First things first. USC fans, you have a right to be outraged by the NCAA infractions appeals committee decision to uphold all penalties against the Trojans football program.
The sanctions -- two-year bowl ban, a 30-scholarship reduction over three years -- were not fair based on historical precedent. They weren't fair based on the flimsy evidence against the program. They weren't fair even if all the findings were true.
Said USC in a statement:
"We respectfully, but vehemently, disagree with the findings of the NCAA's Infractions Appeals Committee. Our position was that the Committee on Infractions abused its discretion and imposed penalties last June that were excessive and inconsistent with established case precedent."
But it's time to get over it. Being angry isn't going to change anything. This, by the way, was expected. The appeals committee is set up to reject appeals. Another ridiculous part of the NCAA process? Absolutely. But as you might have told your child when he or she was ranting about some playground injustice: "Life isn't fair."
Recall this letter from athletic director Pat Haden:
During the period of our NCAA probation we won't wake up each morning with a "woe is me" attitude as a result of the sanctions. I have failed if I cannot create a positive, upbeat environment that cultivates success in spite of the sanctions.
Want some solace? You weren't Ohio State coach Jim Tressel when you got out of bed this morning. He might be the only person more unhappy with the NCAA ruling than USC fans. If the USC football program gets hammered like this for the Reggie Bush fiasco, what will Tressel face? The stocks for a year in Ann Arbor?
A second grounds for solace? It's over. The seemingly endless process is at an end. After the anger slows a bit, there at least will be clarity, even if the picture isn't rosy.
USC won't be eligible to compete for the first Pac-12 South Division title. Scholarship limits over the next three years will have a significant impact on competitiveness. It's unlikely the Trojans will rejoin the national title hunt within five years. (Pedro Moura does a nice job here speculating on the immediate scholarship situation).
A third grounds for solace? USC is a far better athletic program today under Haden than it was under the often bizarre leadership of Mike Garrett, whose adversarial handling of the NCAA investigation provided a firm foundation for the infractions committee to justify a fit of pique when the evidence didn't do so. (Chris Defresne does a nice job of explaining that here).
A final grounds for solace? USC was far from innocent. For all the winning the Pete Carroll Era produced, the program was a circus of opportunity for leaches and opportunists. Part of the NCAA's ire -- the justified part -- was the lack of organized and firm monitoring. That appears to have changed under Haden.
Who are the big winners today? The other 11 teams in the Pac-12, particularly the five teams in the Pac-12 South, and -- most particularly-- UCLA.
Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel is on the hot seat, yes, but if he can lead a successful season -- seven or eight wins -- he should survive and then have a banner year recruiting in Southern California almost by default. Some were surprised that didn't happen this past recruiting campaign, when Lane Kiffin surged and Neuheisel tanked. But the new reality is there are more than 15 elite recruits in the Los Angeles area and if they want to play football near home, they now have only one option in an AQ conference.
That won't make USC fans happy. But, Trojans, it's time to breathe. USC is a timeless football program. It will rise again.
Oh, one more grounds for solace: The NCAA has its own problems.