Washington’s Suspension Grows
The NCAA lengthened the suspension of USC tailback Delon Washington from one to three games Friday, prompting a USC appeal.
USC announced the added penalty on Washington, a junior from Dallas, after Friday afternoon’s practice. He was suspended by the school on Aug. 20 for one game, last Sunday’s season opener against Penn State at the Kickoff Classic in New Jersey.
Coach John Robinson and other USC staffers wouldn’t specify what Washington’s offense was two weeks ago, other than to call it “a non-football matter,” and “an infraction,” and that it was USC’s decision to suspend him for one game and turn the matter over to the NCAA and the Pacific 10 Conference for further review.
USC cites privacy laws in refusing to comment on or identify the infraction.
However, sources say it’s believed the problem rests with an exam Washington took.
USC general counsel Robert Lane said in a prepared statement: “USC believes this penalty is excessive and unwarranted. We are attempting to have the NCAA hold an appeal hearing early next week. Until the matter is resolved, we must protect Delon’s best interests and therefore we can’t comment further.”
The USC statement also called Washington’s infraction an alleged “ethical violation.”
The suspension means the Trojans must do without their two most productive running backs over the last three seasons. Senior Shawn Walters is still serving the equivalent of a one-season suspension after he was charged last season with taking money from an agent.
He sat out the last nine games last year and is not eligible again until this season’s fourth game.
If Washington’s suspension stands, he and Walters won’t be available until USC’s Sept. 21 game at Houston. USC, which lost to Penn State, 24-7, plays at Illinois next Saturday and against Oregon State on Sept. 14 at the Coliseum.
Without Washington and Walters, Robinson used LaVale Woods and Rodney Sermons against Penn State.
Robinson said Friday he may move backup cornerback and kick returner Chad Morton, a freshman, to the offense until the week of the Houston game.
He said he might give Morton “a few snaps” at tailback next week, for insurance in the event Woods or Sermons are injured.
“I don’t want to do that, because Chad’s made great progress at corner,” Robinson said.
Morton impersonated Northwestern’s Darnell Autry during USC’s Rose Bowl practices last December and did so well he was penciled in as a backup tailback for this season.
But when starting cornerback Quincy Harrison underwent career-ending neck surgery, Morton stayed on defense. At 5-8 and 180, he is the smallest player on the team and possibly the fastest.
A three-game Washington suspension might also mean an accelerated development of freshman tailback Ted Iacenda. However, he only recently returned to contact work after sitting out much of preseason camp because of a foot injury.
Washington, 5-11 and 200, was the Pac-10’s No. 2 rusher last year with 1,058 yards (1,109, counting the Rose Bowl), second only to UCLA’s Karim Abdul-Jabbar. It was USC’s first 1,000-yard rushing season since 1990.
Washington, if the three-game suspension stands, will have sat out 12 of 27 USC games due to two suspensions. In 1994, as a freshman, he played two games before the American College Testing (ACT) firm challenged his college board score. He sat out the rest of the regular season, took the exam again and passed it, returning to play in the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M.;