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April 30, 2012

Hood: Contrition was indeed best policy

Eric Hyman is very learned in the ways of the NCAA, so he knew exactly what South Carolina had to do when the Gamecocks received their Notice of Allegations last September.

Beg for forgiveness, cooperate fully in all aspects and take an aggressive, proactive approach towards the investigation.

And, thankfully, that's exactly what the USC athletic department did over the next six months.

When the NCAA, which basically acts as a war lord over college athletics, accepted the school's self-imposed penalties, they gave a nod to USC for its conduct throughout the process, which they said went "beyond standard expectations."

In the end, it was USC's smart decision to quickly admit culpability, propose reasonable sanctions and get on both knees seeking contrition from the NCAA that saved the school from additional penalties except for a public reprimand for the failure to monitor.

It may have also been the primary reason the NCAA released the final report on a Friday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the middle of the NFL Draft, knowing it would quickly get buried from a national news perspective.

Listening to Hyman, the mid-February hearing in Los Angeles ended up being an opportunity for the NCAA to express their gratitude towards the Gamecocks rather than throwing grenades.

"It was extraordinary how complementary they were of us and how we had done their due diligence," Hyman said. "Our (legal) counsel that was with us told me after it was over that he had never seen the NCAA respond as positively as they responded to us and how we had gone about our business."

The only significant penalty, I believe, was the reduction of official visits to 30 for the 2013 recruiting cycle. That means USC has little room for error when it comes to identifying those players they should pay the freight.

Loss of three scholarships (maximum of 22 each year) in 2013 and 2014? Little impact. Head coach Steve Spurrier has always advocated 85 are too many scholarships, anyway. Special teams could be affected slightly, but that's about it.

Three years probation? Just means USC must behave themselves until April of 2015.

Many of the sanctions have already been implemented such as disassociation with the Whitney Hotel and the major principals of the S.A.M. Foundation (Steve Gordon and Kevin Lahn).

In addition, quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus was prohibited from recruiting during January of 2012, but coaches like Lorenzo Ward picked up the slack and USC ended up signing a full class of 25.

Hyman said he was pleased because USC was sensitive towards "maintaining the integrity of what the NCAA represents." I doubt he was referring to making boatloads of money from the TV networks even though that appears to be the NCAA's main objective.

The biggest beneficiary of USC being sanctioned by the NCAA? The school's compliance department, which has been significantly revamped. The former leadership has been swept aside (Jennifer Stiles was demoted and her salary was reduced) and new, hopefully improved and more effective, directors have been brought in.

Seven years ago, USC had two full-time and one part-time employee in the compliance when Hyman started at USC. Now they have 10, and that number could grow in the future.

Hyman acknowledged "we had some people make some mistakes" at USC. Unfortunately, those mistakes could very well cost some USC employees their jobs. But in the pressure-cooker world of winning-is-everything Division I NCAA athletics, that's hardly surprising.

When bad things happen, casualties occur. This is the SEC, after all.

"Schools take different approaches, but not an awful lot take the approach we did," Hyman said. "We were very upfront with them (NCAA) and we had a working relationship with them. We weren't trying to hide anything. They respected the way we approached it. I think they respected the way we responded. When you have a spirit of cooperation, the NCAA will recognize it."

USC had to show the NCAA, Hyman said, that rules violations weren't a part of the school's culture, and USC was able to do that.

After USC escaped additional penalties, this could become a case study on how schools should proceed when confronted with NCAA rules violations.

Make no mistake, another reason the NCAA accepted USC's self-imposed penalties was Spurrier's impeccable reputation for complying with the rules.

Hyman rightfully said Spurrier's clean record was "a major factor in how they looked upon South Carolina."

Another positive? This case has been hanging over the athletic program for almost two years, ever since the Whitney Hotel fiasco was revealed in the summer of 2010. Tight end Weslye Saunders never played another down for the Gamecocks because of that and other reasons.

So, Hyman and the football program can finally move forward, and put this unfortunate episode behind them. Obviously, it had little impact on the recruiting trail as far as the 2012 signing class is concerned, and shouldn't in the future.

Frankly, this case could have ended up being a lot worse for USC. But it wasn't.

All because USC took the proper approach and attitude from the beginning - admit wrongdoing, do your homework and do more than what the NCAA asks and raise your right hand and promise not to do bad things ever again.

Hat trick.

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D. McCallum

South Carolina NEWS


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