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IMHO Sunday: Changing of the guard

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

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

In and out: And we’re not talking about the popular hamburger franchise. We’re talking about the transition this week of athletic stewardship at the University of Southern California. From incoming Lynn Swann (photo above) to outgoing Pat Haden, one could safely say that Swann comes in as sort of a mystery man while Haden departs in controversy, creating a house divided on his legacy.

The opinion poll: As he exits his position, Pat Haden was the nation’s highest paid athletic director, and if you ask different segments of the Trojans population, you’re probably going to get a split opinion. By all accounts, the athletes loved Haden and saw him as “Uncle Pat.” He strongly encouraged academic excellence and department balance in all sports and was considered a fundraising dynamo.

The opinion poll – Part 2: On the other hand, rightly or wrongly, Haden’s reputation has taken a massive hit and his once pristine image has been badly tarnished, something thought unthinkable when he assumed the AD office to clean up the NCAA sanctions fiasco. As he leaves his job, Haden is seen by many as a financial opportunist, questionable decision-maker, and a social elitist. In hindsight, his dealings with the NCAA have been portrayed as originally naïve and then weak, a portrait on that particular issue that may or may not have been of his choice.

What’s next?: That’s the question that should be on the minds of all USC athletic followers. What’s next? Only Lynn Swann and Max Nikias know the immediate answers. Where will Swann place his priorities for his department? Like Haden, Swann is the great communicator and veteran of national exposure. Swann was not only a superstar athlete and football player at all levels, but he was also a player in the Pennsylvania political arena. How will this play out considering Swann has no previous AD experience?

What’s next? – Part 2: In the coming weeks, months, and years, Lynn Swann’s vision of the USC athletic department and his expertise in overseeing a football program will emerge. For the immediate future, Swann will continue to grasp the lay of the cardinal and gold land. His first order of business should be to review the Coliseum renovation project and draw conclusions of his vision for the Grand Old Lady. After all, he spent some of his finest collegiate days in the historical venue.

What’s next? – Part 3: Obviously it’s way too early for Lynn Swann to draw some sort of conclusion regarding Clay Helton, a head football coach hired by Pat Haden. If we understand one thing about Swann, he knows his football and he knows about winning big – something he did with high regularity at USC and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

What ‘s next? – Part 4: While Lynn Swann knows it’s football that stirs the USC drink, he’ll have to prove his support of all the other sports on campus. The feeling here is that old No. 22 will do that without much problem at all. If Swann can mend some of burned bridges of some mighty powerful alumni during the Haden era, fundraising should neatly fall into place.

IMHO: It wouldn’t shock me if Lynn Swann eventually modeled the USC football program like an NFL franchise or a John McKay template while keeping the collegiate experience in prospective.

Standing Pat: After the latest unflattering financial revelations reported by the Los Angeles Times regarding outgoing Trojans athletic director Pat Haden, and the fact that Haden’s support of the current Coliseum renovation designs has continued to erode, shouldn’t the once admired former Trojans quarterback consider recusing himself from the Coliseum project?

Retrospect: I have no idea how history will look back at Pat Haden and his tumultuous tenure as Trojans athletic director. Only time will allow all things to be put in proper prospective. However, with much less fanfare or visibility, J.K. McKay is no longer part of the athletic department and most people I’ve talked with still love and like the unassuming son of legendary Trojans football coach John McKay. Here’s wishing both Haden and McKay the best of luck in their futures, and here’s hoping they will both be remembered for their contributions on the cardinal and gold gridiron.

From the press box…

Tweet that: Many of today’s recruits have their own twitter account, and sometimes that gives insight into their recruiting mindset. Trojans head coach Clay Helton and Trojans fans hope so. At the Rising Stars Camp last week, a tweet by Alabama commit Alex Leatherwood, the All-World offensive tackle from Pensacola, Florida, seemed to indicate his eyes were opened with his visit to Los Angeles.

Tweet that – Part -2: In case you didn’t see it, Alex Leatherwood tweeted, “Absolutely in love with USC (happy face with hearts and the two-fingered ‘Fight On’ Artwork) and Fight On.” Take it any way you want, but you can bet back in Tuscaloosa the Leatherwood tweet received immediate attention.

All-America persuasion: Trojans preseason All-America offensive tackle Zach Banner made a special effort to befriend Alex Leatherwood through much of the Rising Stars Camp, and it appeared that Big Zach had a positive effect on Leatherwood.

