NCAA won't give USC the Alabama slammer

Here's a nice column from Pat Forde on the myth of the NCAA taking it easy on premier programs.

Examine the NCAA's track record and you'll see that selective enforcement is every bit as real as the Loch Ness Monster or Heidi Montag's chest. It's mythology. Or, in the words of former NCAA Committee on Infractions member Tom Yeager, "it's baloney."

(Forde just worked the Loch Ness Monster and Heidi Montag's chest into a single sentence. You must respect that.)

This is relevant because USC's fate -- after more than four years, three days of NCAA hearings and an infractions committee review of nearly 15 weeks -- is expected to be revealed on Friday.

What should you expect? A punishment that is probably close to fair, but one that will make no one happy.

USC fans don't want any major penalties. That's not likely to happen.

Fans of other teams -- most particularly UCLA and SEC fans -- want USC to be hammered into oblivion. That's not going to happen either.

In anticipation of the latter, let's, please, deal with an issue.

More than a few fans and, unfortunately, a few journalist have written or talked about this case being a litmus test for NCAA enforcement equity: USC must get hit as hard as Alabama in 2002.

Utter rubbish.

Alabama received five years' probation, a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 21 scholarships over three years after it was found that Crimson Tide boosters paid players.

Boosters paid players. Again, boosters paid players. That's the ultimate sin in college sports because it provides a competitive advantage. Preventing pay-for-play is the chief reason the NCAA exists.

Which means, even in the worst-case scenario for the Trojans, the NCAA sanctions should -- and almost certainly will -- fall under the penalties Alabama earned.

Of the Alabama case then-infractions committee chair Thomas Yeager said: "They were absolutely staring down the barrel of a gun [i.e., death penalty] ... These violations are some of the worst, most serious that have ever occurred."

Here's a guess that present infractions committee chair Paul Dee won't say the same about USC.

Now, I can already hear some of the outrage -- my family and I spend Christmas Eve in Alabama annually, so I know this is a sore subject among the Crimson Tide faithful -- which is nearly always followed by misinformation.

So, before heads explode, let's just quickly list the major findings from the Alabama case, courtesy of USA Today.

  • A recruit, identified in news reports as Kenny Smith, and his parents were given $20,000 in cash, lodging and entertainment by two Crimson Tide boosters beginning in 1995. The first payment of $10,000 was made in $100 bills delivered in a grocery bag. Smith signed with Alabama but couldn't meet academic requirements.

  • An Alabama booster previously identified as Logan Young of Memphis, Tenn., gave cash to a high school coach who was seeking $100,000 cash and two sport-utility vehicles in exchange for directing star recruit Albert Means to Alabama.

  • An assistant coach, former recruiting coordinator Ronnie Cottrell, received two loans totaling $56,600 from Young in violation of NCAA rules. The loan was not repaid until the case became known.

  • Two boosters involved in repeated rules violations were known to the Alabama staff, coaches and fans and often were seen at the team hotel during road games.

  • A recruit, identified previously as Travis Carroll, was given the use of a car in 1999 for agreeing to attend Alabama. The car was repossessed when Carroll transferred to Florida.

Let all that swirl in your head for a bit. That's old-school cheating in its purest form. Reading it almost makes you crave a jar of moonshine.

Then compare that list to allegations from the USC case which you can review here and here and here.

Yep. No comparison by any objective measure.

Of course, college football is not about objective measures, which is part of its appeal.

But, in the interest of finding at least some common ground, all parties probably can agree they share two feelings as we await the NCAA: First, who isn't curious about the ruling? And, second, who isn't ready for the darn thing to be over with?