15 min Read

IMHO Sunday: A sobering media perception

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles

Seeing is believing: They say that perception is reality. Not that it means all that much, but a number of national college football columnists and knowledgeable writers have released their post-spring practice top 25 lists, and you do a double-take when you notice that the Trojans are not only left out of the meaningless rankings, but in some of those rankings, the Men of Troy don’t even receive an honorable mention. And we haven’t even got to next month’s avalanche of college football preview magazines. The Trojans not evening making the “honorable mention” list of the post-spring rankings is what really grabbed our attention. From a national perception, you don’t need to be one of the world’s great college football analysts to know that’s unsettling. But again, it’s meaningless, yet it isn’t. There’s no doubt that the University of Southern California Trojans not even in an honorable mention list is quite sobering.

See is believing – Part 2:
We think that nobody knows and understands the current plight of the USC football program and its perception than those that cover the Men of Troy year-round like WeAreSC. As mentioned, perception is reality, and the reality is that in 2018 so much damage was done both on the field (5-7) and administrative decisions made afterward (the retaining of Clay Helton and the unrest of Lynn Swann as athletic director) that every conceivable rude and crude comment describing the state of the USC football program after the season remains in play. Comments like “dumpster fire,” “s**t show,” “unmitigated disaster,” were some of the more complementary printable comments. That image, of course, certainly doesn’t sit well with the educated and emotional Trojans’ massive fan base – not to mention the players and coaches. There’s really no defense for what happened during last season on the field and what transpired after the season. No need to do another autopsy of the why and how come. We’ve all beat that to death, and let’s face it, most USC fans aren’t stupid and do understand the why and how.

The 2018 season was a blur of disappointment for Trojans fans, who are loyal, demanding, passionate, and knowledgeable about the program and the team that means so much to so many.

Media backlash: You may find it hard to believe, but the feelings of “those” national writers are that they are angry and extremely disappointed that USC football has been allowed to sink to such depths. Angry? Yes, angry. College football columnists love when storied collegiate powerhouses are humming on all cylinders, and they actually love seeing the Trojans and all that is the Spirit of Troy at the top of their game. When the Cardinal and Gold are running brutally efficient, ask any national columnist how they enjoy coming to Los Angeles and taking in the pageantry of USC football. They are really – in most cases – like the intense USC fan base. Look, when you’re based on the East Coast or Midwest and you come into L.A. in the fall, what’s not to like, unless USC did what they did last season and then doesn’t look like they did a whole lot in the spring to change the course of a perceived drowning program.   

Media backlash:
My local colleagues have written about it and talked about it, so it will come as no shock when we say that USC football should never be in the situation like last season – both on and off the field. The negative off-season pub and the stench that accompanied it was the perfect storm of not coming close to the elite standards of USC football set by the likes of Howard Jones, John McKay, John Robinson, and Pete Carroll. The Trojans have been to the mountain top many times and at the very least should always be a strong contender each season to reach the peak. USC should NEVER be in the situation it was after crumbling and embarrassing itself last season. Look, nobody realistically can be great for a long period of time with constant head coaching changes, assistant coaching changes, lack of player development, the appearance of administrative incompetence, and just plain lack of everybody pulling from the same end of the rope. The media – both nationally and locally – are not oblivious to the USC situation.

Believe it or not, the national and local media appreciate, admire, respect, and enjoy the USC football tradition, but when the Trojans aren’t winning, most writers – nationally and locally – become agitated at watching a storied program struggle, which translates into perceived negative coverage.

The remedy: The sports media sees the overall picture of a university with lots of issues of its own making. However, nobody doesn’t disagree that one of the first big steps of healing this prideful university is for its storied football program to get its act together. USC football – like it or not – is the backbone of this private university. It is what it is. That’s why the 2019 Trojans must make a comeback. It’s not an option. Word on the block is that new president Carol Folt is pro athletics and is willing to make the tough calls and necessary changes to eventually get things back to the high expectations both academically and athletically. Folt has already began noticeable changes in the hierarchy, and we get the sense that a number of “heads” will roll. Changes must start from the top, and it certainly appears that “Carol” gets it.  

Helton gets it:
Maybe you’ve seen the video or heard the passion of Clay Helton when he addressed the audience in a panel discussion at the JuJu Foundation’s inaugural “Trojan legends” banquet. Helton said that because of what happened last season, he is “pissed,” the team is “pissed,” everybody is “pissed.” Gentleman Clay said that he and his team can’t wait for the season opener against Fresno State. As expected, Helton’s comments drew a loud ovation of support from those in attendance.

At the JuJu Foundation dinner, Trojans head coach Clay Helton said that players, coaches, and fans are all “pissed” at what happened last season, and they all want the Fresno State opener to come quickly to begin the process of turning things around and restoring the USC swagger.

Helton gets it – Part 2: Yeah, there are a lot of “pissed” people currently in the Trojans’ world. But being “pissed” doesn’t win games or put the program back on track. Talking about it and then going out and doing it can be two different things. We’re not ready to jump on the Clay Helton bandwagon until we see the results on and off the field.

From the press box…

On the air: In case you haven’t heard, the Trojans have signed a five-year agreement with AM 790 KABC to be the new radio home of Trojan football and men’s basketball. KABC, which previously served as the flagship station for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Kings, serves all of Southern California with its 6,600-watt signal. The Trojans will be the main sports property of KABC.

On the air – Part 2: Trojan games also will be available via live stream on KABC.com, as well as on the TuneIn Radio app and on SiriusXM satellite radio. KABC also will carry the “Trojans Live” Monday evening show featuring USC coaches and athletics. 

