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IMHO Sunday: It’s now in her hands

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

The introduction: New USC President Carol Folt (photo above) recently sent out a four-paragraph letter of introduction, which included some personal thoughts that included her goals to look, listen, and act. Although athletics wasn’t mentioned per say, the new president did write, “Already many of you have reached out to me with greetings, suggestions, concerns, and dreams for the future. They have all been remarkably helpful, and I thank you for taking the time to do so. I want to meet more of the USC community as quickly as possible, and I encourage you to continue sharing your ideas and opinions.”

The introduction – Part 2: President Folt continued by writing, “We all are concerned about the difficulties our university has faced recently. To be successful, we must meet those challenges with candor, transparency, and inclusion. My team and I will be working with you without delay, to design and implement needed changes. The trust and confidence of the Trojan Family, and of the wider community, are treasures. It will be up to us, every day, to earn and sustain them.”

Don’t kill the messenger: Dear President Folt, or can I just call you Carol although we’ve never met to my knowledge, but I digress. Maybe you know by now, but USC fans are sick of reading about all the negatives of the football program, the saddened perception state of the athletic department, and, of course, the current academic situation. Now, in terms of its storied – and most would agree legendary – football program, it’s not in a true Trojan fan’s DNA to accept a mediocre or negative (AKA realistic) assessment of the football program, upcoming season, or the perception a divided athletic department for that matter. As per football, annual expectations should not be for a good but a great football program (maybe you’ve heard about eras of McKay, Robinson 1, and Carroll?).

Don’t kill the messenger – Part 2: Dr. Folt, I mean Carol, the future of athletics and academics now resides in your hands; yet I realize any real critical decisions you make regarding USC football and the athletic department in general is probably not in the short-term offering. However, you have the power and hopefully the vision to put Tommy Trojan – with a smile – back on the saddle of Traveler. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, you’ll see through all the political fog and individual agendas, and you’ll have educated yourself on all the political players – not Clay Helton’s players – and power brokers of the University that encompass athletics. It is imperative that everybody begin pulling the cardinal and gold rope from the same side.

Trojans fans are hoping that new USC president Carol Folt can bring the university together both academically and athletically and bring a smile back to Tommy Trojan. .

Don’t kill the messenger – Part 3: Carol, we can all agree that things have been tough for USC football fans and for athletic supporters, too. Going through the NCAA sanctions and then a series of flawed head football coaches selections is totally unacceptable. And so are the seemingly endless, self-inflicted University wounds that destroy momentum, credibility, and support for the University of Southern California athletic programs. Devoted USC fans are beyond worn out beyond belief from it all. Now here’s a not so dirty little secret: So am I and so is a majority of the Los Angeles media market. Trust me, we’d all rather be reporting good USC news, both on and off the field. However, the media doesn’t create the news, we just report it, and at various times do our best in interpreting it. In other words, we aren’t fake news and don’t kill the cardinal and gold messengers.

Don’t kill the messenger – Part 4: So, Carol, how does this all come full cycle for the USC football program and athlete department to return to the expectations of greatness? In terms of the football team, winning and attaining championship goals and objectives will cure most of the maladies, and if the Trojans – with or without Clay Helton – can once against live up to its storied past, that would be a major starter. Next, the direction of the athletic department needs to be seriously, carefully, and be thoughtfully be evaluated and addressed. Honestly, it doesn’t take much investigation to figure out the problems in the athletic department. Carol, we know you have to feel comfortable that you’ve received all the information before you can come to an informed conclusion to make any critical decisions. My only advice to you is be prudent but don’t take forever. This isn’t brain surgery. The athletic systemic issues are as obvious as the greatness of legendary football coach John McKay.

While new USC president Carol Folt was attaining her master’s from UC Santa Barbara in the early 70s, Trojans’ legendary coach John McKay (photo above) was attaining national championships in 1972 and 1974.

Don’t kill the messenger – Part 5: And Carol,don’t let anybody inside or outside of the USC football or athletic program ever convince you that the Trojans won’t rise again to the top of the mountain of collegiate sports, especially in football. Pete Carroll proved all those naysayers wrong that the USC football program could never resurrect its storied past. No, with the right coach knowing how to push all the right buttons at his disposal and unifying the fan base, alumni, and former players, nobody in the country can reinvent itself as quickly from the current dire situation like the University of Southern California, combining its location with an overflow of available high school talent. Not Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama, Penn State, Michigan, Texas, and the list goes on. Our loyal readers know it, I know it, and the college football world knows it. It has been proven before. Need some additional perspectives? I’d advise you talk to respected USC gridiron icons like Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott, Willie McGinest, Anthony Munoz, and the list goes on.  

