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NCAA rejects reprieve for USC. Now what?

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Almost a year after the NCAA dropped one of the largest bombs in its history on USC, the fallout is official: Citing "multiple sources inside and outside the university," USCFootball.com reports today that the NCAA has informed the university that all sanctions have been upheld in full. (The L.A. Times has also confirmed.) The official release is expected to come on Thursday.

USC's appeal targeted two aspects of the sanctions: The second half of a two-year postseason ban (the Trojans "voluntarily" served the first half of the ban last season) and, more importantly, massive scholarship reductions that take away 30 scholarships over the next three years, limiting USC to just 15 signees per year instead of the standard twenty-five. That part, they certainly have not served — not including eight early enrollees who count against last year's (unreduced) scholarship numbers, the Trojans are expected to welcome 22 new players to campus by the fall as part of the 2011 recruiting class.

At this point, what happens to the seven "extra" players who now exceed the 15-man limit is still anyone's guess. Personally, mine is that nothing will happen: The NCAA will most likely allow the entire 2011 class to enroll as planned and begin the three-year enforcement window with the 2012 class, which is already halfway there with eight early commitments. As Association spokesman Stacey Osburn told the Orange County Register in January, "generally speaking, when a school is appealing a penalty, that penalty is staid until a decision by the Infractions Appeals Committee is rendered." That decision has been rendered; the penalty is now in effect.

Thus ends whatever tension remained in the drama that began unfolding when Yahoo! first reported on Reggie Bush's elaborate improper benefits scheme almost five years ago. Bush's Heisman Trophy is gone (as is USC's copy), his name, face and statistics have been banished from the official record, his number has been removed from the L.A. Coliseum, 13 consecutive Trojan victories from 2004-05 have been wiped from the books and, now that the appeal is officially a lost cause, the 2004 BCS championship is almost certain to be revoked, too. Pete Carroll is gone. Mike Garrett is gone. Todd McNair is gone. The sense of invulnerability against the rest of the West Coast is long gone. Now, whatever hope still existed of avoiding the full brunt of the NCAA's verdict is gone. All that's left is to convince rising seniors with a penalty-free transfer at their disposal to play out the string with no opportunity at a Pac-12 championship or bowl game, and then to grin and bear it.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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