Despite the Trojans broadcast move to AM 790 KABC for the 2019 season , it is expected that longtime radio play-by-play voice Pete Arbogast will be in the new Coliseum press box once again bringing Trojan football to the airwaves.

On the air – Part 3: Drew Hayes, interim general manager of KABC, said, “We are thrilled to partner with USC as the new radio broadcast home of Trojan football and men’s basketball and look forward to bringing the very best sports programming to passionate Trojan fans. With KABC’s powerhouse signal, and USC’s powerhouse teams, more Southern California sports fans than ever will enjoy the ultimate in sports programming. Our entire team is excited to be able to broadcast and live stream Trojans games, as well as the weekly Trojans Live Monday evening coaches’ show on KABC.”

Adjusting to the Air Raid: Hope you got a chance to read the outstanding Q&A story by Erik McKinney on the return of strength and conditioning coach Aaron Asumus. It’s a long but interesting read, but what we found most interesting was what Aaron said about adjusting his program to the Air Raid offense. Here’s an excerpt: 

“It’s definitely a new one for me. Obviously with coach Harrell—and we’re going to have to pick his brain a little bit. We just got a ton of data from spring with the Catapult system, that will tell us. He has already said, the receivers especially need to be able to run quick and hard with really short rest intervals. That’s different than a pro style. Pro style, you’re eating up that play clock, you’re getting the play call, you’re almost using the whole clock, where now they’re moving it fast. So, we want to be able to run fast really often and make good decisions while they’re tired. I’m excited to look at some of the data and see if we need to tweak how we normally condition. As we get close to camp, do we need to phase in way shorter rest intervals or things like that? But the biggest thing is, if we got them to camp in great condition, the practice then is going to take it to the football-specific conditioning that is going to get them ready for that offense.”

New USC strength and conditioning coach Aaron Ausmus is adjusting his program for the Air Raid offense.

Hmm: In the Aaron Asumus Q&A story regarding team conditioning, it was a somewhat surprising revelation when Asumus commented on head coach Clay Helton’s knowledge of strength and conditioning. Asumus said, “Coach Helton feels he’s not the expert in this field and he wants me to be that. He’s going to rely on me. He wants a strong program, a strong team, a fast team, obviously a great conditioned team, and hopefully a team that can resist injuries as much as possible. And every head coach wants that.”

The backdown: After last week’s Reggie Bush comments that the former Trojan tailback and now FOX college football analyst would actively “recruit” former Ohio State and FOX analyst colleague Urban Meyer to be the next USC coach, Bush told respected CBSSports.com columnist Dennis Dodd that what he previously said was done so in a “joking manner.” Bush also said, “Me recruiting Urban Meyer? I’m still trying to learn college football.”

Reggie Bush has toned down dramatically his call for Urban Meyer to be the next Trojans’ head football coach.

The backdown – Part 2: Bush said last week that he and Matt Leinart would recruit Meyer if things don’t work out with Clay Helton. Leinart also updated his quotes regarding the current situation by telling Dodd, “We’re all good. … (Bush’s comments were) taken out of context. I like Clay. I really like him. There’s a lot of pressure on him. I think he’s doing the best he can. We’ll see what happens. I support him.”

The post-game show…

New uniforms: The Trojans Marching Band is doing a big fundraising drive to provide new uniforms for the 2oo2 season. For further information on how you can help keep the Spirit of Troy alive, go to: https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/TMBUNIFORMS

The Trojans Marching Band is asking for donations to provide new uniforms for the 2020 season

The goal setter: If you ever spent time around him during his USC playing career,you just knew that former Trojans’ safety Chris Hawkins was going to someday be a coach – either in high school or in college. Well, check the college box because he’s now a first-year grad assistant for the Trojans. A very smart player, Hawkins knew his NFL chances were limited, but his coaching career could be unlimited. Chris knows what he wants in the future and said so for a recent WeAreSC story. Hawk said, “As of right now, I plan on, somewhere in my career, being the defensive backs coach at USC. I don’t know whether that’s in a few years or later down the line.” Folks, don’t bet against him.

Jersey sales: So, what jersey number will the USC Bookstore be promoting for the upcoming season? It wouldn’t be shocking if one of those numbers is No. 6, which is associated with senior wide receiver and all-star candidate Michael Pittman Jr.

Will the next big selling item in the USC Bookstore to the No. 6 jersey worn by star receiver Michael Pittman Jr.?

Speed demon: Recently, incoming freshman tailback Kenan Christon raised eyebrows recently when he ran a 20.90 200 meter at the Mt. SAC relays. The time is currently the fastest 200 in California and the ninth fastest time in the nation. Of all the recruits in the Class of 2019, Christon arguably is the biggest sleeper unless you watched this blazer during his prep career San Diego (Calif) Madison High.

Speed demon – Part 2:
If you’re not that familiar with Kenon Christon’s high school running numbers, this past season Kenon (5-10, 185) ran for 980 yards on 127 carries (7.7 avg.) with 11 TDs and caught nine passes for 122 yards (13.6 avg.) and one touchdown.

Incoming freshman tailback Kenan Christon raised eyebrows recently when he ran a 20.90 200 meter at the Mt. SAC relays. The time is currently the fastest 200 in California and the ninth fastest time in the nation.

A waste of money: Perhaps you’ve seen some Coliseum photos or a computer-generated view of the Coli “obstructed view” seats, which are located to the immediate left and right of the new Scholarship Tower. Why anybody would pay money to see only half the field and watch the rest of the action on one of the video boards above my paygrade.

The last word: Here’s the latest real time Coliseum renovation camera view: https://app.oxblue.com/open/usc/lacoliseumrenovation

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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