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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)
» Photos: UA's smartest athletes 2013-14
» Wildcats: Who's gonna be the QB?
» UA football: QB Patterson decommits from Arizona
» Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Tucson's streetcar leads to soccer

Arizona St. (Arizona Republic)
» 5-star linebacker Houston checking out ASU
» Top 2016 tight end Naseir Upshur likes ASU
» ASU football overview: Defensive backs
» Why is Sendek watching film of VCU, Louisville?

California (East Bay Tribune)
» College football: Key dates for Cal, Stanford, San Jose State
» Cal's injury-plagued defense mended, ready to go
» Local digest: Former Stanford star Kerri Walsh Jennings wins World Series of Beach Volleyball
» Internazionale Milan scores 3-2 shootout victory over Real Madrid

Colorado (Denver Post)
» Pac-12 living up to tradition as tops in quarterbacks
» Changes in college football a cause of excitement and concern
» Pac-12 media days: Colorado eager to turn things around
» Colorado's MacIntyre at Pac-12 media days: "We will be improved"

Oregon (The Oregonian)
» Brianne Theisen Eaton claims the heptathlon gold medal in the Commonwealth Games
» Is the Pac-12's schedule the 'most competitive' in college football?: Pac-12 roundup
» Oregon as the preseason favorite? That's fine with Stanford's David Shaw
» Oregon Ducks target Josh Sweat becomes ESPN's top-ranked football prospect, joining other future Ducks on the rise

Oregon State (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
» Oregon State hires longtime trainer hired Fred Tedeschi
» Beavers hire Mark Massari as deputy athletics director
» Oregon State hands out Bennys to top athletes, coaches and teams
» OSU fishing: MacDonald, Martinez win conference tournament

Stanford (San Jose Mercury-News)
» College football: Key dates for Cal, Stanford, San Jose State
» Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery says he's close to being ready
» Local sports digest: Former Stanford star Kerri Walsh captures World Series of Beach Volleyball
» Local digest: Former Stanford star Kerri Walsh Jennings wins World Series of Beach Volleyball

UCLA (Los Angeles Daily News)
» UCLA Football Notebook: Running back Malcolm Jones loses appeal for extra season
» College Football: Position coach Adrian Klemm says UCLA offensive line a work in progress
» 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

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)
» Huskies fall camp position preview: Linebackers
» Morning links: More love for Huskies' Shaq Thompson
» Morning links: Pauley Pavilion flooded
» Huskies to open three fall-camp practices to the public

Washington State (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
» Looking at the WSU pre-camp depth chart
» Washington works on body, mind
» Wednesday WSU chat
» To paraphrase Frank, it was a very good day



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