USC prez: Appeal hearing 'good and fair'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Southern California officials are hoping their second round before the NCAA turns out better than the first.

School president Max Nikias, athletic director Pat Haden and four other university representatives spent more than four hours talking with the infractions appeals committee Saturday in hopes of reducing some sanctions imposed against the Trojans' storied football program. A decision is expected in four to eight weeks.

"All I will say is that I want to thank the NCAA for giving us an opportunity before the appeals committee to have a good and fair hearing," Nikias said after the meeting at an Indianapolis hotel. "Now we have to wait for the ruling."

The Trojans want the NCAA to reduce a two-year bowl ban to one year. They're also hoping the NCAA will limit football scholarship reductions to five in each of the next three years instead of the scheduled 10.

The NCAA imposed those penalties June 10 after ruling Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo received improper benefits. The university also was cited for a lack of institutional control. Bush gave back his Heisman Trophy.

After requiring schools to prove "abuse of discretion" after a rules change instituted in 2008, only one appeal has been successful. The other 10 failed.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the rules do not allow school officials to present any new information in the appeals phase.

Haden and Nikias showed up about 45 minutes before the hearing started. One member of the delegation carried a printed board that outlined the original sanctions against the school, and during two short breaks, the Southern California contingent huddled in discussions.

Nikias made the opening statement. Haden, the former Trojans quarterback and Rhodes Scholar, made the closing argument, the school said in a statement.

After accepting Southern California's self-imposed penalties in men's basketball and women's tennis, the football program took the biggest hit. Football coach Pete Carroll and basketball coach Tim Floyd both left the school.

Two weeks after the June ruling, school officials said they would appeal some of the penalties, calling them excessive. The Trojans were given four years probation, had to vacate 14 wins and were required to banish Bush from the program.

Critics of the original NCAA ruling believe the NCAA's recent decisions involving football programs at Auburn and Ohio State should play in the Trojans favor.

Tigers quarterback Cam Newton was allowed to keep playing despite an NCAA ruling that his father had asked Mississippi State for cash when his son was being recruited out of junior college. Investigators said neither the son nor Auburn knew of the plan. Newton wound up leading Auburn to the national championship and won the Heisman Trophy, too.

Three weeks later, five Ohio State players were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season after the NCAA ruled they had sold their championship rings, jerseys and awards and received improper benefits from a tattoo parlor. But all five, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, were allowed to play in the Buckeyes' bowl game.

Neither Nikias nor the school's statement indicated whether Southern Cal cited the Auburn or Ohio State cases during the hearing.

The scholarship reductions could be an even more pressing issue for a program that won seven straight Pac-10 crowns and back-to-back national titles in 2003 and 2004.

This year's football signing period runs from Feb. 2 through April 1, and if the decision does not come before then, the appeals committee could delay the three-year penalty from 2011-13 to 2012-14.

All Southern Cal can do is wait.

"The university's legal team presented the case for reduced sanctions," the school statement said. "The delegation and the university community look forward to the decision of the infractions appeals committee. Until that time, the delegation will have no further comment."