After sitting atop the college football world for as long as I can remember, the NCAA Infractions Committee finally laid down the gauntlet on the USC athletics program.It was like waiting for former Heisman-winning running back Reggie Bush to score a touchdown — you knew it was coming but you weren’t sure when it would exactly happen.And then it happened.For all those times Bush imposed his will on helpless linebackers and stifled secondaries, the NCAA has now imposed its will on the USC athletics program — in a big way.I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the sanctions. Maybe the Lakers winning their 16th NBA championship in franchise history diverted some of the attention off the Trojans, but the reality is that the sanctions are still set in stone.But were the sanctions justifiable and fair?You might be thinking, “What is the difference between the two?”Well, just is the root of the word justifiable; the definition means “in accordance with standards or requirements.”So, in accordance with NCAA rules, the Trojans did violate them — and if you break rules, there is bound to be some consequence. I agree the punishment handed down on the athletics program was justifiable.But fair?I always hear that life isn’t always fair — and I believe that wholeheartedly. I’ve always wondered why some people have unbelievable athletic talent and I don’t. It’s like watching Kobe Bryant swish double-clutch, off-balance, fade away 30-foot jump shots — oh, the poor defender, because that is not fair.And the sanctions handed down on USC were definitely not fair.It is a broken system that the NCAA should be responsible for. ESPN ranks high school athletes like they are future superstars; they glorify these student-athletes to be the next LeBron James and televise games like they are professional athletes. To put it plain and simple, you might as well pay these ordinary high school student-athletes if you’re giving them extraordinary star treatment.And high school is only the beginning. College athletes are showered with attention by the media, fans and, yes, the students — in a sense, they are idols. And college is just a stepping stone, or roadblock, for some to the professional level — or that is where most athletes probably think they will be in a couple years (that is another problem in itself).That is where sports agencies and marketers come into the picture. You have these businessmen waving wads of Benjamins, offering irresistible deals and giving those seems-too-good-to-betrue speeches. What do you think happens?Yes, I’d take it too.The hype and the attention undoubtedly are ingrained into players’ heads. Heck, if I was shown on television every weekend, rated the No. 5 player overall in the 2012 class and talked about almost nightly on Sportscenter, you can bet that would inflate my ego.And after collegiate sports, that means taking my game to the professional level — and if I’m hyped that much by the media, you can count it a sure thing that I’ll be playing for the next 15 or 20 years.But showing college games on national television brings in revenue for the NCAA and so does selling collegiate apparel. Sure, the NCAA took away all victories in which Bush participated but did they give back the money they earned when he was the face of college football?I didn’t think so.And to punish new freshmen recruits for what?Well, the NCAA essentially placed the blame for the transgressions of another former player on them — and they will have no choice but to endure the punishment for someone else’s cardinal (and gold) sins.The freshman had no association with Bush and, last time I checked, why should other people be accountable for the actions of somebody else who broke the rules?It’s like handing out a punishment to an innocent bystander accused of stealing. In both cases, it’s the wrong place at the wrong time.Unfortunately, the sanctions are set in stone — USC has said it will appeal, but who knows what will happen after?A variety of time-taking procedures will be set into motion as soon as the appeal is released, and we really don’t know how long it will take.For USC football, a turbulent season transitioned into an even more turbulent offseason. An overall record of 9-4 and a trip to the Emerald Bowl were OK as a consolation prize — or maybe not — but those certainly aren’t expectations the city, the school, or the fans envisioned.Sometimes, you have to deal with what life gives you whether it be just or unjust — fair or unfair.Despite all this, the NCAA should take a hard, long look at themselves in the mirror and examine their own blemishes because there are definitely a lot of them. To say they don’t have any problems to worry about would be a crime — and that would definitely be unjust and unfair.“In the Zone” runs every other Wednesday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Trevor at email@example.com
Redshirt senior guard Shaqquan Aaron and redshirt freshman guard Shalexxus Aaron play one-on-one at the Galen Center practice courts. (Tucker Judkins/Daily Trojan) After an Oregon trip filled with distractions and tough defeats, the Trojans are looking to steer their season back in the right direction with a home win over crosstown rival UCLA. Even though both players are currently top-five scorers in the conference, their methods couldn’t be more different. Look for Boatwright to play an efficient game both near the basket and out on the perimeter, while Wilkes will operate with an unchallenged green light, as his 247 field goal attempts suggest. He leads the Pac-12 in shot attempts. “He has not been cleared to compete in games,” Enfield said. “He’s working on some things off the court and he has very clear expectations that he has to meet. As he progresses, we will re-evaluate his status to participate in competition.” “He’s kind of a bruiser and a big guy, so it’s going to be fun to go up against somebody like that,” Rakocevic said. “As good as he is, that matchup should be a lot of fun to see.” Enfield attributed the team’s debacle in Eugene to “distractions.” Chief among them was the abrupt indefinite suspension of projected lottery pick and freshman guard Kevin Porter Jr. Porter’s status was set to be re-evaluated upon the team’s return to campus, but it remains as much of a mystery today as it was in Oregon. However, those upperclassmen have tough matchups awaiting them on Saturday afternoon. No matchup will be more anticipated than the duel between two of the Pac-12’s best scorers — UCLA sophomore forward Kris Wilkes and USC senior forward Bennie Boatwright. The other marquee matchup to look forward to is the interior battle between Rakocevic and UCLA freshman center Moses Brown. At 7-foot-1, Brown will be one of the toughest matchups for Rakocevic in conference play. “Coming off a two-game losing streak, we’re kind of hoping this is a game we can bounce back from,” junior forward Nick Rakocevic said. “We want to be put in a good position for the rest of the Pac-12. This is going to be a big win for us.” However, the Trojans should be able to combat this newfound Bruin offense, seeing as they’ve given up over 80 points just once over their last six games. That one game, a blowout road loss to an undermanned Oregon Ducks squad, is an outlier in the recent strides USC has made over the last month and is a game the Trojans can’t wait to put behind them. Not knowing whether his star freshman will be in uniform or in street clothes, Enfield will have to rely on the steady hands of upperclassmen, as he has been doing for much of the season. “For five games, we’ve played very good defense,” head coach Andy Enfield said. “We played well on offense, our turnovers are way down, and our assist totals are up. The only game we played poorly in the last six games has been the Oregon game.” The Bruins are 3-1 in conference play, with their only loss to Oregon State. Since moving on from head coach Steve Alford, UCLA’s offensive game has noticeably improved; they are averaging over 85 points per game under interim head coach Murry Bartow. The Bruins will walk into the Galen Center as the leading scorers of the Pac-12. That matchup and more will be on display Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Galen Center as USC looks to improve to 3-2 in Pac-12 play with a win over UCLA.