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IMHO Sunday: Battle of the rivalry renovations

Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think.

The overhaul: Both the USC Trojans and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are either in the midst or beginning phases of renovations to their respective and storied football facilities. The Irish got the big construction jump two seasons ago and are finishing the final touches on a relaunched Notre Dame Stadium for 2017. As for the Trojans, they’re just starting to scratch the surface of a Coliseum redo with the brunt of the renovation to begin following the conclusion of the upcoming 2017 season. One thing both football powers have in common, their respective fan bases are not in agreement over the changes or proposed changes to their iconic gridiron edifices.

The Overhaul – Part 2: With their respective renovations, Notre Dame Stadium seating capacity will increase by 4,000 from a current 80,000 seat venue while the Coliseum is expected to decrease seating by some 16,000 from its current 93,607 configuration.    

Here come the Irish: For those Trojan fans that will be attending their heroes visit to Notre Dame Stadium on Oct. 21, some of those new renovations were unveiled during Saturday’s Irish spring game. Among those new additions: new blue vinyl seating benches replacing the old wooden benches (sorry, again no backs with the new seats), a new but small, narrow, and foreboding visitors’ tunnel, a new press box now on the opposite side of the old press box, which has now become mostly suites but still retains the original NBC  broadcast location, a newly bricked Notre Dame team tunnel entrance, and the continued construction of a giant video board on the south end opposite “Touchdown Jesus.” Like Wrigley Field in nearby Chicago, the Irish may have – with additional building attachments – disfigured their once storied and fabled football field.

Here come the Irish – Part 2: With some of its new stadium digs functional, Notre Dame held his spring game on Saturday, and Irish sophomore backup quarterback Ian Book finished 17 of 22 for 277 yards and one touchdown while sophomore defensive end Daelin Hayes, once a Trojans commit, had seven tackles with three sacks to lead the Gold to a 27-14 win over the Blue in the annual Blue-Gold Game before 20,147. Anticipated Irish starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush, a junior, was 22 of 32 for 303 yards and two interceptions.

Here come the Irish – Part 3: So, I was checking out our popular WeAreSC “Huddle” Message Board and a ribbon ad at the top was for purchasing season tickets for…Notre Dame home games. Who would have thunk it? Well, I guess that would be one way of securing tickets for the Trojan fans for the big game in South Bend on Oct. 21.

Scoreboard baby: In a short video presentation released to the public entitled “Restoration of Tradition”, the Trojans announced through Coliseum Director of Operations Supervisor Brian Grant that the old Coliseum Peristyle scoreboards located to the left and right of the torch and the electronic clock below the historic torch are in the process of being removed and replaced by two new bigger and better scoreboards, which will be in place by June.

Scoreboard baby – Part 2: The two new scoreboards will be placed in the last section of the northeast and southeast side of the peristyle end. The goal, according to Brian Grant, is to restore the Coliseum peristyle end to its original 1923 look. As a public service, here is Grant’s video presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhEWDb24dKw  

IMHO: Now that the tradition of 1923 is a major goal as it relates to the peristyle end, it would be nice to keep the “Restoration of Tradition” concept alive and review the ill-advised plans of removing prime seats on the press box side of the Coliseum to make way for the new suites and new press box. Obviously, removing those current seats on the west side of the Grand Old Lady for a giant combo structure doesn’t keep the tradition alive. On the contrary, maybe those in charge should look how Notre Dame handled its new press box and suites. There has to be a better way, right?

IMHO – Part 2: With so much emphasis to “restoring” the peristyle end to the 1923 version, does it make much difference if those overly unattractive and visual blocking portable suites below the peristyle end are still up this coming next season?

Warning sign: There is much angst within the general USC football community that the proposed Coliseum changes include seat location changes and future seat licensing. Although there is nothing quite like going to a USC home football game, this fan trepidation – either by loyal support group members and/or general fan season ticket holders – continues to be real. This fan fear will be a great challenge for the USC Athletic Department to find creative ways to reverse any negatives regarding the controversial Coliseum changes.

Warning sign – Part 2: In recently reading the WeAreSC Huddle Message Board, one comment jumped out by contributor “Loyal Trojan.” LT wrote, “For me personally, as much as I like be being at a game in person, I’ve gotten to the stage in my life where I can no longer deal with the whole process of getting to the game and getting out once the game is over. Parking is horrible and for the most part, the experience is no longer worth it when I can sit in a nice air conditioned house, watching a high def big screen TV in surround sound drinking my favorite cool beverage. Unfortunately, after the grey old lady gets raped, I fear it’s only going to be worse down there.”

Warning sign – Part 3: I could be wrong, but given the above statements by Loyal Trojan, this diehard might be approaching or is at the senior citizen level (“I’ve gotten to the stage in my life where I can no longer deal with the whole process…”). While winning helps in curtailing those kinds of frustrations, the fact remains that LT’s comments do warrant some discussion. For those that have followed the Trojans from as far back as the 1960s and John McKay, there’s a unique and special bond with the program, and there has to be a way to keep these loyalists attending games in Exposition Park.

