Last Modified: Sunday, August 05, 2012 10:55 PM
All along, the NCAA had told us its top priority, the most important fact for its existence, was to keep a level playing field for all.
That’s what the penalties are for, to make sure schools remember this one singular fact.
Yet, the NCAA has completely changed the playing field when it comes to this football season.
I don’t think that was the group’s intention when it crippled the Penn State program and made free agents out of all the players. But, that’s exactly what it did.
Moments after the sanctions were handed down and the Nittany Lions were free to play elsewhere without penalties, other college football buzzards (coaches) began circling not-so Happy Valley.
Some didn’t even wait for all of the life to be drained out of Penn State before dropping in for a closer look.
Reality is, there wasn’t much left but scraps for most coaches. A good player here, maybe another one there, but not many who could change the landscape of the coming season.
This is the Penn State of today we are talking about, not years back when the program was one of the game’s elite.
Still, coaches looked over the wreckage to find that one hidden gem.
Southern California might have found that gem.
The Trojans landed the only real player on Penn State’s roster, 1,200-yard rusher Silas Redd.
Now, leaving the cold winters in Pennsylvania for the warm waters of Los Angeles really isn’t a bad move at any time, but this one could be the final piece in the Trojans’ championship puzzle.
Redd gives USC the one thing it didn’t have, depth at running back. Otherwise, the Trojans are loaded.
Yes, I know the kicker transferred to Texas, and LSU got some third-string quarterback, but those moves don’t really turn heads. I mean, if you are the third stringer at Penn State should LSU even be looking at you?
Only at quarterback, but if Zach Mettenberger is even close to what has been hyped out of Baton Rouge, we will never hear about the backup QB let alone the guy who backs him up. If we do hear about that guy, it might be a long fall in Tiger Town.
So, that really only leaves us with Redd, who ironically heads to a USC team that is just coming off NCAA sanctions itself this season. The Trojans have been forced to miss the last two bowl seasons thanks to the Reggie Bush incident.
Bush hasn’t played for the Trojans in a long time. He hasn’t played for the Saints in a year even. Yet, the NCAA rushed away from judgment and nailed the program anyway.
Now it has, in a roundabout way, rewarded USC.
Slap the Trojans’ hand one day, and hand them a national title the next.
That might be jumping the gun, but USC was already considered at least one of the favorites to win the crown, along with LSU and maybe Florida State. So, signing Redd is a big move.
And look who did it, none other than SEC fan-favorite Lane Kiffin, who made more mistakes in his short time at Tennessee than a failing student on an Algebra exam.
Now Kiffin and crew get a reward.
Strange how quickly you can go from the penthouse to the outhouse in the eyes of the NCAA like Penn State did, or back the other way like apparently USC has done.
Of course, one player doesn’t make a national champion, but if things fall right in Hollywood, Redd could wind up as the only winner in the entire Penn State mess.
And for that, he can at least send a thank you card to the NCAA.
You wonder how that would go over in Baton Rouge when you consider the man who set Redd free used to be the leader of LSU.
Ironic, isn’t it?
Jim Gazzolo is American Press managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org