USC Trojans say sanctions not affecting their performance
Trojans, who host Washington on Saturday, say their inconsistent play has nothing to do with sanctions that will keep them out of a bowl game for the first time since 2000.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Damon Huard recalls that after the initial shock and anger of hearing about a two-year bowl ban wore off, the 1993 Washington Huskies pretty much just went back to work.
"I don't remember it affecting us at all," said Huard, the starting quarterback for the 1993 and 1994 UW teams that were prevented from going to bowl games due to sanctions levied by the NCAA. "Certainly we were disappointed. But week-to-week, day-to-day, during the regular season, it wasn't brought up much. If anything, there was almost more motivation. We thought we were treated unfairly and we were out to prove everybody wrong."
That's the same song being sung these days at USC, which hosts the Huskies at 5 p.m. Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
USC became just the second Pac-10 team since the Huskies to get hit with a bowl ban when they were penalized in June for a variety of infractions, most involving illegal benefits given to Reggie Bush. (The other was California, given a bowl ban in 2002.)
USC cannot go to a bowl game for the next two seasons and will be limited to awarding 15 scholarships each of the next three years (compared to the limit of 25) and 75 total (compared to the limit of 85). Many observers feel the scholarship limitations will have the biggest long-term impact.
USC is appealing some penalties, attempting to get the bowl ban reduced to one year, and the scholarship ban reduced by five per year (allowing the team to sign 20). A ruling on the appeals might not come until the spring.
USC, however, has already conceded that it won't go to a bowl this season, leaving the players knowing that their season will end Dec. 4 against UCLA. It will be the first time since 2000 that the Trojans failed to reach a bowl game.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley says the team's motivation hasn't wavered.
"I've heard that from a lot of people (wondering if it will) and it's almost the complete opposite," he said in a phone interview this week. "For us as a team, we are really, really excited to play every week. Our goal is just to win as many games as we can."
Huard's Huskies fell to records of 7-4 in 1993 and 1994, down from 9-3 in 1992 and 12-0 and a co-national title in 1991, and some have wondered if the probation took a toll. But many other factors were at play, as well — notably, the change in coaches from Don James to Jim Lambright and the loss of many of the key players during the national title run.
That's similar to the situation at USC, which would have undergone a coaching change regardless as Pete Carroll had left to become Seahawks coach even before news of the sanctions hit. Former Trojans assistant Lane Kiffin took over.
USC has looked uneven through four games, barely holding off Virginia at home 17-14 and giving up 36 points to Hawaii in the opener. But Kiffin says lingering effects of probation aren't the problem. He points instead to factors such as a secondary with four new starters and the loss of seven players taken in the 2010 NFL draft.
"I don't think (probation) has anything to do with our inconsistency," he said this week. "I think that is to be expected of a first-year staff with a first-year team and losing a lot (of players) in the offseason (to graduation and the NFL). As we grow together, we'll continue to get better."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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