Three ineligible for Emerald Bowl

The hits just keep coming for USC.

Starting running back and leading rusher Joe McKnight did not travel with the Trojans to the Bay Area for Saturday's Emerald Bowl against Boston College, while tight end Anthony McCoy, offensive tackle Tyron Smith and defensive tackle Averell Spicer have been ruled academically ineligible, the school announced.

"[McKnight] has some paperwork he needs to do and it's best for him to stay in L.A. so he can be available to finish it," Trojans coach Pete Carroll said.

Carroll did not have a timetable for McKnight's return.

"We don't know right now how long this will take," he said.

McCoy and Smith are both starters and earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors. Spicer is a key reserve. McCoy and Spicer are both seniors, so their USC careers are over.

"We're really disappointed these guys didn't come through," Carroll said in a statement. "They had all the help in the world to get it done and they didn't do it."

McCoy will be replaced by sophomore Rhett Ellison, while redshirt freshman Matt Kalil will replace Smith.

Late Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported that McKnight had been using a 2006 Land Rover that belonged to a Santa Monica businessman who reportedly employs McKnight's girlfriend. That could violate NCAA rules as an extra benefit, which could also make the junior ineligible for the bowl game.

McKnight has denied driving the car, but the Los Angeles Times said in a story that one of its reporters has seen USC's leading rusher driving the SUV several times.

USC is investigating McKnight's use of the vehicle to find out if it is in violation of NCAA rules.

The businessman, Scott Schenter, told the Times that McKnight's girlfriend owns the car and makes the payments and that he helped purchase it when her family had trouble qualifying for a loan.

USC is already being investigated by the NCAA and Pac-10 regarding accusations that running back Reggie Bush and basketball star O.J. Mayo received improper benefits during their time at the school.

Ted Miller covers the Pac-10 for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.