December 22, 2009
USC thought it had everything for its postseason trip to San Francisco. But this Christmas, leading rusher Joe McKnight is ... home alone:
Joe McKnight's chances of playing for USC in the Emerald Bowl appeared to dim Monday when the junior tailback did not accompany the Trojans to the Bay Area for the start of practices and activities leading into Saturday's game against Boston College.
Upon arrival in San Francisco, however, Carroll said in statement posted on the school's website that McKnight remained at home to complete "compliance-related" business.
"He has some paperwork he needs to do and it's best for him to stay in L.A. so he can be available to finish it," Carroll said.
McKnight, still waiting on the results of an internal investigation into his driving an SUV registered to a local marketing pro, isn't actually alone on the Trojans' no-fly list: He joins a trio of academic casualties from the regular rotation -- tight end Anthony McCoy, offensive tackle Tyron Smith and defensive tackle Averell Spicer -- and may still play, per Carroll, who said before the team left on Monday that he expected McKnight to make the trip and suggested later that the paperwork keeping his star back in Los Angeles was just a formality. But as of this morning, McKnight's status remains very much in flux.
His absence from the game would sting much deeper than the loss of his production on the field, because it would suggest there's more fire behind the smoke in the SUV probe than the vehicle's owner, Scott Schenter, would have us believe. Even if Schenter's story -- that he only put his name on the papers for the Land Rover on behalf of McKnight's girlfriend, a "long time family friend" and employee whose parents couldn't afford the loan, and has no connection to McKnight or USC -- checks out, the whiff of under-the-table prizes has already intensified the stench of the NCAA's longstanding probe into more damning charges against ex-Trojans Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. If McKnight doesn't show for the game on Saturday -- and especially if he proceeds to take his act to the draft after suggesting he planned to return to USC for his senior season -- it will be impossible not to enter his not-so-grand finale as the latest exhibit for prosecution.