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USC should be applauded for four-year scholarships move

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The University of Southern California will offer four-year scholarships to its revenue-sport athletes (©GettyImages)
The University of Southern California will offer four-year scholarships to its revenue-sport athletes (©GettyImages).

The University of Southern California will start offering four-year scholarships, according to a press release from its website, a move which will give players more stability when planning their collegiate career.

The new policy will ensure that players who sign with Southern California will be guaranteed a full ride through the school system, rather than have their scholarships re-upped every year. It specifically applies to players in "revenue" sports, meaning men and women's basketball, as well as football.

USC Athletic Director Pat Haden said in the release that the move was made to ensure that the school was leading the effort to "refocus" on student-athlete welfare on-and-off the field.

The policy comes into effect July 1, for future players as well as current ones.

If this was coming from a small Division-I school, this news wouldn't be so momentous. After all, this should have been a long time ago, yet the top colleges for athletics have continually avoided the practice.

But for it to come from the Trojans, one of the NCAA's perenniel championship-winning teams, is impressive. Southern California has the third-most national titles of all schools, with 100 championships across all its sports.

If an institution with as much athletic clout as Southern California says its re-focusing on education, other groups should stand up and notice.

There are two interesting factors in this decision. 

One, it could help with recruiting. Sure, the top recruits are going to go where they want, knowing that they don't quite need an education. But for those three to four-star recruits who worry about playing time or are an injury away from losing their athletic careers, a guaranteed scholarship would be a huge boon.

Secondly, the statement, as voiced by Haden, is clearly referring to the court battle between former-UCLA basktball player Ed O'Bannon, who with a host of former players has filed a class-action anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA.

One of O'Bannon's primary arguments is that schools call players "student-athletes" in order to avoid paying them, but then primarily use them for their athletic ability, rather than ensuring they receive a sound education.

This will ensure that even student-athletes who are no longer valuable in competition, whether through injury or completed eligibility, will still be able to get an education and accomplish the "student" part of the equation.

It's a savvy move on Southern California's part, one that should be held up as the standard for other universities. It's a step in the right direction - another step toward truly fulfilling its role as an educational institution to its athletes.

It certainly won't stop the NCAA model from being entirely disrupted, as is inevitable.

But it will show future coaches and players that Southern California, at least in this area, is progressive.

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