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IMHO Sunday: From era to era

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

Time of the season: I remember talking to our late publisher Garry Paskwietz about how times have changed in USC football since the Pete Carroll (photo above) era. Case in point: When Coach Charisma’s program was at its zenith, a few readers on the WeAreSC message boards actually complained that we never wrote anything negative about the team or the program, and that we were the epitome of being homers. I remember agreeing with GP who said, “What’s there to be negative about?” The Trojans had won some 30 games in a row, had captured a couple of national championships and a slew of conference titles, and had talent up in the kazoo that was being validated by the NFL draft. And let’s not forget, the Coliseum was also nearly full every game as Pete told us it would soon be when he first took over the job, and we all thought he was crazy.

Chain of events: Then Pete Carroll left, the NCAA sanctions appeared, the hiring and firing of Lane Kiffin, the pathetic Steve Sarkisian departure, and a succession of inexperienced athletic directors whose claim to fame was that of former USC Hall of Fame football stars. Now, a few fans are now complaining that some of us at WeAreSC.com write nothing but negative articles and rarely say anything positive. Before his recent passing, I remember Garry P. and myself just shaking our heads and saying to the effect, “We didn’t create Pete Carroll’s Camelot of yesteryear, and we didn’t create today’s cardinal and gold perception of the Titanic. We’re just reporting, analyzing the results, and reflecting what it all means.” You could say the Carroll era and what followed was either a fork in the road or a Catch 22.

Reflections: Believe me, there is nothing more energizing and easier to do than writing good things about USC football, and there is nothing more difficult and numbing than writing what some consider negative when in reality it’s the truth. There always needs to be a balance but circumstances dictate which way the cardinal and gold pendulum swings.    

Behind the curtain:
Here’s what I can tell you and I should know since I heard it from the source, Garry P., who almost always looked at the Trojans’ cup half full as it pertained to USC football and the University. He used to remark that WeAreSC.com gives fans hope in an objective, journalistic way. GP made no apology in defending or looking at things from a sunny side perspective. However, in the past year and away from public viewing, I never saw Garry so – in his own way – dispirited on what was going on both with the football program and the University’s hierarchy. He loved his university, and it tremendously disturbed him.

Follow the money: The one thing I know from following USC football for the past 50-plus years: This University understands money. If the school sees a major decline in football season ticket sales, cancellations of million-dollar athletic donations, and demand to cancel the Coliseum’s Scholarship Tower investments with enough clout to make Tommy Trojan drop his sword, it will get the attention of the movers and shakers in the ivory towers. USC understands money, and a major loss of revenue from football would be an epiphany moment. As they say in almost any major investigation, follow the money.   

From the press box…

Special thank you: Again, a special thank you to the USC sports information department and Tim Tessalone (the first speaker) for their presence at Garry Paskwietz’s Celebration of Life. To all the media members, especially members of other USC football websites who were present, thank you for your support and participation in celebrating Garry’s life.

A passion like no other: Nobody loved USC more than Garry P., but his disapproval of the current state of affairs was born out of realism. He saw no reason that any of the current negativity should have ever occurred. GP understood the NCAA had pulled a real whammy on the Men of Troy, but it brought great consternation to his mind to see the football program, athletic department, and the University repeatedly shoot itself in the foot. It pained him to see the football lose games, but it left him speechless when it came to the administrative malfunction.  And it just frosted him to see the cup half empty when he thought that same cup should always be close to full.;An unsolved mystery: A common theme among my cardinal and gold friends is quite astonishing. They say, “Katzie, are the powers that be trying to purposely destroy a storied football program? Like, dude, is there a method to this madness? When is it going to stop and what is going on?” And my tongue-in-cheek reply is always, “And this shall pass; a hundred years from now, who will know the difference?” 

A matter of time:
One had to wonder when all this football negativity was finally going to boil over and affect recruiting. Well, guess what, it just did. Finally, words and actions from the Class of 2019 recruits have been heard loud and clear. The Trojans missed out on WR Puka Nucua (Orem, Utah) not because he didn’t like USC – he was a longtime verbal – but he said something that completely makes sense. After signing with Washington, he revealed that he didn’t know where USC football was headed, and there was too much up in the air. Other recruits echoed the same sentiments as Puka. Then there was the really mind-blowing case of WR Bru McCoy (Mater Dei) actually signing a letter of intent, attending a couple weeks of class and workouts at USC, and then abruptly packing his bags and transferring to Texas. You add up the sum of the parts of these and other players, and all this negativity takes its toll, and it mostly all points to the adult supervision.

