The NCAA announced Tuesday it would begin to restore some of the scholarships it took from Penn State's football program in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal, news that brought measured reaction from USC, which is in the midst of sanctions imposed in 2010 that included the loss of 30 scholarships.
Athletic Director Pat Haden said in a statement that USC was hopeful that the NCAA's recently enacted enforcement and penalty reforms would "result in a consistent and fair enforcement and penalty process for all its institutions." He did not indicate that USC would seek relief of its scholarship penalty.
The NCAA cited Penn State's "continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity" in relaxing the scholarship losses that threatened to cripple the program. The action was based on the recommendation of former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell and endorsed by the NCAA Division I board of directors.
"While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program," Mitchell said. "… relief from the scholarship reductions is warranted and deserved."
NCAA President Mark Emmert handed down unprecedented sanctions in 2012 in the wake of one of college sport's most disgraceful episodes. Emmert, who sidestepped due process after receiving permission to act alone from university presidents, imposed on Penn State a four-year bowl ban, a $60-million fine and a reduction of total scholarships to 65 — 20 below the NCAA maximum — for four years.
In June 2010, the NCAA's Committee on Infractions hit USC with penalties for violations related to former Trojans running back Reggie Bush. Each year for three years, USC's annual scholarship limit was reduced and the Trojans are limited to 75 scholarship players on the roster, 10 fewer than the maximum. The penalties end after the 2014 season because USC delayed implementation by appealing.
Lane Kiffin, who succeeded Pete Carroll as USC's coach five months before the sanctions were handed down, has lamented USC's sanctions-induced roster size.
Kiffin said Tuesday it was "awesome" that Penn State's punishment would be reduced and that USC deserved the same consideration.
Penn State, under Coach Bill O'Brien, will be allowed to increase its scholarships to 75 in the 2014-15 academic year, 80 in 2015-16 and 85 in 2016-17.
"Knowing what it's like to go through and trying to manage those numbers and plan down the road as we have, now for Bill not to have to do that as much is great for him," Kiffin said. "I've had a chance to talk with him a couple times and he's doing an awesome job there so [I'm] really happy for him."
Sean Kennally, president of the Trojan Club of the San Gabriel Valley, said emails he had seen among USC supporters expressed an overwhelming sentiment.
"Once again, they think another school seems to get a little more leniency and we don't," Kennally said.
Staff writer Chris Dufresne contributed to this report.