In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.
Persona non grata: As you may have heard last week, the College Football Playoff (CFP) plans on holding its annual four-team national post-season tournament following the conclusion of the 2020 fall season, thus ignoring the Pac-12 and Big Ten Conference, two Power 5 Conferences that have elected to forego fall competition for theoretically sometime in the winter-spring. In other words, a national champion is scheduled to be crowned in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium on Monday, January 11, from among those conferences that will play this fall. Ironically, one of the CFP semi-final sites is the Rose Bowl (Jan.1, 2021), which BTW isn’t even holding its renowned parade due to the coronavirus.
Persona non grata – Part 2: Just how does this fall season’s CFP name a national championship when the field to draw from doesn’t include the Midwest or the West Coast? Why not just call it an amputated national champion? Surely when you don’t have a national field to select from, you can’t have a true national champion. This will be the fourth consecutive year that the Pac-12 will not have a team involved in the CFP. The Washington Huskies in 2016 were the last Pac-12 school to participate in the modest post-season tournament. Now here’s a thought: How about the Pac-12 and the Big Ten holding a spring Rose Bowl Game, giving their respective conferences something to shoot for besides just winning a conference title?
Persona non grata – Part 3: IMHO, the CFP should go with the old saying: All for one and one for all. You may not like hearing this, but, IMHO they should just cancel the CFP – have the bowl games if you’d like – and just wait to 2021 to have a true national champion? Clemson, ranked No.1 in the preseason AP poll, wants a CPF in January because they are playing in the fall. In fact, Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney says that a champion is a champion no matter who is in the truncated fall field. Obviously, old Dabo wants to get another shot at another “national title” while he still has his all-star quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, on campus. I get Dabo’s position. Achieving another national title certainly doesn’t hurt the Tigers in national image, which also translates quite nicely into the recruiting game.
Persona non grata – Part 4: I still believe – as I’ve said previously, that the Pac-12 and Big Ten absolutely did the right thing in rescheduling from the fall season until after the new year – if there is a season. Sure, the No. 17 Trojans roster and lineup on both sides of the line of scrimmage could be deeply affected if there is a winter-spring schedule. With the recent headlines that some of the USC student body isn’t handling the discipline needed to avoid the virus spread, it is a reminder that Trojans student-athletes are also at risk, and that’s not a good thing. Even this past week, the Trojans had to pause workouts for both the football and men’s water polo teams following positive Covid-19 tests for eight student-athletes in those sports.
Persona non grata – Part 5: And for good measure, I think playing the CFP post-season is reminder why the playoffs should expand to an eight-team post-season tournament. All Power 5 Conference champions from across the country need to be represented. Now that, my friends, is a true national champion. Selections of team should not be in a boardroom but on the field of play. Now you could argue that nobody in the Pac-12 in 2020 is going to be worthy anyway of being good enough to participate in a four-team playoff. However, there is no evidence either that they couldn’t be a formidable national foe. If teams are going to be selected in a boardroom, let it be an independent and two at-large teams for an eight-team tournament. If you want nationwide buy-in, get the entire nation involved.
Persona non grata – Part 6: Recently a member of the CFP Management Committee told CBS sports.com, “We made the decision we’re moving forward with the plan as originally scheduled (to play this fall).” However, official CFP spokesperson Bill Hancock said, “Whoever (the first committee source) is, that’s his opinion. It’s way too early to speculate.” And so it goes.
Persona non grata – Part 7: FYI, you’ll be happy to know that the CFP Management Committee is comprised of commissioners from the 10 FBS conference plus Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. The Irish, BTW, will participate in an ACC Conference football schedule and will be eligible for the ACC Championship Game.
Persona non grata – Part 8: FYI, to show you that the CFP is firmly intent to keep a “normal” CFP playoff schedule, the CFP will release its first poll on Nov. 17.
Persona non grata – Part 9: If you’re looking for a credible opinion of whether the Pac-12 will have a football season after the new year, Utah’s head coach Kyle Whittingham recently said, “I think, right now, it’s probably 50-50 at best that we can pull something like this off, in my opinion. I don’t have any inside information other than just my own thoughts.”
From the press box…
Pac-12 Networks: You’ve probably heard that the Pac-12 Networks are making additional massive cuts because there is no live programing because of the coronavirus. Aside from that, why is the Pac-12 Networks still not part of the DIRECTV option? This is ridiculous. If Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott wants more exposure for the conference, why wouldn’t you compromise to get DIRECTV on board, especially at this point in time.
Band on the run: Although there is no real sense of urgency because there are no football games in which to perform, it’s still curious that no successor for Dr. Arthur C Bartner has been named. Bartner, however, is still working with the band through Zoom sessions.
The sad truth: So the Rams and the Chargers will open the season with no fans. Then there is the fact that there will be no college football for USC and UCLA this fall. The real sad truth is all those folks that had jobs such as concessionaires, ushers, parking attendants, and the list goes on and on and those folks need the money to make ends meet. So sad.
The statues: I still think the Coliseum could be enhanced with legendary larger-than-life statues of Trojan football and track greats that played in the Grand Old Lady. If you want to keep the statues safe, put them on the inside of the Coli by each of the outside tunnel entrances. For example, put a Matt Leinart statue by the entrance of Tunnel 5. Hey, it’s just a thought.
