NCAA reinstates Leinart after 'inadvertent' violation

Matt Leinart's appearance in a promotional spot for ESPN violated an NCAA rule, but the USC quarterback had his eligibility restored Tuesday, an NCAA spokesman said.

USC declared Leinart ineligible this month after the spot -- a "SportsCenter is next" promo that was taped after the Trojans' Dec. 3 victory over UCLA -- aired on ESPN. The Trojans reported the violation to the NCAA and petitioned for Leinart's reinstatement.

"Whenever we are aware that media outlets ask student-athletes to do these kinds of tags, we immediately cut them off," Tim Tessalone, USC's sports information director, said. "Unfortunately, this one slipped by."

According to the NCAA's Kent Barrett, Leinart's actions were "unintentional and inadvertent. This was the type of thing where it was obvious the student-athlete was not attempting to become an endorser of a network."

"We were unaware of any potential violations for taping a short 'SportsCenter is next' tag during a guest appearance," ESPN said in a statement. "It was an inadvertent mistake and we are glad it's resolved."

Leinart, who finished third in this year's Heisman Trophy balloting and won the award last year, has practiced three times in preparation for the Jan. 4 Rose Bowl against Texas.

Barrett said athletes may take part in practice and team and school activities while reinstatement petitions are considered by the NCAA. Leinart's situation came to light when USC's sports information staff turned down post-practice interview requests for the senior, who is made available to the media only on Tuesdays.

Tessalone said Leinart had been barred by USC from participating in media activities until after Christmas.