USC Now mailbag: Scholarship math and sanctions

USC Now mailbag: Scholarship math and sanctions
USC was sanctioned for what the NCAA found to be a "lack of institutional control" mainly related to extra benefits received by former football player Reggie Bush, pictured, as well as basketball player O.J. Mayo. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

The math/rules pertaining to what USC is able to do this year regarding number of recruits/ scholarships: This topic has me perplexed because I read in your recent piece that USC can extend 19 scholarships... and that 15 verbal commitments have been received so far. That is easy enough to understand, but where it starts to get a bit murky is that I read somewhere that USC is able to give out 25 scholarships.

Another question deals with those football players who have opted to leave the USC football program early for the NFL, for personal reasons or have been kicked out of the program. Is it possible to reallocate those scholarships or are they lost?


-- Patrick D. Lynch USC '78

Scholarship math can be confusing.

USC started with 25 new or initial scholarships for 2015.

One was awarded to kicker Matt Boermeester on the first day of training camp last August. Boermeester was considered a blue-shirt recruit and his scholarship counted toward the 2015 allotment. (Here's a link to recruiting terms)

That left 24 scholarships.

Five recruits – quarterback Ricky Town, linebacker Cameron Smith, receiver Isaac Whitney and offensive linemen Chuma Edoga and Roy Hemsley -- signed financial-aid agreements and enrolled for the spring semester.

That is why 19 scholarships are available for signing day.

The scholarship of a player who leaves a program – for any reason -- cannot be given to a new recruit.

Would you mind updating us USC fans who don't understand what the absence of NCAA sanctions means and how long it will take the Trojans to be in the national championship game?

The history of the sanctions and perhaps a comparison to other programs that have erred (Penn State comes to mind) would be helpful. What, exactly, were the charges against the USC program, and what, exactly were the charges against other programs?

Does the NCAA hate USC?

--Denys Arcuri

Denys, this is a loaded question. It's as if you just asked me to recap the entire "Star Wars" trilogy… and prequels.

In short, USC was sanctioned for what the NCAA found to be a "lack of institutional control" mainly related to extra benefits received by former football player Reggie Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo.


USC could not participate in bowl games in 2010 and 2011. Recruiting classes were limited to 15 players –10 fewer than the allowable 25 – and the roster was capped at 75 scholarship players, 10 fewer than the standard 85.

Ohio State was sanctioned for extra benefits received by multiple football players, and a former head coach who lied about his knowledge of violations. Miami was sanctioned for violations involving a booster and multiple athletes. Penn State was sanctioned in the aftermath of a child sexual abuse scandal.

None was hit as hard or as long as USC (and the NCAA was forced to retract penalties against Penn State for overstepping its jurisdiction).

USC's penalties ended, so the Trojans have the full complement of new scholarships for 2015. But it will take a few years to get the roster back to full strength.

How long until USC is back in the national championship game?

It could be next season… or not for 10 or more seasons… or never. It's anybody's guess!

Making it to the title game requires a lot of skill and a bit of luck.

The Trojans finished 9-4 under first year coach Steve Sarkisian. The offense has a chance to pick up where it left off with quarterback Cody Kessler and the line returning.

But question marks loom around the defense. Lineman Leonard Williams left for the NFL and the secondary is young.

I do not work for the NCAA, so I don't know if it hates USC. Here is the NCAA's contact information, so you can ask.

Questions about USC? Email me at or tweet @LindseyThiry and I will respond to select messages in a weekly USC Now mailbag.