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Don't count on USC winning an appeal

Minutes after Committee on Infractions chair Paul Dee answered his last question regarding USC, the university released a statement with its intent to appeal the penalties.

The odds of the Trojans winning that appeal, however, aren’t good.

According to a source with extensive knowledge of infractions and appeals processes, a switch in the NCAA’s standards makes it extremely difficult for an institution or individual to win an appeal.

"Under new standards, you’re just not going to see penalties overturned,’’ the source said. “It used to be you had to show the penalty was excessive or inappropriate. Now you have to show that the COI abused its discretion. In other words, you have to prove they had an agenda. That’s impossible."

The trouble is spelled out on the NCAA’s website, where it reads:

"The Infractions Appeals Committee will reverse or modify a ruling … only if one of the following standards is proven:

  • The ruling was clearly contrary to the evidence.

  • The individual or school did not actually break NCAA rules.

  • There was a procedural error that caused the COI to find a violation.

  • The penalty is excessive AND is an abuse of discretion.

"I am sure that’s in part why this took so long," the source said. "They wanted to make sure they crossed every 'T' and dotted every 'I' and didn’t commit some procedural error. That’s almost the only way to get overturned on appeal."

The rule went into effect in 2008 and since then none of the four high-profile cases brought up for appeal have been altered.

Alabama tried to argue that its penalty -- vacating 21 victories -- was excessive and that no other school had been punished similarly in cases involving student-athletes obtaining textbooks not included in their scholarships.

The Crimson Tide lost on appeal.

Memphis tried to reverse the decision to vacate its 2007-08 season, claiming the COI didn’t have enough evidence to suggest that either the school or Derrick Rose had reason to know that he was ineligible.

The appeals committee "found no basis to conclude that the penalty was excessive such that the Committee on Infractions had abused its discretion in imposing the penalty."

Florida State tried to overturn the punishment meted out to its football team, arguing the COI didn’t give enough consideration to the university’s involvement in the investigation.

The penalty was affirmed.

The same happened with Indiana last year, when the NCAA affirmed its punishments of the Hoosiers and head coach Kelvin Sampson, denying the school and the coach’s appeal to lessen the penalties that crippled the program.