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The Pac-12 History of Sanctions

A breakdown of the sanctions that hit Washington and USC and may soon be hitting Oregon.

Jonathan Ferrey

The announcement of Oregon's recent agreement with the NCAA on at least some of the violations that they have been accused of serves as a reminder of not just that the Ducks are still under investigation, but that Pac-12 programs have unfortunately greatly struggled with avoiding the perils of sanctions in recent history. Regardless of whether or not you think Oregon will be hit with heavy or light sanctions or whether or not they deserve either, one thing is now pretty much certain - Oregon will soon be getting hit with some kind of probation and the cycle of slash and burn farming of success in Pac-12 football will continue in at least some regard.

With the exception of Stanford and their recent dominance, no Pac-12 program that has experienced any consistent, high-level success in the past 25 years has been able to avoid serious penalties, and though other conferences have this problem, I don't know if there is another with this kind of negative batting average. The recent cycle of elite Pac-12 football program life appears to be: Rise to dominance followed by scandal, followed by crippling sanctions, followed by serious struggles and regardless of whether or not you are a Washington, USC or Oregon fan or not, it's probably not a good thing for the conference.

We still don't know exactly what will happen to Oregon, but what we can do right now is compare the details of their investigations to the other major investigations that struck Washington and USC.

Washington 1993


The Washington program started coming under fire when it came out in November of 1992 that starting quarterback Billy Joe Hobert had taken out a $50,000 loan from a family friend. Hobert was immediately dismissed from the team and the loan was not mentioned in the NCAA and Pac-12's final report, but the negative attention it brought to the program largely sparked the scrutiny that led to the investigation. Soon after, the Los Angeles Times published a number of articles involving former Washington players who made claims about the improper monitoring and conduct of the program in regards to improper compensation and booster contact.


Lack of institutional control. Specific infractions involved players being overcompensated for work they did on-campus and during summer jobs in Los Angeles along with money being given to players who hosted prospective athletes on visits. Improper contact and compensation from boosters.


  • Two-year probation with bowl bans for 1993 and 1994.
  • Two-year television ban and loss of television revenue share. Loss of 20 scholarships over two years.
  • Reduction of recruiting trips.
  • Most of the penalties were levied by the Pac-10, some of the last sanctions ever brought down by a conference as opposed to the NCAA.


Head coach Don James immediately stepped down in protest, claiming that they were unjust and refusing to admit guilt for things that there were no proven connections to him. He was replaced by defensive coordinator Jim Lambright, and while the Huskies remained near the top of the Pac-12 for the next five years, they were no longer competing for national championships like they were in James' final three seasons. The Huskies struggled with depth in the years following the sanctions and eventually Lambright bottomed out in 1998 with the Huskies' first non-winning season in a long time and most Husky fans would say that the program has never recovered.

USC 2010


Accusations about USC breaking the rules with recruits and players had long existed on the sports talk radio, Internet message board, questionable stuff that your uncle claims is true grapevine long before a damning Yahoo! Sports article was published in 2006 claiming that accused Reggie Bush of taking money while at USC. While there were other accusations about the program that immediately started swirling, it would be the Bush scandal that would be the focus on the soon launched NCAA investigation. The USC athletic department also was overall investigated, including a high profile investigation of the recruitment and career of one-and-done basketball star O.J. Mayo.


A whopping 18 individual violations were levied at Bush and his family with most focusing on benefits that Bush received from marketing agencies while at USC with much of the attention being put on a home purchased for his family and paid trips that Bush took while at USC. The Trojans were also accused of not having enough control of their players which allowed for them to interact improperly with agents and influencers and running backs coach Todd McNair was accused of lying about his knowledge of Bush's situation.


The Trojans were hit harder than any program ever in college football that wasn't given the death penalty.

  • Two-year bowl ban.
  • A loss of 30 scholarships over three years
  • A vacation of a number of the wins that the Trojans claimed during his Bush's career, including the 2004 national championship.
  • A disassociation from Bush.
  • A four-year probation for the USC athletic department.


Head coach Pete Carroll cut bait and headed to coach the Seattle Seahawks before the hammer came down, so you could kind of say that Carroll's exit was the result of the sanctions and the investigation. His replacement Lane Kiffin has had a bit of success, but the Trojans have mostly been disappointing ever since the sanctions hit. The Trojans have greatly struggled with depth during this time and has had a very, very tough time once a key player goes down with injury. Due to a loss of scholarships, the Trojans could only take about 12 players in the Class of 2013 and their lack of signees will likely affect their future success and depth.

Oregon 2013?


Like USC, Oregon's trouble began with a Yahoo! Sports article that hit in the Summer of 2011 and detailed head coach Chip Kelly's interactions with a street agent/scout, Willie Lyles that resulted in Oregon making a $25,000 payment to Lyles. In the article, Lyles claimed that his relationship with Kelly and other Oregon staffers was inappropriate and that the money he received was to influence recruits, including Lache Seastrunk to attend Oregon. The article prompted in an investigation into Oregon by the NCAA.


The questioning of the legality of Oregon's payment to Lyles is the biggest thing in question and the violation that Oregon and the NCAA haven't been able to agree upon. The main issue at question is whether or not that payment, and Kelly's relationship with Lyle's, gave the Ducks the an unfair advantage with recruiting. The Ducks have also risked being labeled as repeat offenders, stemming back to a violation from years back that involved improper handling of a letter of intent, which is also part of the issue surrounding Seastrunk's recruitment.

Penalty & Result