professional interest in the athlete. The USC basketball program also is under NCAA and Pac-10 investigation for alleged improper benefits provided to O.J. Mayo.

The NCAA could tie all of these allegations together, view them as a pattern of lax enforcement and rule that USC's athletic department lacks institutional control, which could mean major sanctions.

USC will play Boston College on Dec. 26 in the Emerald Bowl. It's unclear whether this investigation might prevent McKnight from playing.

McKnight is a junior and could declare himself eligible for the 2010 NFL draft this spring.