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And the quartet of quarterbacks who did the same dating back to Peyton Manning in 1997 _ Leinart, Tim Tebow (2009) and Jake Locker (2010) _ all were gone by the end of the first round the following year.

But minimizing the risk that Barkley is taking shouldn’t stop us from marveling at the loyalty he showed to a school and a sport that always rewards coaches and administrators handsomely, but not always the kids who make it all possible.

The lessons the sport has been teaching the past few years _ from fleeing coaches to shady conference realignment schemes to university presidents only too willing to look the other way _ is that it’s every man for himself. By returning to USC for one more year, Barkley signaled he was still about something else.


“That’s not an easy decision,” said Kiffin, who won’t get a better present this Christmas. “Not many people would do what Matt has done.”


Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at) Follow him at