If It's Friday, It's Time For A USC Notes Column
I want to say something about the USC/Coliseum naming rights controversy.
USC has saved a decaying landmark by taking it over and pouring more than $300 million into its renovation. The new tower on the pressbox side may ruin the character of the Coliseum but without USC the stadium didn't have much hope for regaining its past glory.
That said, it is also true that USC's arrogance is what created the bad optics on the naming rights situation. USC spin masters (in the athletic dept. and administration) always act like the university needs to squeeze every last dollar on every sponsorship deal.
The truth is USC's always been able to raise enough money for its capital sports projects (Galen Center, McKay Center, Heritage Hall renovation, swim stadium, tennis stadium). So if it needed to raise another $20 million to keep the "Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum" name intact, it could have done it. Soldier Field and the Rose Bowl managed to survive without renaming itself.
But USC's "greed is good" attitude under Max Nikias got it into trouble with the medical school dean scandal, where people looked the other way as long as millions were raised for the health science campus. This attitude led to tasteless buildings being constructed like the Al Cowlings Residential College for an anonymous $15 million donation.
There are countless other examples but sometimes dignity is worth more than unchecked greed in the name of sponsorship/endowment.
Did you go to the Honda Center in Anaheim for the NCAA West Regional games Thursday night? The USC men's water polo team was honored at halftime of the Texas Tech-Michigan game. Lynn Swann was there too but Jovan Vavic was not.
USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said defensive lineman Connor Murphy has improved this spring. That's good because it was hard to tell if Murphy was even on the team the past two seasons. I expected more considering Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh spent the night at Murphy's house during a recruiting visit.
When are Trevon Sidney, Josh Imatorbhebhe or Oluwole Betiku going to pick new schools? I didn't include Velus Jones in that group because he might come back.
USC special teams coach John Baxter was talking about the Trojans' new Australian punter, Ben Griffiths, and was asked how Griffiths got on his radar? "I have friends down there. I had an Australian at Michigan named Blake O'Neal."
Michigan fans don't want to reminded of that. You can watch the most infamous play of Baxter's career here on YouTube. I can't tell you how many USC players have mentioned the above play to me regarding Baxter.
Tailback Markese Stepp drew high praise after his last weekend's scrimmage. He was not as popular with running backs coach Mike Jinks on Thursday for his pass protection.
The USC coaches' clinic is today and Saturday. Rams coach Sean McVay speaks at 5 p.m. Clay Helton is at 7 p.m. San Diego State coach Rocky Long speaks at 8:15 a.m. Saturday and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is at 2 p.m.
Everyone knows now how Donna Heinel got fake athletes into USC. But maybe one day USC will explain the process by which it knows a trustee's child or big-time donor's kid has applied. Does a secret team go from Bovard to the Admissions building? Somehow it gets flagged and these people get into school. Remember, everyone is into transparency right now at USC.
USC basketball has never been a star-studded affair. But in the early 1960's, actor David Niven called USC and asked for tickets to game because his son was a fan. But Niven had a special request. He did not want to sit in one of the lower sections of the Sports Arena because he just wanted to enjoy the game as a normal fan. So he sat in a higher section. Can you imagine a celebrity today not wanting courtside seats?
Below is an envelope from a letter sent by USC athletic director Jess Hill in 1963. I'm including it to highlight the schedule. Can you imagine USC playing Oklahoma, Michigan State, Ohio State, Notre Dame in a single season? Colorado was also a non-conference game in 1963.
That schedule is quite different today's philosophy that you must play a schedule that allows you to make the College Football Playoff. I don't know if that schedule exists as long as Helton is coaching at USC.