From the press box…

The prognosticator: National radio host Colin Cowherd said on the air this week that the Trojans will play for the national championship, and that Clay Helton’s defense is the best since the Pete Carroll era.

IMHO: I would feel a lot better about Colin Cowherd’s national championship game prediction had field goal kicker and Rose Bowl hero Matt Boermeester returned to the team.

IMHO – Part 2: On second thought, I would feel a lot better about Colin Cowherd’s national game prediction if the Trojans could first win the Pac-12 South Division and then the Pac-12 title game, which won’t be a cakewalk to attain either goal.

Ratings game: How important is the recruiting and perception exposure for the Trojans when they play on an ABC Saturday Night Football Game? ABC’s Saturday Night Football Game was the most-watched college football franchise on any network this season, delivering an average total live audience of 6.087 million viewers and a 3.5 rating, seeing increases in its TV and streaming audiences.

Ratings – Part 2: FOX Sports, which Trojans football appeared on last season, recorded its most-watched college football season ever in 2016 with an average audience of 1.32 million viewers on the FOX broadcast network and FS1. FS1 saw a major jump in 2016, with a 23 percent viewership increase over 2015.

Ratings – Part 3: The Pac-12 Championship Game between Washington and Colorado on Dec. 2 delivered 5,671,000 viewers on FOX, a 120 percent increase over the 2015 game. It was the second most-watched Pac-12 Championship Game in history. Imagine those ratings if the Trojans make it to the conference title game, which would heavily bring in the Southern California market.

Happy New Year: The 2017 Rose Bowl Game ranked as the highest-attended bowl game for the second year in a row, with 95,128 fans watching the Trojans 52-49 comeback win over Penn State.

Happy New Year – Part 2: During the 2017 Rose Bowl Game between the Trojans and Penn State, Philadelphia (16.7) set a new market record for the game, while in Pittsburgh (17.0) and Los Angeles (14.9) it was the second highest-rated bowl game ever on ESPN. FYI, the Rose Bowl will host one of this season’s CFP semi-final games. Can you imagine if…

The replacement: The Trojans will open Pac-12 play on Sept. 10 by hosting Stanford in the Coliseum and many cardinal and gold fans are relieved that all-time Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey has departed to the NFL. However, the Cardinal have another standout running back who starred in its spring game, and his name is Trevor Speights, the cousin of Los Angeles Clippers forward Marreese Speights. All Trevor did during the Stanford spring game was have several eye-popping runs while rushing for over 100 yards and scoring two touchdowns.

The post-game show…

Fight On: The Dodgers played Colorado on Wednesday night at the stadium and it was USC Night. It was also a rare home telecast throughout SoCal on Channel 5, and one rich patron sitting behind the plate in the Lexus Dugout Seats kept flashing the two-fingered Trojans “Fight On” sign. And, yes, Clay Helton was there and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Fight On – Part 2: The irony of USC night at Dodger Stadium is that here you had Trojans head football coach Clay Helton as a guest of the Dodgers while the L.A. skipper, Dave Roberts, is a graduate of UCLA.

Numbers game: It is expected that redshirt freshman receiver Tyler Vaughns, who wears No. 21, will have a distinguished USC career. In terms of wide receiver jersey numbers, it’s somewhat unusual to have a wide receiver wearing a jersey number in the 20s. However, one of the Trojans true all-time great All-America receivers wore No. 22 or have you forgotten Lynn Swann, the current USC athletic director?

Huddle time: With spring ball completed and not yet time for the June high school camps and competition on the Trojans’ campus, the always popular Trojans Huddle, the traveling caravan road show of USC coaches, led by head football coach Clay Helton, head men’s basketball coach Andy Enfield, former Hall of Fame football coach John Robinson, and the Trojans Marching Band, is nearly upon us.

Huddle time – Part 2: The first Trojan Huddle date will be Monday, May 8, at the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, Hors d’oeuvres, and Silent Auction. At 6:15 p.m. will be the “Chalk Talk.”

Huddle time – Part 3: The second Trojans Huddle date will have a return to campus on Monday, May 15, at the Galen Center. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception and silent auction, 6:30 dinner, and 7:15 “Chalk Talk.”

Huddle time – Part 4:
The third Trojans Huddle takes place on Wednesday, May 17, at the La Jolla Country Club down in San Diego. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, Hors d’oeuvres, and Silent Auction. At 6:15 p.m. will be the “Chalk Talk.”

Huddle time – Part 5: The final scheduled Trojans Huddle is Friday, June 2, at the Indian Wells Country Club down Palm Springs way. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception and silent auction, 6:30 dinner, and 7:15 “Chalk Talk.”

Huddle Time – Part 6: FYI, the Trojans silent auction items will include football pre-game wristbands, basketball tickets, football press box patio seats, USC vs Notre Dame game tickets and Trojan Express, and USC football field passes.

The last word: For those that would like more information on the Trojans Huddle engagements, you can call USC Athletics at 213-740-4155 or email at [email protected]

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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