In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.
The good doctor: USC president Dr. Carol Folt (photo above with her Trojans) sent out a recent tweet regarding the just completed USC season by saying her team “played with a lot of heart. Fight on!” Indeed, they did, Dr. Folt, no question about that. There was a lot of effort there, which unfortunately culminated in a turnover prone, undisciplined, and almost predictable Pac-12 Championship Game loss in the Coliseum to reigning conference champions Oregon.
The good doctor – Part 2: However, any truth to the rumor that after the recently concluded season, Dr. Folt also sent out Pop Warner “participation certificates” to all the USC players and coaches? You know, the kind of feel good pieces of paper that kids receive in Little League, NJB basketball, Pop Warner football, etc. It’s all about participating; there are no real losers; everybody is a winner by trying their best.
Be reasonable: Just when you think you can’t take the mediocrity of Clay Helton’s football program anymore, keep in mind that Gentleman Clay didn’t hire himself (Pat Haden did), Gentleman Clay didn’t give himself a contract extension and raise (Lynn Swann did), and Gentleman Clay doesn’t decide whether he gets retained or fired (Carol Folt and Mike Bohn do) and that’s the point.
Be reasonable Part 2: Also please keep in mind that USC athletic director Mike Bohn may have his own personal thoughts regarding the Trojans football program, but ultimately, it’s Carol Folt that gives the thumbs up or down to keep the Trojans beleaguered head football coach. Folt comes across to me like an enthusiastic Little League parent who has a recreation and not an athletic attitude when it comes to her storied football program. Everybody gets a trophy and participation plaque, and there are no losers.
Be reasonable – Part 3: If Carol Folt indeed has a Little League parent participation mentality, why is she allowing her football coach – and it is now her football coach – to get paid close to $5 million dollars season after season for a “participation” team that doesn’t even come close to resembling the glory and above average eras of USC football. And don’t tell us buyout or hiring money is a problem when we all know it’s not. When was money ever an issue with USC football? Please, let’s not go there.
Be reasonable – Part 4: So the questions that should be asked at this point after Dr. Folt’s two seasons of USC football are: Is she committed to and/or passionately care about having a national championship level football team/program like Oregon, or maybe she just doesn’t? Does she care as much about the future of USC football as the Trojans fan base, which clearly lost its patience long ago? Will she allow her athletic director Mike Bohn to do what we all know has to be done or does she want to wait yet another season for more of the same and the inevitable? Or is she comfortable with the current state of her football program as she approaches retirement and doesn’t need the scrutiny?
Be reasonable – Part 5: For Dr. Folt, is it okay for USC to be a Cal, an ASU, a Washington State, an Oregon State when it comes to the football program? At this point, actions speak louder than words, and as I see it, will we all at some point ask the same question: “Did Dr. Carol Folt and athletic director Mike Bohn leave USC football in better shape than they found it?” We certainly knew the answer to that question in regards to Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian in previous athletic directorships, and we’re beginning to know as it pertains currently to Clay Helton. Although Folt and Bohn obviously weren’t responsible for the Kiffin and Sarkisian debacles, they are in deep with the messy Clay Helton situation.
Be reasonable – Part 6: Hiding behind the curtain away from Folt and Bohn is the USC Board of Trustees, once passionate defenders of a strong football program. Many of the aforementioned questions directed toward Dr. Folt could be forwarded to the BOT. Where do they stand with the current football situation? Maybe the BOT of today does have have the same passion for USC football as did previous BOT members. Either you want an elite football team or you don’t give a rat’s behind. By their action or inaction, Dr. Folt, Mike Bohn, and the BOT will give us the answer one way or the other.
Employment: When I was 18 years-old, I applied for a recreation/coaching job for the City of Monterey Park. Upon my oral interview, one of the big questions asked of me was: What’s the difference between recreation and athletic? The answer I gave was in recreation sports, everybody gets to play and winning is secondary. In athletic sports, winning is primary and participation is secondary. FYI, I got the job and was the coach (football, basketball, baseball) for a long period of time at El Repetto Grammar School and a rec leader during the summers at La Loma Park. I made a whopping $1.92 an hour.
Employment – Part 2: When I coached at El Repetto, we won the 8th grade City Championship in football and I had a quarterback named Gary Klein. The same Gary Klein who was the beat writer for the Los Angeles Times covering USC football and now is currently covering the Los Angeles Rams. FYI, Klein was such a great athlete that he eventually signed a major league baseball contract with the Kansas City Royals as a relief pitcher out of Cal St. Northridge.
From the press box…
Just wondering: How much of the current USC roster will go to the NFL, the Transfer Portal, or take a medical redshirt?
USA Today: National publication USA Today did a recent sports column on Clay Helton and Nick Saban and made some points about the Trojans not playing Alabama (“USC was going to receive the kind of thrashing it absorbed four years ago in 2016, when the two teams met in Arlington.”).
USA Today – Part 2: The publication also wrote, “A football program should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. In other words, it should be possible to have a pass-first offense yet still be able to put a QB under center and pound out a yard with a quarterback sneak when necessary. Passing the ball most downs shouldn’t take away a team’s — and an offensive line’s — toughness. Yet, Helton and his staff — offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and offensive line coach Tim Drevno — have created a soft offense with an unimposing offensive front.”
Thanks Sam: When the then winless New York Jets upset the host Los Angeles Rams last weekend, the Jets quarterback was Sam Darnold, the former Trojans star. It was also a reminder how much an effect Darnold had on the early head coaching career of Clay Helton. If not for Darnold’s heroics, the Trojans might very well have had a new coach by now.
Lesson learned: I wonder if Clay Helton learned a lesson when saying publicly that his club was a Top 10 team prior to the Pac-12 Championship Game? Ya think that his national comment didn’t get the attention of the Oregon Ducks?
