Concerns that NCAA sanctions would end USC's reign as a college football recruiting force were apparently unfounded.
USC coach Lane Kiffin has already welcomed eight players who enrolled early in January. And Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA’s signing period for fall sports, USC is expected to sign as many as two dozen more players to cap what will surely be a national top-10 recruiting class.
So what happened to the 15-scholarship limit that was supposed to handcuff the program?
USC is appealing that sanction, along with the back half of a two-year bowl ban, which freezes the penalties until a decision that is not expected until later this month or next.
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Meantime, Kiffin and his staff have worked aggressively to build depth before the penalty is implemented. By the time training camp opens in August, USC might have 30 more players than it did at the end of last season.
“This class will probably be the most important class ever signed at USC because of the situation surrounding it,” said Kiffin. “If we were to screw this class up and not get enough guys and take some players that aren’t SC quality, we’d be facing a long dark road.”
A new Football Bowl Subdivision rule caps at 28 the number of players a school can sign to letters of intent or financial aid agreements during the signing period, which runs until May 31. USC’s early enrollees count against its 2010 class, which included 14 players.
Still, any recruiting class larger than 15 would be more than the Trojans were supposed to be able to sign in 2011, 2012 and 2013, according to NCAA sanctions. The penalties also specified that the Trojans would be limited to a 75-player roster in each of those seasons.
Kiffin is aware that he could be perceived as exploiting a loophole. But the Trojans, he said, are working within the rules.
“We are following line by line everything that we’ve been given,” he said. “We’re just maximizing what we’re allowed to do.”
MACK IS BACK
Texas coach Mack Brown says he’s “back in the game” and the entire Longhorns program is re-energized after a dismal 2010 and a tumultuous two months of hiring an almost entirely new staff.
After a 5-7 season and missing a bowl game, Brown hired six assistant coaches, including offensive and defensive coordinators.
Brown said he thinks he never got over the disappointment of losing the 2009 national title game and it affected the 2010 season.
Athletic gear maker Nike is giving $400,000 to Penn State’s libraries in honor of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno’s milestone 400th win. Temple hired Chuck Heater away from Florida to be its defensive coordinator. Ex-Florida coach Urban Meyer is joining ESPN as an analyst, calling a game a week. He starts Wednesday as a studio analyst for prep signing day.