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IMHO Sunday: Super opinions

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

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

Rooting interest: On one hand, I want the Carolina Panthers to win Sunday’s Super Bowl because Ryan Kalil (above photo No. 67 on left with “little” brother Matt of the Vikings on the right) is a former Trojans center and now an All-Pro center. In addition, Ryan is a great guy and so is the rest of the Kalil family. And let’s also not forget former Trojans defensive end Wes Horton, who is on the Panthers practice squad.

Rooting interest – Part 2: I suppose it’s also easy to root for Denver because – by all accounts – Peyton Manning is one classy dude. My WeAreSC colleague Steve Bisheff told me this week that when he was covering one of Manning’s games, afterward the team bus was ready to pull away as “Bish” waited patiently to talk with Peyton. Rather than walk away and get on the team bus, Manning told a team rep that Bisheff had come from far away and had waited patiently to get an interview. Manning told the team rep that the reporter had come halfway across the country to interview him, and he wanted to give Bisheff all the time he needed for the interview. Hard to root against a guy like that.

Cry Uko: Oh, and by the way, former Trojans defensive lineman George Uko is on the Denver practice squad, so there’s another reason to also root for the Broncos if you’re an Uko fan. And one final reason to root for Denver is that former Trojans offensive line coach James Cregg is an assistant offensive line coach with the Broncos.

Super Bowl 50 HOF: In case you missed it, Trojans Football Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott and Lynn Swann were named to the Super Bowl 50 Golden Team, celebrating the best overall career performances in the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl 50 HOF Part 2: Others voted into the Super 50 HOF were Joe Greene (North Texas), Ray Guy (Southern Miss), Charles Haley (James Madison), Jack Ham (Penn State), Desmond Howard (Michigan), Jay Novacek (Wyoming), Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Deion Sanders (Florida State), Jake Scott (Georgia), Art Shell (Maryland Eastern Shore), Emmitt Smith (Florida), Randy White (Maryland) and Reggie White (Tennessee).

The Rose Bowl: If the Trojans can make it to Pasadena on Jan. 1, 2017, it should be noted that Pasadena Tournament of Roses President Brad Ratliff recently announced “Echoes of Success” as the theme for the 128th Rose Parade, which will celebrate those people, organizations and institutions that play a part in the stories of the success of others.

Boos and catcalls: The NCAA Board of Governors has unanimously voted to extend NCAA President Mark Emmerts contract for an additional three years.

For the record: Trojans recruiting class of 2016 offensive tackle E.J. Price (Dacula, Georgia) obviously has initials for his first name, so we thought you’d like to know that the “E” initial stands for Edward.

More E.J. – Part 2: Offensive tackle E.J. Price said that new Trojans offensive line coach Neil Callaway was also instrumental in convincing him to come to USC. Price said that Callaway had coached at some big time SEC schools (Georgia, Alabama, Auburn) and that he knew what he was doing.

Thinking out loud: It is said that innovative Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is planning on taking his entire team for a one-week, spring practice stay in Florida to help promote his program in the South. Well, maybe the Trojans Clay Helton could do the same and bring his team during spring practice for a one-week stay at UC Irvine, which used to be the home of the Trojans during early “fall” training camp.

Pre-warning: It was mentioned here way back when that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh would do recruiting damage in California and he did. The Trojans felt Harbaugh’s last Wednesday when Concord De La Salle tight end/defensive end Devin Asiasi turned his head on his childhood fav Trojans and signed with the Wolverines.

From the press box…

The Haden legacy – Part 1: When Pat Haden retires as USC athletic director on June 30 and moves on to supervise the Coliseum renovations, he will be viewed as either one of two legacies. On the football field, Haden, the former USC and Rams quarterback standout, showed tremendous leadership skills, football IQ, and athletic ability in leading the Trojans to a 1974 National Championship, and let’s not forget that legendary 55-24 comeback victory over Notre Dame. His football legacy is secure.

The Haden Legacy – Part 2: Off the football playing field as USC’s athletic director, his legacy is not so nearly defined. Haden’s obvious AD accomplishments of guiding the athletic department through NCAA draconian sanctions, propelling student-athlete academic achievement, being a fundraising dynamo, supporting national championship teams, and outstanding major facility upgrades like the John McKay Center are well documented.

