It would be overstating things to suggest the NCAA threw the book at USC on Thursday. For one thing, at 67 pages of dense, dry prose, this particular book would be as difficult to heave from here to there as it is to read.
For another, it could have been worse. The NCAA could have forced the school to change its athletic department letterhead to read: University of Severe Consequences.
OK, that's a cheap shot.
Here's really how it could have been worse: The NCAA could have banned the school from appearing on television. Such a ban was considered, then dismissed.
The decision was "a very close call" the NCAA reported on Page 56, just after the part about how Reggie Bush had to take a pay cut when he went to the NFL.
OK, that's another cheap shot.
But think about the TV thing for a second. If the sanctions against USC are as devastating to the school's football program as similar sanctions were on Alabama in 2003 and Washington in 1993, the Trojans may wish they were playing before as few eyeballs as possible.
It doesn't figure to be a pretty picture, at least not for USC's football team. It wasn't the school's only athletic program to be sanctioned Thursday. The men's basketball team paid for its brief association with O.J. Mayo, and the women's tennis team was dinged, as well.
But King Football got rag-dolled. The Trojans were banned from postseason play for the next two seasons and will forfeit 10 scholarships in each of the next three seasons. The NCAA also mandated the vacating of wins, titles and money earned by Bush- and Mayo-led teams as well as recruiting restrictions.
But the loss of scholarships is a killer, and the postseason ban is going to present a huge recruiting liability. As, you suspect, will the requirement for USC to advise all prospective student-athletes, during the recruiting process, of the school's probationary status, violations and penalties.
Maybe new football coach Lane Kiffin can issue that disclaimer when the parents leave the living room to put on another pot of coffee.
So this is a big deal in Los Angeles. But as we like to say here in the Bay Area: How does this affect the price of crossing a bridge?
In one respect, it's a lot to drink in. The Pac-10 is on the verge of a profound change of the conference landscape. Colorado joined the conference Thursday. It has been reported that five more teams could follow if the Big 12 dissolves with Nebraska's expected defection to the Big Ten.
That would swell the Pac-10 into a two-division Pac-16 that stretches from Seattle to College Station, Texas. The effective neutering of USC two years before this expansion would take place is an altering of the landscape in advance of an altering of the landscape.
For starters, it renders the Pac-10 football race an opportunist's delight. Beyond that — come to think of it, what more do you need? But while that won't be lost on the Bay Area, you wonder how that will impact our local Pac-10 outlets.
In all three of coach Jim Harbaugh's seasons at Stanford, the football team has won more games than it did year before. Last season featured the school's first bowl appearance in eight years and a 55-21 smoking of 'SC in L.A. But 8-5 doesn't necessarily constitute a breakthrough, and the 2010 Cardinal will have to go it without Heisman Trophy shoulda-been Toby Gerhart. In any event, it's not as if Stanford is suddenly going to divert crazy resources to its football team because USC's program is in shackles.
Meanwhile at Cal, coach Jeff Tedford loves his latest recruiting class, but few love his team. Preseason projections are being released as we speak — good luck finding one that picks the Bears higher than sixth in the conference. So as much as they would love to fill the vacuum left by 'SC, they may not be ready for a year or two. And in two years, who knows where USC is at or where anyone stands in the new Pac-16?
For now, one presumes, it's enough for the locals that USC is reeling from the events of the day. But we're sticking to our story that it could have been worse for the Trojans:
The NCAA could have insisted they implement a salary cap.
Contact Gary Peterson at email@example.com.