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Did USC basketball get off easy?

7/26/2010

Last week, Diamond Leung told you about USC's new O.J. Mayo policy. That policy, in essence, is: "Who?" The school plans to whitewash all traces of the Mayo era from its collective consciousness, closing the book on the school's loosey-goosey relationship with its illicit one-and-done star.

According to FanHouse's Ray Holloman, that policy isn't enough. Because in light of USC basketball's behavior, he thinks the hoops program got off light.

At first glance, Holloman's right: USC hoops suffered far less than USC football, which is locked out of postseason play for two years. Meanwhile, though the hoops team forfeited a couple of scholarships, it can participate in this year's NCAA tournament. Given the nature of Tim Floyd's tenure and the Mayo era, which featured the untold financial gifts of Mayo runner Rodney Guillory, the punishment seems decidedly not harsh.

But USC basketball is a unique story. The Trojans sacrificed their hoops program last year in an attempt to save the football team. USC was off to a surprisingly hot start in 2009-10, and could have conceivably made the NCAA tournament had the team not been devastated by its own postseason ban. What the hoops postseason ban did, rather than cause the NCAA to ease up on the Trojans' football cash cow, is convince the NCAA to ease up on the basketball team. USC's athletics program inadvertently saved the hoops team. It didn't mean to, but it did.

Which is why USC basketball, though troubled in the short term, got off comparably light. The Trojans accidentally provided a blueprint for how to save a program -- by inadvertently showing the NCAA it was serious about cleaning up its basketball house. It didn't save the football team, but, in a weird way, it worked.

That's why USC basketball seems as though it got off easy. It did. But considering its own self-sanctions and the example the NCAA is trying to set, it deserved to.