NCAA allows USC-Hawaii football game to be played

The NCAA, which sanctioned USC last week for violations in its athletic program, granted the Trojans and Hawaii a reprieve on Thursday by delaying a penalty that might have forced the schools to cancel their Sept. 2 football opener at Honolulu.

As part of its probation, USC is prohibited from taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows teams to play 13 games if one is in Hawaii. The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions apparently included the language about the exemption to prevent use similar to that employed by Alabama, which scheduled 13th games at Hawaii in 2002 and 2003 after it was put on probation.

Both USC and Hawaii had contacted the NCAA because the game was scheduled years ago. Jim Donovan, Hawaii’s athletic director, said this week that cancellation of the game could cost cash-strapped Hawaii more than $1 million.

“The Committee on Infractions has delayed the penalty that precludes the University of Southern California from playing a 13th game from the 2010 and 2011 seasons to the 2011 and 2012 seasons,” NCAA spokesperson Stacy Osburn said in an e-mail. “In making this decision, the committee noted a number of factors, including that the game has been scheduled for at least five years, will be televised, and many fans have already purchased travel packages to the game.”

Osburn also said no other USC regular-season games this season would be affected.

Todd Dickey, USC’s senior vice president for administration, said in a statement: “We want to thank the Committee for granting this relief; it recognizes the serious financial impacts game cancellation would have had to the University and State of Hawaii as well as the fans and supporters of USC who have already made travel arrangements.”