The prediction:
Former USC athletic director Pat Haden once said it would take 10 years for the Trojans’ football program to recover from the NCAA sanctions. Well, if you look at things objectively, one could say that the self-inflicted wounds that the Trojans’ own athletic department has done by its decision-making may in the long run be equal to or more devastating than the actual NCAA sanctions themselves. Right now, a large majority of Trojans fans that are beyond angry with the way things are going under the current administrative leadership. One knowledgeable fan referred to Lynn Swann as a “recreation athletic director.” You can debate the merits of that comment, but you can’t debate that the leader of the Trojans’ athletic department should be a unifier of all things sports related and not perceived as a major contributor to the current morale and dysfunction of a once proud and mighty athletic department.  

The good news:
There is no NCAA to blame where USC is as of today. The foundation for greatness of the football program and the University remains intact if used properly like it was by Pete Carroll. The remedy to this current era: “We got ourselves into this current mess, and we have the ability to get ourselves out of it, as well.” At some point, new leadership will come in that knows what the problems are and will have the big potatoes to fix them. Like it or not, USC football is the straw that stirs not only the drink of the athletic department but the University’s spirit. Football is the unified rallying cry to bring together all aspects of the cardinal and gold family.

Special thank you – Part 2: And a special thank you again to USC football.com and publisher Ryan Abraham and lead writer/columnist Dan Weber for their kind thoughts on the passing of Garry. Ryan’s podcast regarding GP and after the Celebration of Life Dan’s poignant and touching column on the ceremony was greatly appreciated.

The rumor is spreading: Maybe it’s just where we are today, but there are whispers that if the Trojans make a coaching change, there may be a concerted effort to go after recently retired Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who has since been signed to a TV contract as an analyst.

More Meyer:
Nobody questions Urban Meyer as a coach. He is a lock for the College Football Hall of Fame. There is also no question that if he became the Trojans head coach, a national championship would become a distinct probability. Pete Carroll proved that all the resources to be a national championship program are still in place. However, with Meyer, you have to wonder with the baggage that he carries from the stench of the controversy over an Ohio State assistant coach allegedly abusing his wife and not Meyer not reporting, it would likely ignite a women’s protest movement that probably would be hard to justify the hiring of Meyer. The last thing the Trojans need is yet another controversy.

Urban renewal:
Then, there is the issue of Urban Meyer’s health and the cyst on his brain that causes unbearable headaches under stress. Meyer’s wife is on record as saying she doesn’t want to see him go back into coaching under any circumstances. Meyer, however, is still relatively young to be retired from coaching, but would he uproot his family for residence in beautiful Southern California? As of today, I don’t see Urban Meyer as the next USC head coach if Clay Helton is dismissed, but that is today, and a lot could change in 2019.

The media on Meyer:
If you recall, L.A. Times senior columnist Bill Plaschke is already on record through an earlier column that he believes that the Trojans should have made a change in the head coaching position at USC after last season, but Urban Meyer should not be considered for the job because of his sullied past both at Ohio State and Florida.

Hold your horses:
For the time being, Clay Helton remains the head coach, and there are whispers that the administration would love to keep him because he doesn’t rock any boats, is a company man, and is not the same power threat as was Pete Carroll. At the time, there’s no question that Pete Carroll was bigger than former athletic director Mike Garrett and Iron Mike knew it. The overall viewpoint is that the current athletic administration doesn’t want to allow the next USC head football coach to be Pete Carroll 2.0 or have that much power.

The post-game show…

Looking ahead: As WeAreSC transitions into a new publisher in Erik McKinney and objective review is currently underway to best service our readership, look for a major push in recruiting coverage. The big Nike Opening Southern California was held last Sunday at the same time as Garry’s Celebration of Life was being held at the Galen Center on campus. Obviously, we know what our priorities were. That being said, from here on out, it’s about moving forward and keeping everything at a high level as Garry had mapped out for us.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, former Trojans’ blind snapper Jake Olson has been signed by UTA for his skills as an inspirational speaker and author. Jake, according to the Hollywood Reporter, has “partnered with golf apparel company Travis Matthew to develop a braille golf shirt, and this year they will reteam for another braille clothing line to benefit Olson’s preferred charities. His own Out of Sight Faith foundation raises money to buy equipment and technology to help visually impaired children in school.”

Who knew: If you haven’t heard, Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Levitt has resigned his position with the Ducks. Levitt is considered one of the better DCs on the West Coast. There was no reason given for his departure. Rumor has it that former Trojans’ secondary coach Keith Heyward will fill Levitt’s DC role. FYI, the Trojans host Oregon in the Coliseum on Nov. 2.

A new threat: The University of Texas has always been lurking around Southern California for talent; it has been for decades. However, now that the Longhorns have had a rebirth under head coach Tom Herman, a SoCal native, there’s every reason to believe that the Longhorns are bigger recruiting threat to the Trojans than they have been in quite some time.

BTW: Have the Trojans hired a strength and conditioning coach yet?  

The last word: Despite all the rain, the Coliseum renovation continues.  Here’s the latest real time 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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