The finalists: Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith and Florida quarterback Kyle Trask were named finalists for the 86th annual Heisman Memorial Trophy. If I had a vote, my vote would go for Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Just ask Notre Dame what is what it was like when the Irish beat the Tigers in South Bend without Lawrence and when they were destroyed in the recent ACC title game with Lawrence playing.
The switch: It was a sign of the COVID times when the CFP announced that the Rose Bowl semi-final, No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Notre Dame, would be moved from Pasadena to Arlington, Texas, and AT&T Stadium, home of the Cowboys. Can’t wait to see how television opens its telecast of the game. Could it be: “Live from Arlington, Texas, it’s the Rose Bowl Game…”
The switch – Part 2: One of the major sticking points about the Rose Bowl game being played in Pasadena was the unbending of local health officials in allowing families of the players in the game to watch live inside the Rose Bowl. Considering that local officials earlier denied UCLA, which plays its home games in the famous saucer, a request to allow the families of Bruins players to watch the games from the stands, it would have been a disaster on many levels had the local health officials allowed the CFP to have fans in the stands when they wouldn’t let UCLA players’ parents.
Early prediction: Alabama and Clemson will eventually meet for the CFP National Championship. Going out on a limb, I know.
Early prediction – Part 2: You think Notre Dame fans aren’t having a meltdown knowing their beloved Irish are a whopping 19 1/2 – point underdog to Alabama. You probably do, but I can’t remember ND being this big an underdog.
Bowl chatter: I’ve already said I think it was a good idea for the Trojans not playing in a bowl game, but I have no doubt had the Trojans won the Pac-12 title they would have played in the Fiesta Bowl against Iowa State. Believe me, that Iowa State team would have been a major challenge for the Men of Troy had the two played.
Bowl chatter -Part 2: What’s the point of getting on an airplane and going to a bowl game with little to no attendance and no weeklong bowl activities for the players? I thought playing in a bowl game was supposed to be a reward.
The post-game show…
Twitter wars: It didn’t take long for Oregon to take to Twitter after the Ducks’ win over the Trojans. Oregon’s Director of High School Relations Don Johnson Jr. tweeted out, “If you see the words “TAKEBACKTHEWEST” on social media, please report as SPAM.” Ouch!
Need a change: I know it probably won’t happen, but I wish the NCAA rules committee would change the pass interference penalty from 15 yards from the original line of scrimmage to the spot where the interference took place. It seems that an offense is punished, and a defense is rewarded on a long pass interference call. The NFL has it right – the spot of the interference.
The Tony Award: Former Trojans All-America offensive tackle Tony Boselli, a College Football Hall of Famer and 1994 NFF National Scholar-Athlete, teamed up with Academy Sports to donate new training & exercise equipment to Raines High School in Jacksonville, Florida.
Changes: Don’t know if you noticed what’s going on with Coach O at LSU, but “The Voice”, who one year ago was the toast of college football along with his national champions Tigers, is on the war path after a disastrous season. Orgeron has fired his defensive coordinator (Bo Pelini), the D-line coach (Bill Johnson) has retired, and safeties coach Bill Busch has left voluntarily. After the national championship season, Coach O lost both his offensive and defensive coordinators. And this late word, current OC Steve Ensminger has decided to retire. Wow, what in the name of chicken gumbo is going on in Baton Rouge?
The call-in show…
Caller No. 1: Coach, after the loss to Oregon, is there any immediate concern when it comes to recruiting, especially the February signing period?
Caller No. 1, so far, no concern. I think when it’s all said and done, the Trojans will sign in February signing period linebacker Raesjon Davis and corner Ceyair Wright. Korey Foreman? He is expected to announce his choice on Jan. 2, and I will be mildly shocked if it’s not the Trojans.
Caller No. 2: Katzie, assuming the return of Clay Helton for 2021, what effect will it have on the season?
Caller No. 2, I think Helton will be in the same boat he is always in – step from the coach’s hangman. If 2021 plays out like a normal season, if Gentleman Clay doesn’t win the conference title, then I would be willing to bet he is a goner.
Caller No. 3: Sir, who are you taking in the Fiesta Bowl, Oregon or Iowa State?
Caller No. 3, although I will root for the Pac-12, something tells me that Iowa State is going to give the Ducks all they can handle. Keep your eye on Iowa State. Its coach, Matt Campbell, is a name likely to pop up if the Trojans have an opening after next season.
Caller No. 4: GK, what is your favorite New Year’s Eve memory as it pertains to Trojans football?
Caller No. 4, great question. I think my favorite New Year’s Eve memory as it pertains to the Trojans was 1972 when me and some buddies went to the Ambassador Hotel in downtown LA. That was the hotel where the Ohio State fraternities and sororities were staying. The main ballroom was decorated with huge photos of Ohio State players of note along with legendary head coach Woody Hayes. The place was rocking with a combination of music from Ohio State’s band and the rock songs of that era. It was really cool. The students were just fanatical about their beloved Buckeyes, and that was part of the fun. No, we didn’t wear any USC paraphernalia. We felt like spies.
Caller No. 5: How did you spend your Christmas on Friday?
Caller No. 5, well, normally I have an early evening get together with my son and daughter, and we exchange presents. Unfortunately, this holiday season isn’t normal. I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like since my daughter lives in Northern California and my son lives near downtown L.A., so Christmas time has traditionally been very important to me. This year, no thanks to COVID, my daughter stayed in NorCal, and my son and I decided we’d do some sort of Facetime. I don’t think my situation is much different than many of you. You just have to roll with the punches this holiday season, like it or not.
The last word: And in the spirit of the holidays, here’s a little cheer from the Trojans Marching Band and USC president Carol Folt. See below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vklfw2vo17Q&feature=youtu.be