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Revisiting the South Carolina NCAA Penalties

Apr 14, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier directs his players during warm ups before the start of the Garnet and Black spring game at Williams Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
Apr 14, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier directs his players during warm ups before the start of the Garnet and Black spring game at Williams Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

I'm a little late to this, but we would like to address the NCAA penalty situation, which stemmed mainly from the SAM Foundation and Whitney Hotel fiascoes. Here's what you already know: After determining that South Carolina "failed to monitor" (a type of serious NCAA infraction) its athletic programs, the NCAA accepted USC's self-imposed penalties, the most significant of which are a loss of six scholarships over the next three years and a sizeable reduction in official visits over the next year. There is no postseason ban, nor any vacation of victories.

While the fact that the NCAA didn't impose any additional penalties may have come as a shock to Clemson fans, no one else will find this surprising. In explaining its decision, the NCAA cited South Carolina's exemplary cooperation with its investigation:

The penalties could've been much more severe. Banowsky, commissioner of Conference USA, said South Carolina chose not to manage information and protect itself from NCAA investigators as other schools have done when faced with allegations of rule breaking.

"They wanted to ask all the hard questions of all the right people," Banowsky said. "Even went beyond what the NCAA staff was doing. We see that less likely than we see the other approach and the report reflects how pleased the committee was with their diligence."

The NCAA is not the most consistent entity when it comes to handing down punishment for infractions, but it has typically been significantly more lenient on programs that have cooperated with its investigations than it has with programs that have been defiant or deceptive. That's why you should have expected a favorable response here. Moreover, while the NCAA didn't speak to this specifically, I remain skeptical of the seriousness of USC's infractions. However, this was a repeat offense by our program, so the danger of stiff penalties was there. It was our cooperation that negated any chance of a really tough ruling.

What should we expect from here? Well, hopefully, first of all, better performance from our compliance staff. The offending parties, including those who knowingly allowed our players to stay at the Whitney under the reduced rates, have been disciplined. Hopefully, they've learned their lessons and the entire department will be more vigilant going forward.

Continue reading after the jump.

Needless to say, the biggest penalty is the loss in scholarships, three each in 2013 and 2014. This is hardly the kind of profound loss of scholarships that temporarily crippled programs like Alabama and Arkansas in recent years, but it's not insubstantial. In essence, the lost scholarships means that the coaches really have to make sure that they don't mis-evaluate the guys they offer. With a scholarship player less or so at some positions, say, cornerback (a critical one for us in the next few years, based on the current depth chart), several misses (i.e., guys we sign who don't pan out) could be devastating at that position, particularly if we suffer an injury-plagued season.

That said, we're in good position to weather this storm. In the old days, when we lacked great depth at some key positions, it would have been very tough on us. Back then, we relied on a lot of marginal prospects to fill out our depth chart. Some of them turned out to be great players (Captain Munnerlyn comes to mind), but many of them predictably bombed out and were never heard of again after signing day. These days, Carolina is signing more elite prospects than ever before, and less of those guys, obviously, are going to be misses. This year's cycle is already off to a great start, with the Gamecocks currently ranked as having the tenth best class by 24/7 Sports, and we can hope that this will be even more true next year after another likely good season. To look at this from another angle, if we offer fewer prospects over the next few years, limiting our offers to the best players, we can assume that we'll actually get a large number of them. That hasn't always been true, needless to say.

The same, I think, goes for the issue with official visits. This could obviously have a negative impact on our recruiting, one that might have been profound a few years back, when we had to do quite a bit of convincing to get good prospects to give us a chance. However, while it will certainly still have its effect, the good news now is that Carolina is becoming viewed as an increasingly attractive destination for young prospects. Hopefully that will means that we'll be able to lure top talent without these visits.

One last thing that will be interesting to watch will be how we use "roster management" techniques to deal with the scholarship reductions. Steve Spurrier and his staff have become known over the past year or so as advocates of over-offering, over-signing, and then waiting for the "numbers to work themselves out," which oftentimes means encouraging guys to "look elsewhere," or, in effect, cutting them. Needless to say, you have to imagine that we might become even more aggressive on this note due to the scholarship reductions. With only 82 scholarship players on the roster in 2013 and 2014, there will, as said, be less margin for error, and that's going to mean more cutting of under-performing players in order to make room more likely prospects. As you know, some of us here GABA have very mixed feelings about this practice, but for now, I'll leave it at that and say, "it is what it is." I'm sure we'll have more occasion to discuss this over the summer.