The fallout from Whitney-gate and an unrelated, separate matter is drawing closer to a conclusion, with South Carolina releasing its response to the NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits for some student-athletes today. There are a couple of programs implicated in the report, but the football program is going to be the headliner. Among the self-imposed penalties:
- Six fewer football scholarships over the next three years;
- Reduced recruiting visits and recruiting bans on some coaches, as well as a slew of other disciplinary actions against coaches and the demotion of the compliance director;
- Three years of probation.
Part of the university's strategy appears to be saying that while it was aware of the rent being paid by the students in question, it didn't know that those rates broke the rules. There's a two-part argument to that. The first is that the compliance director, she of the demotion, checked the rates as compared to other apartment leases in the area -- not the rates normally charged by the Whitney, which would have made it quite clear that the rates were not allowed under NCAA bylaws.
The other part is that the university didn't and wasn't really required to have a way to check and see if the athletes paid their rent -- remember that part of the allegations were that the hotel's allowing the students to free-load amounted to another form of impermissible benefits.
The questions about the SAM foundation are also there. While the university says it doesn't believe the organization was created to steer students to South Carolina or that the impermissible benefits doled out by officials with the foundation gave the university an edge, it concedes that the violations are what they are.
While I haven't had an opportunity to read the entire report, the chances of any of South Carolina's wins from the 2010 or 2011 season being vacated are slim, but earlier wins might be more vulnerable. South Carolina thinks it doesn't have to vacate any wins or performances at all; we'll see.
Whether the penalties South Carolina doled out to itself are enough to keep the NCAA at bay is another question. I think the association might want some more scholarships and a lengthier probation, but I would be at least slightly surprised if it tried to place any kind of a bowl ban on the program. That said, the NCAA is known as somewhat unpredictable in these kinds of situations.
It's clear that the report is a blow to Steve Spurrier's attempts to turn the Gamecocks into a perennial SEC title contender. We'll have to wait and see whether this is a speed bump or a more lasting setback to those efforts.