New USC president Carol Folt would be well-advised to hold an informational meeting with some of the Trojans more involved legends like former Heisman Trophy winner and All-America tailback Marcus Allen (photo above) and the Trojans’ legendary Ronnie Lott.

Don’t kill the messenger – Part 6: Carol, Clay Helton will demonstrate this season whether he’s the right man for the Trojans head football coaching position by this season’s results. Gentleman Clay’s fate begins and ends with him. As they say in college football, it’s all about leadership and tactical skills, you are what you recruit, and you are whom you hire as assistants. Three seasons should be more than enough to see if Helton is the long-term answer. If Helton has a big bounceback season, he should stay. If not, Carol, you may have to take matters into your own hands especially if you’re not satisfied with the current athletic hierarchy. Obviously, there continues to be a lot of vitriol going on during this Lynn Swann era of leadership; I am sure you are more than aware of the perception of morale problems, and if somebody tells you “what morale” problem, they may be part of the problem. And we’re not even going to venture into the murky waters of the ongoing investigation of the FBI.

Trojans fans should not expect that new USC president Carol Folt will do a rush to judgement on football coach Clay Helton (photo above) or athletic director Lynn Swann, but she may not be given much calendar time with either as the football season plays out.

Don’t kill the messenger – Part 7: And finally,Carol, because USC’s current situation – athletically and academically – has been exposed for all to see, your future hiring of new cardinal and gold blood should be absolutely impeccable and mandatory. And one last thought: In terms of athletics, if USC athletics was a private business, it would currently be in danger of bankruptcy and like any corporation, heads would roll. And as a side note, many of the most wealthy Trojan athletic boosters that I know are fine people and certainly know how to win at the highest level through power and money. Some, however, for whatever reason have been treated like second class citizens, which is mind-boggling to me. In your fact finding, Carol, you’d be well advised to talk with these folks as well and get their input into what has worked in the past and why they think the situation is where it stands today. It certainly wouldn’t hurt. Carol, thanks for listening and best of luck in your tenure. GK

From the press box…

The flag is up: As you already know, the Trojans open training camp on Friday, Aug. 2. However, they won’t be the only Pac-12 school that begins camp on the same day. Other Pac-12 rivals set for Aug. 2 include Cal, Oregon, Stanford, Washington, and Washington State. FYI, Arizona has the earliest training camp opener (July 26) due to it early deput, Aug. 24 at Hawaii.

The good guy: Trojans’ senior wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. has been nominated for the 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, an annual award given to college football players for the impact they make off the field.

Trojans senior wide receiver and all-star candidate Michael Pittman Jr (photo above). has been nominated for the Allstate AFCA Good works Team for his accomplishments off the field.

The Orgeron effect: You can talk about the Boston Red Sox curse of the Bambino, but the USC Trojans have a growing curse themselves. It’s called the curse of former interim and D-line coach Ed Orgeron, who has LSU headed in a national championship direction. Here is a story, and don’t kill the messenger, in the Athletic regarding how Orgeron is affecting national recruiting, especially in California. https://theathletic.com/1076856/2019/07/15/lsu-recruiting-ed-orgeron-nation-wide-california-washington-dc-maryland-virginia/

The Watch List: Perhaps it is reflective of the Trojans’ offensive positives, so it was not a shock that two wide receivers, senior Michael Pittman Jr. and sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown, were both chosen as candidates for the 2019 Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation’s top receiver. 

Sophomore wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (photo above) is one of two Trojan receivers (Michael Pittman Jr. the other) nominated for the 2019 Billetnikoff Award, which is given to the nation’s top receiver.

The Watch List – Part 2: Considering no decision has allegedly been made regarding the Trojans’ 2019 starting quarterback, it was curious to see that sophomore QB JT Daniels, the starter in 2018, has been named to both the Davey O’Brien Watch List as a candidate for best signal caller in the land and the Maxwell Award. How might these Watch List revelations affect the quarterback competition?

Although no starter for the 2019 USC season has been named, sophomore quarterback JT Daniels (photo above) has been named to Davey O’Brien and Maxwell Award Watch Lists.

The Watch List – Part 3: It was not curious to see that sophomore defensive lineman Jay Tufele has been named to the Bednarick Watch list as the nation’s best defensive player. Jay may not get it this season, but he has now certainly put his name on the radar.