The cutouts: The Dodgers and Angels do it. The Rams are doing it for their new stadium in Inglewood. So, will the Trojans – if they even have a winter-spring season – have photographic cutouts of their fans in the Coliseum stands along with fake crowd noise?
The post-game show…
A testimonial: Legendary retired sports columnist Steve Bisheff says that in his distinguished career, former Trojans assistant coach Dick Coury, who recently passed, was but a handful of sports people that Bish covered who ranked as a truly kind and gentle man, and whose brilliant professional career overlooked his even greater personal character.
A testimonial – Part 2: Bisheff told me, “Dick was just extraordinary, the most likeable, general guy I’ve met in the business. There couldn’t have been a more giving guy. He was such a humble guy and a great coach. He was just loved by his players. You could understand why he was such a great recruiter.”
A testimonial – Part 3: Bisheff added, “People don’t realize how down to earth Coury was, just amazing – period. In 42 years in the business, I have come across maybe four or five guys that had all those traits (coaching and character).”
Good news: Former Trojans’ linebacker Cam Smith had successful heart surgery and is now on the mend. Cam is hopeful that at some point he’ll be able to continue his NFL career but hopes to contribute in other ways while he recovers.
Officially purple: In case you hadn’t heard, Jack Yary, a former Trojans signee and son of legendary offensive tackle Ron Yary, made it official that he has rerouted to be a Washington Husky. It’s unfortunate that a legacy is off to Seattle after signing with the Trojans, although I am told there is much more than meets the eye on this one, and it’s not Clay Helton’s or his staff’s fault.
The call-in show…
Caller No. 1: Mr. Katz, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Pac-12 is looking at various schedule scenarios for an after New Year’s winter-spring schedule. According to the Times, “The possibilities that include six- and eight-game schedules starting as soon as January were discussed in a meeting of conference coaches Friday, according to one person close to the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly divulge details of the conversation. One model involves only games within a team’s division as part of a highly truncated season that would help the conference preserve a full 2021 fall schedule.” Sir, what do you think of these ideas?
Caller No. 1, I give the Pac-12 big points for trying to find some way to have a season that doesn’t bump too close to the 2021 season. I guess you could have an abbreviated schedule by both the Pac-12 North and South Divisions playing within their respective division schools and then playing a championship between the two division winners. Then again, is playing just six games plus a championship game worth it? On second thought, maybe it isn’t.
Caller No. 2: Greg, if the Trojans play in the winter-spring and don’t win the Pac-12 South, would Clay Helton’s job be in jeopardy?
Well, Caller No. 2, given the situation, if the Trojans lose stars to the NFL and don’t win the Pac-12 South Division, I don’t think AD Mike Bohn would make a change nor would I think President Folt would allow it. It wouldn’t pass the smell test unless Bohn was waiting for an opening to dismiss Gentleman Clay and not winning the South would be that opening. No, it looks like Helton is good through the 2021 season – assuming there is a 2021 season as we know it.
Caller No. 3: G-boy, if Clay Helton was dismissed after this season (winter-spring), name a couple of candidates you think the Trojans might look at.
Caller No. 3, I think you’re way ahead of the game. However, two names that stick out to me are University of Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, who worked under former UC athletic director and current USC AD Mike Bohn, and first-year Baylor head coach Dave Aranda, who along with his wife, are natives of Redlands, California.
Caller No. 4: Katzman, what do you think will be the reaction of Pac-12 fans in the coming weeks when they see conferences like the SEC, ACC, and the Big 12 playing in the fall?
Caller No 4, I would imagine anger, jealousy, confusion, and all those emotions that go along with wanting something that in theory you could have. However, making things appear normal when they’re not takes some self-discipline to understand why the Pac-12 and the Big Ten are being so super cautious.
Caller No. 5: G-Kat, do you think the NCAA will continue to make adjustments to its rules regarding roster size as it pertains to the 2020 season regardless of whether teams play in the fall or the winter-spring.
Caller No. 5, I think the NCAA really needs to address this issue of teams playing in the winter-spring and how it really can affect recruiting and roster size due to early defections to the NFL. IMHO, the NCAA should allow players to return to college if they are not drafted into the NFL but still have eligibility left – and as long as they have not signed with an agent. Maybe the NCAA could have some sort of sliding scale for roster size. I am sure universities would love to keep some of their “stars” back in college. These are radical times and need some sort of radical but reasonable adjustments.
Caller No. 6: Gregger, is there something that you really don’t like to do?
Caller No. 6, I would say on the domestic front, I can’t stand doing any sort of yardwork. I know some people love it, but I never liked mowing a lawn, pulling weeds, or planting flowers. I always said when I was growing up, if I have a backyard, I’d just as soon put in Astroturf instead of grass, and I’d hire a gardener for any other yard chores. When I was young, I hated it when my dad would tell me to pull weeds. Is there anything more boring than that? I remember he would water down the area of the weeds he wanted me to pull to make pulling weeds easier. Well, IMHO, it just made more mud, and I couldn’t stand getting the mud all over me. If it was a hot day, man, it was the worst. In case you are wondering, I live in a condo with a small backyard that has cement in the “backyard” instead of grass, although there are some plants that surround my cement backyard.
The final word: It’s seems like a million years since the Trojans last played a football game. For the record, the last time the Men of Troy played football was on December 17, 2019. Imagine if the Trojans don’t kick off until September 4, 2021. FYI, the opponent in the Coliseum will be mighty San Jose State.