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Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon
Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon cover the Pac-12 for The Salt Lake Tribune.

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Thursday Pac-12 links: USC simply can't stay out of trouble

Thanks to some gumshoe reporting by the Los Angeles Times, news broke over the weekend that USC had further issues with players accepting gifts from boosters. In the latest discovery, it was former Trojans running back Joe McKnight (who played at the school from 2007 to 2009) and former basketball player Davon Jefferson.

McKnight supposedly accepted a plane ticket and a car from some dude named Scott Schenter, who is embroiled in an ongoing scandal with the LA County Assessor's Office. And all of this should sound pretty familiar if you remember the Reggie Bush scandal that led to USC being placed on a two-year postseason ban, losing 10 scholarships for three seasons (this is the first year, not third as I previously wrote) and being stripped of wins and national titles.

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So the NCAA is back to investigating USC, and the question now is whether there wil be further sanctions, or if, because the latest alleged improprieties occurred during the time before USC's probation, it will result in a mere slap on the wrist. Another train of thought is that because USC has gone out of its way to be be models in compliance since Pat Haden assumed the position of athletic director, the Trojans will be in the clear.

The Times' Chris Dufresne makes a compelling case that USC should simply be allowed to move on from the latest charges, because the harsh sanctions from the previous missteps basically punished the culture that led to McKnight and Jefferson's (alleged) indiscretions.

Read on:

USC, in the sanctions context of our times, does not deserve more than an additional wrist tap. The McKnight-Jefferson case only affirms the NCAA's original contention that "high-profile athletes demand high-profile compliance."

USC Nation - and some of us in the media - might owe the NCAA an apology for saying/suggesting/screaming that the original penalties were excessive.

This latest chapter might raise the sanctions to their proper level of appropriateness. McKnight-Jefferson appears, with less talented players, to be an appendage to Bush-Mayo.

The key question for the NCAA infractions committee is to ascertain whether it would have handed out different penalties had it known about the latest allegations.

The good news for USC is that the NCAA shot so high the first time, it might keep its gun in the holster. Or the NCAA could feel the reflexive need to restrict phone calls or visiting hours and/or take a couple of more scholarships away.

USC slipped to No. 2 in the AP Top 25 this week, and moved up to No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. The Trojans play Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday. And, look, it's not all bad for USC right now. Matt Barkley is still the early (and we mean early) favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. But USC has seven of those things (correction: six — which brings us back to Reggie Bush). The much more fun candidate to watch this season will be De'Anthony Thomas, the former USC commit now a highlight machine up at Oregon.

Thomas, who played in high school at Los Angeles Crenshaw, scored three touchdowns on just eight touches Saturday against Arkansas State, and is getting some mention as a Heisman candidate because 1) he's fast, 2) he's good, 3) Chip Kelly's offense will almost always produce a Heisman candidate.

As Oregon State fans like to point out, the Ducks have never had a Heisman Trophy winner. (The Beavers had Terry Baker in 1962.)

Over at the ESPN Pac-12 blog, the guys made their picks for this week and there are no surprises. We'll reveal our weekly picks around these parts tomorrow.

— Bill Oram

PAC-12 Links
Links from around the Pac-12
Arizona (Tucson Citizen)
» Free weekly Wildcat sports magazine covers UA-Oregon game
» Wildcats prepare for game at No. 2 Oregon
» Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Strong season will help "Hill Mary" be remembered
» UA football: Pair of defensive players leave team

Oregon (The Oregonian)
» Oregon Ducks open up Autzen Stadium doors for Fan Fest: Photo gallery
» Elijah Holyfield, son of boxing champ Evander Holyfield, receives offer from Oregon Ducks
» Thomas Tyner looking to turn a corner as Oregon Ducks prepare for Arizona
» Mark Helfrich on ribbing Marcus Mariota, the Oregon Ducks' defense and facing Arizona

Oregon State (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
» Oregon State roundup (Sept. 19)
» OSU men's basketball: Tinkle says positive steps being made
» Spencer to become new AD at Evansville
» BeaversSalute program gives tickets to military personnel and veterans

Stanford (San Jose Mercury-News)
» Stanford's Shaw shoots down interest in Raiders job
» Stanford beats Washington with fourth-quarter touchdown
» Matchup: No. 16 Stanford at Washington
» Stanford facing must-win game at Washington's noisy Husky Stadium

UCLA (Los Angeles Daily News)
» UCLA Football Notebook: Running back Malcolm Jones loses appeal for extra season
» COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Improving UCLA has questions to answer during preseason football camp
» COLLEGE FOOTBALL: UCLA's prized recruit Eddie Vanderdoes cleared to play by NCAA after leaving Notre Dame
» Pac-12 Media Day: Eyes on Anthony Barr for UCLA's 2013 hopes

USC (Los Angeles Daily News)
» USC Football Notebook: Marqise Lee's injury not too serious
» USC Football Notebook: QBs Max Wittek, Cody Kessler present dilemma for Trojans coach Lane Kiffin
» USC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel thinks Trojans might not miss QB Matt Barkley
» USC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Dion Bailey says it's 'now or never'

Washington (Seattle Times)
» Washington football: A progress report after five games
» Storm 2014 Exit Interviews: Tanisha Wright had a memorable 10th WNBA season
» UW progress report: What we know, what we don't know about the Huskies after five games
» Are Pac-12 quarterbacks conference's best class ever?

Washington State (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
» Defending option Idaho's next challenge
» Defense rebounds from a slow start
» Robert Franks joins WSU 2015 recruiting class
» WSU game notes: California



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