The Haden legacy – Part 3: However, in the one area Haden knows most about – USC football – much of the good that Haden has done as athletic director has been largely overshadowed by his highly questionable personnel and public relations decisions. There was the mishandling of both former head coaches Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian and their various issues. Then there was the “110%” support video by Haden of Kiffin before Kiffin’s final ill-fated season.

And then there was Haden’s management of the seemingly never-ending football related gaffes, which include the Josh Shaw vetting and Haden’s own behavior at Stanford two seasons ago when in support of Sark. It’s hard to forget when the Trojans athletic director came down from the Stanford press box and argued with the game officials on national television. That got more national airplay than Haden would have ever imagined. Yet, again, Trojans football was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The Haden legacy- Part 4: There’s no question here that Pat Haden is a Trojan from head to toe and a decent man. He is ultra-competitive and wants what is best for his alma mater. However, questions continue to mount even now, given his recent retirement announcement. Shouldn’t Haden have recused himself from selecting Steve Sarkisian’s permanent successor if he knew – or had an inkling – that he would be leaving his AD position at the end of this current academic school year?

Does the timing of Haden’s departure put undue pressure on the new athletic director – especially if chosen from the outside sector – and on first-year head coach Clay Helton? Was the uncertainty of Haden’s AD future a factor in Clay Helton’s ability to secure a broader field of quality assistant coaches?

The Haden legacy – Part 5: Despite the football issues, give credit to Pat Haden for taking responsibility for his various and controversial decisions by answering in his own words of “owning up to it.” He has repeatedly said he knows who he is and knows that he can’t satisfy everybody. However, how many of the unfortunate negative decisions could have been avoided? No doubt, there are some major issues that Haden would love to have had a chance for a “do over.”

IMHO: For the present, I think that until the Clay Helton football era results become clear, it’s still too early to say what the Pat Haden athletic director legacy is. I do know one thing; I want to remember the Pat Haden that brought such joy to USC fans everywhere and not the Pat Haden whose administrative judgment calls – both on and off the football field – brought on so much controversy and dissention among the Trojans masses.

The candidates: USC President Max Nikias says he will do a complete national vetting in selecting the next athletic director, even asking the general Trojans family to send him suggestions for Haden’s replacement. There are those that want to see fresh new blood in the John McKay Center; yet, there are those that believe that USC Senior Associate Athletic Director Steve Lopes would make an excellent choice and is not simply Pat Haden 2.0. IMHO, it says here that the best choice should be the best choice regardless of being inside or outside the John McKay Center. Just get it right.

The domino effect: With Pat Haden impending departure, will Haden’s lifelong friend and USC Senior Associate Athletic Director, former USC wide receiver great J.K. McKay, be far behind? Some inside and outside the athletic department would like to see J.K. assume Haden’s AD position, but I’d be surprised if he’d do it, especially without his best buddy Haden at his side or in an advisory role.

The post-game show…

Numbers game: Thirteen prep players in the Trojans signing class are listed among the ESPN 300, including six in the Top 100. Fifteen were All-American first teamers and 12 were named All-State first team.

The transfer: Former Mater Dei senior-to-be quarterback Matt McDonald, the son of former Trojans All-America quarterback Paul McDonald, has transferred to Mission Viejo High.

More McDonald:
Last spring at the Los Angeles Nike Combine at Redondo Beach High, Paul McDonald told me that his son, Matt, was probably the most talented of his athletic boys at throwing a football and reading defenses. This season, Matt was injured early in the season as the starter at Mater Dei, but lost his job to sensational MD freshman J.T. Daniels (6-1, 195), who has already received an offer from Notre Dame.

The spirit of Troy: If you’re looking for some future R&R, you might want to attend the “Legends of Pop,” featuring the USC Marching Band’s tribute to some of America’s most popular artists from John Philip Sousa to Barbara Streisand to Billy Joel. It will all take place on April 17 in the Bovard Auditorium on campus. More info will be forthcoming.

The decision: In case you missed it, talented Mission Viejo (Calif.) High quarterback Brock Johnson has decided to attend Georgetown rather than accept a preferred walk-on position with the Trojans.

Dilemma No. 55: With middle linebacker Lamar Dawson having graduated, just which player on the Trojans roster will be wearing No. 55 in 2016 or will they? Maybe it would be best to let No. 55 have a vacation this coming season.

The last word: Have you ever heard of a signing day when a college coach said he didn’t have a good to great incoming class? Watching the Pac-12 Network recruiting special, it looked like every team, according to its head coach, has a future Rose Bowl on the calendar.

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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