Much is expected from defensive lineman Jay Tufele (photo above) who has been nominated for the Bednarick Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player.

The Watch List – Part 4: The battle for the starting “tailback” at USC figures to be quite competitive between Vavae Malepeai, Stephen Carr, and Markese Stepp. That being said, Malepeai was just named as the Trojans’ lone candidate for the 2019 Doak Walker Award given to the nation’s top running back.

On the Doak Walker Watch List for the nation’s top running back, junior Vavae Malepeai (photo above) will have a chance this season to impress the scouts and voters.

The Watch List – Part 5: Although he has battled injuries during his Trojans’ career, junior tight end Josh Falo has been nominated for the Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s premier tight end.

The Trojans will be looking for big things from junior tight end Josh Falo (photo above) who is on the Mackey Award Watch List. The award is given to the nation’s top tight end.

The Watch List – Part 6: Sophomore center Brett Neilon has been named to the Rimington Watch List. The Rimington Award is given to the nation’s best center.

Although the 2019 season figures to be his first full season as a starter, sophomore Brett Neilon (photo above) is on the Rimington Watch List. The award goes to the premier center in the country,

The post-game show…

Say it ain’t so: As you know, there is no Salute to Troy this summer, which also originally meant that this year’s anniversary teams of 1969 and 1994 might not get the recognition they deserve. According to reports, however, both teams – plus the addition of the 2009 team – will be “honored and introduced” at the Trojans’ open public Coliseum scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 17. IMHO, it seems more appropriate if all teams were recognized on the field – like halftime – during the Fresno State home opener in a real game. Salute to Troy was an appropriate event to honor past teams, not an exhibition scrimmage, which seems kind of cheesy.

There has some controversy over how USC is going to honor the football teams of 1969, 1994, and 2009. The photo above is the late Bobby Chandler (No. 10) from the 1969 team scoring the game’s lone touchdown against Michigan in the 1970 Rose Bowl game, which was a 10-3 Trojans’ victory over the Wolverines.

MMQB: For those USC fans that enjoy the regular season Monday Morning Quarterback Club (MMQB) lunches, which features Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton and a film review session from the previous game(s) along with a current football player on the team, here are the 2019 MMQB gathering dates: September 9th, September 23rd, October 14th, October 28th, and November 18th. FYI, MMQB is held at the Galen Center from 11am and lasts until 1pm, with an optional lunch served. Times are subject to change.

Numbers game: For all you oldies but goodies, here’s a never-been-told story from WeAreSC’s defensive columnist guru Kevin Bruce, who was an all-conference linebacker on John McKay’s 1974 national title team. When Kevin was being recruited out of La Canada (Calif.) St. Francis, it appeared that he would be passed over. However, the Trojans reconsidered and according to Kev, “Coach McKay told me he wanted me to be like Adrian (Young) and I reminded him of AY (the Trojans 1967 All- America linebacker who wore No. 50). I never was that good but not bad. That’s why I had #50 btw.” Who knew?

No longer donning his playing days long hair and the weight of a USC all-conference inside linebacker, Kevin Bruce (photo above), AKA WeAreSC defensive analyst and guru, recalls how he was given jersey No. 50 in honor of former All-America linebacker Adrian Young, who c0-captained the 1967 national champions.

The Bartner farewell tour: Retiring USC Trojans Marching Band Director Dr. Arthur C. Bartner, celebrating his 50th season as director of TMB, will be honored on Sunday, Aug. 25, at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, Ca. The evening, which will run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., will feature the USC Trojan Marching Band, Song Girls, and Trojan celebs. There will be food, wine and cocktails, and a silent auction as part of the festivities. All event proceeds will help fund Dr. Bartner’s last trip to Notre Dame. For more information, please call 213-740-6317.

Even after 50 years of guiding the Trojans Marching Band, Dr. Arthur C. Bartner (photo above), who will retire from his position after the upcoming football season, can still smile when his band takes the field for another football season.

The Bay Area Weekender: If you’re looking for tickets when the Trojans travel to play Cal on Saturday, Nov. 16, single game tickets are now available through the Bears’ official website. There are various ticket prices and locations available. If you’re interested: https://calbears.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce/SEGetEventInfo?ticketCode=GS%3ACTO%3AF19%3AF06%3A&linkID=cal&shopperContext=&pc=&caller=&appCode=&groupCode=F19H&cgc=

The last word:
The grass has been laid and the Coliseum renovation project appears to be in the home stretch, so 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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