Transferring juniors, seniors can play

Updated: June 12, 2010, 1:44 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

While upperclassmen will be allowed to leave the USC football team, the Trojans claim other schools have illegally jumped the gun with a freshman.

Juniors and seniors to-be will be allowed to transfer to other FBS programs without having to sit out a season after the program was hit with a two-year postseason ban among other punishments, the NCAA clarified to ESPN on Friday.

"The second school would have to submit a waiver asking to waive the year in residence, but NCAA rules allow for this waiver to be granted if a student-athlete's first school has a postseason ban in their sport," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said in an e-mail to ESPN's Joe Schad.

The rule does not apply to freshmen who have signed national letters of intent, however. But schools with an interest in a USC junior or senior are allowed to initiate contact with the player, Osburn said.

With one rather large caveat. A USC official told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Thursday the Pac-10 would not waive the one-year transfer ineligibility rule in this case. This means, effectively, USC players won't transfer within the conference. A Pac-10 official confirmed the stipulation to the Seattle Times on Friday.

Meanwhile, USC true freshman running back Dillon Baxter told the school's director of compliance that five schools illegally contacted him in the wake of USC's NCAA penalties, according to a document reviewed by ESPN's Schad.

In a letter written by USC director of compliance Matt Billings to Pac-10 Associate Commissioner for Governance and Enforcement Ron Barker, Florida, Washington, Oregon, Fresno State and Alabama allegedly contacted Baxter.

The letter states in part: "I just met with [Baxter] and he told me that he received phone calls from five institutions [June 10th]. All of the institutions asked if he was interested in transferring from USC due to the NCAA decision. Would you please speak with these schools to remind them they cannot speak to this student athlete?"

Alabama denied contact with Baxter, joining Florida and Oregon.

"No one from Oregon has talked or spoken with Dillon Bazter since his official visit in January," Oregon football coach Chip Kelly said when reached for comment.

Baxter had one of the best springs of incoming freshmen in the country, drawing comparisons from coach Lane Kiffin to Reggie Bush, a fellow native of San Diego. Baxter's highlight-film runs drew thousands of hits on youtube.com.

As a senior at Mission Bay High School, Baxter ran for a San Diego-record 2,984 yards on 261 carries (11.4 avg.) with 50 TDs while accounting for a state-record 79 touchdowns on offense. He was named EA Sports Mr. Football USA and Max Preps national player of the year.

The NCAA threw the book at USC on Thursday with a two-year bowl ban, four years' probation, loss of scholarships and forfeits of an entire season's games for improper benefits to Heisman Trophy winner Bush dating to the Trojans' 2004 national championship.

USC was penalized for a lack of institutional control in the ruling by the NCAA following its four-year investigation. The report cited numerous improper benefits for Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo, who spent just one year with the Trojans.

Among juniors and seniors to whom the transfer rule applies are quarterback Mitch Mustain; running backs C.J. Gable and Marc Tyler; receiver David Ausberry; cornerback T.J. Bryant; tight end Blake Ayles; safety Drew McAllister; and center Michael Reardon.

Kiffin said Thursday he hadn't heard from any schools with possible interest in a USC player.

When asked if he's concerned about some of his juniors and seniors transferring, Kiffin said, "If someone wants to leave the best place in the country to play football, we won't stop them."

The coaches who presided over the alleged misdeeds -- football's Pete Carroll and basketball's Tim Floyd -- left USC in the past year.

The penalties include the loss of 30 football scholarships over three years and vacating 14 victories in which Bush played from December 2004 through the 2005 season.

USC beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game on Jan. 4, 2005, and won 12 games during Bush's Heisman-winning 2005 season, which ended with a loss to Texas in the 2006 BCS title game.

The BCS likely will force Southern California to vacate its national championship. BCS executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement Thursday that the presidential oversight committee will meet soon to discuss whether USC will be stripped of its title.

If that happens, there will be no BCS champion for the 2004-05 season. Hancock said no action would be taken by the BCS until the appeal is heard.

The Associated Press said Friday that USC will not lose the AP title it won for the 2004 season, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The NCAA says Bush received lavish gifts from two fledgling sports marketers hoping to sign him. The men paid for everything from hotel stays and a rent-free home where Bush's family apparently lived to a limousine and a new suit he wore when he accepted his Heisman in New York in December 2005.

The NCAA found that Bush, identified as a "former football student-athlete," was ineligible beginning at least by December 2004, a ruling that could open discussion on the revocation of the New Orleans Saints star's Heisman.

Members of the Heisman Trust have said they might review Bush's award if he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA.

USC athletic director Mike Garrett, speaking at a previously scheduled USC Coaches' Tour at the Airport Marriott in Burlingame, Calif., had this to say Thursday to boosters: "As I read the decision by the NCAA, all I could get out of all of this was ... I read between the lines, and there was nothing but a lot of envy, and they wish they all were Trojans."

Although the bowl ban is the most damaging to Kiffin, who will have to ratchet up his formidable recruiting skills to tempt players with no hope of postseason play before 2012, USC also will lose 30 scholarships in a three-year period, 10 annually from 2011 to 2013.

"We've had contact with a number of our signees today, a number of their families," Kiffin said Thursday. "We have had great response from them about their excitement about joining our program and continuing USC's championship level of play.

"I told the team, and I made sure they understood, that this is something happening to them that's adversity. Football, we talk about all the time, is about adversity, as is life. Our older players have played in a lot of bowl games. Our fifth-year seniors, a number of them have won a number of bowl games already, have played in three Rose Bowl championships."

USC is the first Football Bowl Subdivision school to be banned from postseason play since Alabama served a two-year ban ending in 2003. The NCAA issued no bowl bans during the tenure of late president Myles Brand, but the NCAA reportedly regained interest in the punishment this past year.

"The real issue here is if you have high-profile players that your enforcement staff has to monitor," said Paul Dee, chairman of the NCAA's committee on infractions.

"It is extremely likely that the people who are receiving these interactions outside the institution are going to receive a bigger reward," Dee added. "So higher-profile players require higher-profile monitoring."

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon, ESPN's Joe Schad, USC blog author Pedro Moura and The Associated Press was included in this report.