NCAA probe of USC complete

After almost four years of investigation, the NCAA’s probe into the University of Southern California athletic program has reached a conclusion. Sources familiar with the investigation have told Yahoo! Sports that the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions will meet Feb. 19-21 to address what investigators uncovered at USC. According to typical NCAA procedures, if sanctions are necessary, they will be determined and then made public via a news conference within six to eight weeks of the February hearing.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn declined comment. The NCAA’s website indicates the next meeting of the Committee on Infractions will occur Feb. 19-21 in Tempe, Ariz.

Neither USC nor Pac-10 officials could be immediately reached for comment.

The meeting will be the apex in the NCAA’s probe into USC’s athletic program, as it represents the first determination on whether sanctions should be leveled against the school. The determination on a hearing date also indicates USC has received a letter of allegations from the NCAA and that the school has responded in some way. According to NCAA procedures, schools informed of infractions have at least 90 days to respond. After the response period has expired, a case summary is completed and a date is set for the Committee on Infractions to meet and determine whether there is a basis for sanctioning.

The NCAA’s investigation of USC has been ongoing since April 2006, when a series of Yahoo! Sports reports detailed allegations of extra benefits given to running back Reggie Bush and his family by a failed sports marketing company. Since then, the probe has come to encompass former Trojans basketball star O.J. Mayo and the men’s basketball program, after a report by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” detailed benefits that allegedly had been funneled to Mayo. Former Trojans basketball coach Tim Floyd abruptly resigned after a Yahoo! Sports report detailed an alleged $1,000 cash payment from Floyd to a man who had helped steer Mayo to USC. The investigation is believed to also include Trojans running back Joe McKnight, whose use of a 2006 Land Rover and ties to a marketing entrepreneur in Santa Monica also have come under scrutiny after a recent report in the Los Angeles Times.

Recent developments at USC, including its decision to self-sanction its basketball program, appear to have occurred after the Trojans received the NCAA’s letter of allegations. News of the hearing also indicates that former Trojans football coach Pete Carroll has been aware for weeks of the specific violations the NCAA may be alleging against his program. Carroll resigned as USC football coach on Sunday and has been named coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

The NCAA probe has stretched beyond individual athletes, widening its focus to USC’s control of its sports programs, as well as various aspects of compliance and oversight, according to sources. It is expected to make conclusions on USC’s institutional control and whether the school had the proper checks and balances in place to oversee its athletes.

USC already sanctioned itself for NCAA violations during the 2007-08 season related to Mayo allegedly having accepted benefits from known sports agency runner Rodney Guillory. The penalties levied by USC included a ban on postseason play, a reduction of scholarships, recruiting restrictions and the vacation of all victories from the 2007-08 season. Both Mayo, through his agent, and Floyd have denied wrongdoing.