LOS ANGELES -- Standout receiver Mike Williams is all but certain not to play Saturday night when top-ranked Southern California opens its season because of continuing delays in the school's appeal process to the NCAA.
After that - who knows?
USC has applied to the NCAA for a progress-toward-degree waiver and reinstatement of Williams' eligibility.
"Even today there are still some holdups in the processing - not on our end," USC coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday. "We have done all we can and we still can't get the word as to what is going on. It has been very, very difficult to get Mike back on the playing field.
"It has been extraordinarily frustrating for Mike and his family."
And the Trojans as well, although the presence of talented freshmen wide receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Fred Davis might make Williams' absence easier to take.
Williams, who hasn't practiced with the Trojans since early August, began fall semester classes Monday.
USC leaves Thursday for its first game against Virginia Tech in the Black Coaches Association Football Classic.
Williams caught 95 passes for 1,314 yards and a school-record 16 touchdowns as a sophomore last season to help the Trojans (12-1) win The Associated Press' national championship.
After a court ruled in February that Ohio State's Maurice Clarett was eligible to play in the NFL, Williams left school in the spring, hired an agent and said he was turning pro, apparently ending his college career.
Williams was projected as a high first-round draft pick, but an appeals court overturned the earlier ruling and upheld the NFL's right to bar players who had been out of high school for less than three years.
After that ruling, Williams severed ties with his agent and began the process of applying to the NCAA for reinstatement. He returned to USC, attended summer school and practiced with the Trojans early this month while awaiting word on his status.
He's still waiting.
Without elaborating, Carroll said required paperwork still hadn't been sent to the NCAA.
"Mike passed his (summer school) units, got his coursework done," Carroll said. "Mike has done everything you can do to get himself back. It's been a very difficult process - it's just been hard. It's still very much in question."
Carroll said a new NCAA rule requiring an athlete to pass six units the previous semester to retain eligibility is at the heart of the matter.
"That's what the requests are about," the coach said. "He has enough units, he has the grade-point average, but he was not enrolled in the spring."
Summer school doesn't apply. Williams left school when he made the decision to go pro.
NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said from Indianapolis that the new rule took effect for the 2003-04 academic year.
"It used to be that it was year-by-year," Christianson said. "If a student-athlete didn't complete the requisite credit hours in one semester, he could in the next one."
Christianson said there is no timetable on the Williams matter, but added: "The NCAA processes reinstatement requests as timely as possible and at the same time as thoroughly as possible."