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EXCLUSIVE: Trojan ineligible

Earlier this week, the USC media relations department issued the following statement:

"Whenever we are aware that media outlets ask student-athletes to do these kinds of tags we immediately cut them off," said Tim Tessalone, USC's sports information director. "Unfortunately, this one slipped by." has learned from sources familiar with the investigation that the individual in violation is Matt Leinart, a member of the University of Southern California football team.

Leinart, a senior quarterback projected by's Gil Brandt as a first-day pick in next April's NFL Draft, can also ballroom dance. He tallied 27 touchdown passes, 3,450 yards passing and zero Heisman Trophies this season and was selected as a first team All-Pac 10 performer. Against Notre Dame he sort of rushed a last-second touchdown.

According to incident reports, at 5:06 p.m. on December 3rd, reporters were dispatched to interview USC players after their involvement in an assault against the UCLA defense. USC defeated UCLA in Los Angeles earlier that afternoon.

On an unnamed day in December, viewers responded to a commercial on ESPN featuring Leinart by tuning into a later edition of Sportscenter featuirng a breakdown of USC's chances against the then-unbeaten Indianapolis Colts, a team in the National Football League. The incident occurred on DirecTV channel 206, near the network's popular NFL Network (channel 212).

A Los Angeles Times report that doesn't quote Leinart explains the indicent in more detail.

USC quietly declared the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner ineligible earlier this month after ESPN aired the brief promotional segment, which was recorded after the Trojans' victory over UCLA. USC reported the violation and petitioned the NCAA to reinstate Leinart.

UPDATE: L.A. Times reporter Gary Klein confirmed to ESPN and anyone else who reads the newspaper on Wednesaday that Leinart had been ineligible, as we are reporting now.

Leinart's situation came to light when USC's sports information staff turned down post-practice interview requests for the senior, who is only made available to the media on Tuesdays.

Klein's story was filed several hours before our initial report naming Leinart.

Leinart had been barred by USC from participating in media activities until after Christmas.

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