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Ferd's Words

Collateral damage from USC could wash up in Hawaii

When he was the basketball coach at Nevada-Las Vegas, Jerry Tarkanian was fond of saying the NCAA would get "so mad at Kentucky" that it would "slap around Cleveland State."

We bring this up because the hope is that the University of Hawaii isn’t about to turn into the new Cleveland State.

As vein-poppingly perturbed as the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions is with the University of Southern California, with one wild swing the NCAA could deck the Warriors, too.

We’re all for the NCAA tightening loopholes on miscreants as long as they don’t use them as a noose for innocent bystanders.

Which is what it appears is a possibility in UH’s case since the NCAA, as part of the restrictions on USC, has taken aim at the Trojans playing "exempted" contests.

Under terms of the probation, the USC football team is prohibited from playing any exempted games in 2010 and ’11. The specific rule cited by the committee, bylaw, refers to games played in Hawaii and Alaska, such as the Sept. 2 season opener at Aloha Stadium.

The apparent intent is to keep USC from pulling off the same end run that Alabama managed in 2002 and ’03 when the Crimson Tide used trips here – and the 13th game that came with them – to take some of the sting out of two years of probation and mitigate the damage to recruiting.

The difference is the contract for this season opener with USC was signed by both parties in 2001 – five years before any alleged wrongdoing by the Trojans and prior to the arrival of most of the figures in the case.

UH also plays USC in 2012 and ’13 but both of those games are beyond the current bounds of the probation and one of them is in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which does not count as a 13th game for the Trojans.

Suspicion is that the NCAA committee meted out the penalties determined to throw the book at USC without having glanced at the Trojans’ upcoming schedule. At least you hope it was an oversight, since the committee was at work on this for four months.

Because common sense would suggest the Warriors have no part in whatever went down at USC and no cause to be punished for it.

Forcing USC out of the Sept. 2 game would be a considerable hardship for the Warriors, who have been counting on it as a $1 million-plus payday and, perhaps, their single most lucrative check outside of the Sugar Bowl.

The scary part is that if this was, indeed, an oversight on the NCAA’s part, it apparently isn’t in a big hurry to correct it with anybody. The NCAA hasn’t used the intervening five days to say, "Oops, never mind, our mistake."

For the moment, the parties involved are hoping that reason will prevail and the NCAA will come to its senses sooner rather than later.

The danger with that is in history. For these are the same folks in Indianapolis who were so out of touch with Hawaii not long ago that they were seemingly convinced the school nickname was offensive to the point where they sent UH cease and explain orders to defend the name "Warriors."


Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.


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