The dividends: Besides the opportunity for the Trojans coaching staff to put recruits through the paces and make some value judgments, the Rising Stars Camp has evolved into an unofficial visit to USC, and don’t forget that former All-America tackle Leonard Williams was swayed to Troy after his Rising Stars Camp experience.

Smack talk: In case you missed it, during a recent San Diego Chargers mini camp interview, former Alabama Crimson Tide and San Diego Chargers offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, Fluker was asked about the upcoming clash between his beloved Tide and the Trojans. D.J. said, “Hey, man, let me tell you something. Alabama is going to steamroll USC. West Coast boys want none of that Down South football. We hardnosed, just believe that.”

The response: Trojans preseason All-America tackle Zach Banner had the proper retorts to D.J. Fluker by praising Alabama and not once firing back on all cylinders. Smart move by the gregarious Banner. No reason to fire up the Tide anymore than they will be by kickoff.

Bloodlines: Attending the Rising Stars Camp were some cardinal and gold legacy players, which included tight ends Adam Boselli (Jacksonville, Fla./Episcopal), the son of former offensive lineman Tony Boselli, and Cade Otton (Olympia, Wash./Tumwater), the nephew of former Trojans quarterback Brad Otton.

Bloodlines – Part 2: If you haven’t lately seen former Trojans two-time All-American offensive tackle Tony Boselli, you might have never have noticed him. By his standards, Tony looks very trim and not quite the beast he was during his playing days both at Troy and in the NFL. As for former 1996 Rose Bowl quarterback hero Brad Otton, now a successful pizza chain entrepreneur (Settebello Pizzeria Napoletan), he still looked like he could play QB for the Trojans today.

The post-game show…

Big red: Between Rising Stars Camp sessions, I had a chance to relax in one of the air conditioned classroom buildings on campus and in walked true freshman defensive lineman Connor Murphy, formerly of Brophy Prep in Phoenix. The younger brother of former Stanford All-America outside linebacker Trent Murphy, Connor looks every bit of 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds. Sporting a red beard to go along with his flaming red hair, he’s a pretty intimidating fellow.

Goodbye Columbus: A number of Trojans fans are upset upon learning Wyatt Davis, the Bellflower St. John Bosco (Calif.) superstar offensive lineman, is heading for Ohio State. Davis, whose father was born in Cleveland, Ohio, said that his second and third choices behind OSU were Michigan and Notre Dame, respectively. So, the Trojans were never really in it, and now it’s time to move on. No, I don’t see a last minute change of heart with young Davis.

Goodbye Columbus – Part 2: If the Trojans don’t want to see many of its local stars heading outside California, the formula is quite simple. Win games. If Clay Helton can have a reasonably good season surviving a brutal schedule, the Ohio States of the world will be less worrisome.

Michigan man: So, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh held a Saturday satellite camp at L.A. Hawkins High, which is walking distance from the Trojans campus. If there’s one thing that Harbaugh’s relentless 37 satellite camps across America has done is that it has made other head coaches work that much harder. There was once another head coach with the energy and determination of Harbaugh, or have you already forgotten the name Pete Carroll?

It’s been awhile: I’ll be attending a number of road games this season and obviously the Trojans and Alabama is a heckeva way to start the season. However, I am really looking forward to the Washington game not only because it is beautiful and refreshing in the Great Northwest, but also it will be a chance to see the renovated Husky Stadium.

It’s been awhile – Part 2: Because of byes and having to play a game in the home of the Seattle Seahawks while Husky Stadium was been redone, the Trojans haven’t played on the UW campus since 2009.

Reservations: If you’re planning on doing some sightseeing while in Dallas for the Trojans/Alabama clash, I am told that if you want to visit The 6th Floor Exhibit, formerly the Dallas Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald is alleged to have fired the three shots that assassinated President John F. Kennedy, you would be well advised to plan ahead and purchase tickets online before you leave for Dallas.

The last word: I was absolutely impressed with the documentary “O.J. – Made in America.” Even though one thinks they remember all that happened during the trial, there was enough info to really question a number of issues regarding the trial, the characters in the trial, and the verdict. The biggest revelation to me was the end when two of the former jurors in the case inferred that their feelings on Simpson have changed.

Greg Katz
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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