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USC is officially free of NCAA sanctions

USC fires Lane Kiffin; Orgeron is interim coach
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Lane Kiffin became the symbol of USC's issues during its four years of NCAA probation. (AP)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014. The day that the sanctions were lifted from USC.

The Trojans'  four-year probationary period in the wake of the sanctions involving violations by Reggie Bush and others is over. After Bush agreed to become the first client of a sports agency, he and his family received benefits from the group including housing, transportation and money.

The NCAA found a USC staff member knew of the improprieties and failed to report them while the school's compliance department was lackadaisical and an investigation was slow to take place. When coupled with violations from the basketball program, the NCAA demed that USC had a lack of institutional control from 2004-2009 and gave the school a two-year postseason ban, a loss of scholarships over three seasons and four years of probation.

What's happened in those four years of probations? Let's take a look:

• Since Pete Caroll left USC before the sanctions hit after the 2009 season, the only head coaching contemporary of Carroll's who is still at the same Pac-12 school is Oregon State's Mike Riley. (Utah and Kyle Whittingham joined the conference after Carroll's departure.) Every other school has made one coaching change, and if you're Colorado, the number is two.

• Lane Kiffin, a co-offensive coordinator for USC under Carroll was hired to replace Carroll in January, 2010, shortly after Carroll's departure. Carroll recently said he wouldn't have left the school if he knew sanctions were coming.

• In Kiffin's first season, a year that didn't have any scholarship reductions, USC finished 8-5. However, because of the postseason ban, the NCAA allowed juniors and seniors to transfer from the program without a penalty and many players took advantage of the provision. Malik Jackson and Byron Moore transferred to Kiffin's old program, Tennessee.

• In September 2010, Bush forfeited his Heisman Trophy.

• In May 2011, the NCAA upheld the ruling of the sanctions, prohibiting USC's potential appearance in a Pac-12 title game. The Trojans would go on to finish 10-2 in 2011, the first year of official scholarship reductions and second year of the bowl ban.

• In June 2011, the BCS announced that USC's 2004 title would be stripped. As part of the sanctions, the university was forced to vacate wins from December 2004 and all of 2005.

• Before the 2012 season, USC was voted preseason No. 1. Kiffin said he would not vote for his team at the top spot, though he actually did, later saying he was speaking from the perspective of an opposing coach. Shortly after the mini-controversy, he relinquished his vote in the poll.

• Perhaps that kerfluffle was a sign of things to come for USC. After starting at such a lofty perch, the downfall of Kiffin's tenure started as the Trojans' lack of depth because of the scholarship penalties was finally exposed, among other flaws. USC finished the season 7-6 after an uninspiring loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. It was almost the first time in 40 years that a preseason No. 1 had ended the year unranked.

Apparently things were so bad after the game that numerous USC players were reported to have fought with each other. However, Kiffin said it was simply a brief verbal alteraction.

• The Trojans started the 2013 season No. 24 in the country but lost 10-7 in the home-opener to Washington State, where USC fans started a rousing "Fire Kiffin" chant. Those fans got their wish at the end of September, when Kiffin was unceremoniously let go after USC was blasted 62-41 by Arizona State.

• Former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron replaced Kiffin as USC's interim head coach and provided a spark for the program, leading USC to an upset win over Stanford and a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl even though he didn't coach it.

Why? Because Orgeron wasn't named the permanent coach despite Kiffin's support for him. In December, USC hired Steve Sarkisian, Kiffin's co-offensive coordinator under Carroll, to become the new head coach. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton coached USC in the Trojans' Las Vegas Bowl obliteration of Fresno State. (Orgeron now plans to take the year off from coaching.)

Because of his previous working relationship with Kiffin, Sarkisian is going to be (fairly or not) linked with his predecessor. And because those ties came under Carroll, he's going to be linked with USC's last period of greatness too. Now, officially free of any NCAA penalties, Sarkisian has advantages Kiffin never did. Will they be a difference?

For more USC news, visit USCFootball.com.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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