21 min Read

IMHO Sunday: The inevitable was the only sane choice

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

Sanity prevails: With all the death, climbing infections, and general coronavirus debate chaos, there was never a reasonable option to play college football in 2020. The Pac-12’s decision to move the college football season and fall sports in general to a potential winter-spring calendar was a no-brainer’s no brainer, the only sane choice. Putting money and regional populous pressure ahead of the general health of amateur student-athletes, shouldn’t have even been a debate.

Sanity prevails – Part 2: I don’t care if the Pac-12, commissioner Larry Scott, and the entire conference hierarchy followed the lead of the Big Ten by not playing college football in the fall of 2020. It was absolutely the right decision. It was a commonsense decision, and it’s not even close. You can say that Scott is the biggest boob ever to lead the Pac-12, but he should get credit where credit is due by supporting medical science and data. And let’s also applaud the Pac-12 presidents and athletic directors. The conference is living in real time while the SEC, ACC, and the Big 12 are living in an alternative gridiron universe. Those three conferences believe they have to play come hell or high water. The coronavirus is hell and high water.  

Sanity prevails – Part 3: IMHO prediction: There will be no spring college football season for the Pac-12. Why? (A) Health experts and perhaps the players themselves will say that playing two seasons (2021 winter and 2021 fall) within five months – give or take – doesn’t allow their bodies to regenerate, which is a pretty powerful and logical argument, (B) The still unknowns pertaining to the potential link between the coronavirus and heart damage (myocarditis) remain, (C) For the most part, the Pac-12 footprint is in big population centers in which the coronavirus thrives, thus the chances are the virus will still be alive and kicking along with the flu in the winter, (D) Not having a winter-spring season will do far less damage and disruption to a “normal” year-round  football calendar (spring football, the NFL draft, recruiting, etc.) than twisting college football into a scheduling pretzel.

Sanity prevails – Part 4: No question that “retired” Ohio State Urban Meyer is one of the greatest coaches of all-time. You might not like some of his methods of achieving success, but he knows his stuff. On playing a spring football schedule, Meyer said last week, “No chance of a spring football season.”

Legendary college football coach Urban Meyer (photo on far right) says there is no chance that there will be spring college football.

Sanity prevails – Part 5: NCAA medical advisor and executive associate dean at Emory University School of medicine Dr. Carlos del Rio told the media this week,  “I feel like the Titanic — we have hit the iceberg (the coronavirus) and we’re trying to make decisions of what time should we have the band play.”

Sanity prevails – Part 6: I’ll give credit to former Trojans superstar tailback and current FOX college football analyst Reggie Bush, who reacted to a tweet from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who looked like a fool trying to defend still playing football this fall. Saban’s true character came out and Reggie tweeted to players and recruits, “All these coaches are telling you a lot about themselves. Pay attention.”

Sanity prevails – Part 7: As for the probable roster effects of the Pac-12’s decision to play a winter/spring football schedule, it’s probably goodbye for Trojans DT Jay Tufele, OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, WRs Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns, and safety Talanoa Hufanga. Who could blame them for getting ready for the NFL combines and eventual April draft? With the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 hoping to complete a fall season, how likely is it that the NFL would change their traditional April draft date for the Pac-12 or Big Ten’s decision to play in the winter-spring?

With the recent announcement that the Pac-12 Conference would not be playing in the fall but perhaps in the winter-spring, does it mean that Trojans potential first-round offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker (photo above) will skip this season and get ready for the NFL draft of 2021?

Sanity prevails – Part 8: Clay Helton said on the record last week he would be happy if all his potential NFL prospects returned to Troy for another season, but he understands the dreams and earning potential of his players going to The League.  You can’t blame any player for heading to the NFL, especially if they have already earned a degree. The reality: An athlete has only so many years of productivity and financial accumulation at the professional level.

Sanity prevails – Part 9: No, spring football season will have little effect on USC’s recruiting and may actually be a boon to the already positive Class of 2021 verbals. First, USC will be undefeated for 2020, and there won’t be any need for explanation why the Trojans lost to an underdog or got embarrassed by a superior opponent. That in itself will keep the message of “Take Back The West” still a positive goal. Second, with the coronavirus out of control, the Trojans coaching staff may actually be in even a better position to keep the Southern California talent at home. With premium blue-chip players like DE Kory Foreman and LB Raesjon Davis in play, staying home is certainly even more appealing, especially by families and mamas. We’ll see when and how official visits play into this unusual situation. 

Sanity prevails – Part 10: In an unfortunate point-of-view, the biggest winner if there is no winter/spring football season is obviously Trojans head coach Clay Helton. Yes, the coach will handle the potential of a missed season with grace and future optimism, and he won’t be forced to answer uncomfortable media questions about his team’s performance or decision-making. The coach will have months to paint a positive fall 2021 season outlook. That being said, Helton will continue to receive his yearly $5 million dollars – give or take – for running a program that won’t have to worry about winning and losing, which is the bottom line. For the moment, the Clay Helton hot seat has been considerably turned down.

Trojans head football coach Clay Helton (photo above) will have his job hot seat reduced significantly if his team doesn’t play after the new year. Helton, who reportedly makes $5 million dollars a season, will now turn his attention from coaching his team to recruiting and organizing a new program calendar for 2021.

From the press box…

Clearer minds: In a Zoom conference this week with Clay Helton, Mike Bohn, and Dr. Seth Gamradt, some things were quite apparent. There was no sense here that there will be a spring season although they are willing to play it out. Dr. Gamradt brought a head nod from me when he said there is concern about the connection between the heart and the virus and how it could create a big health problem. Learn about myocarditis because it could be a game changer for the immediate future of college football. Dr. Gamradt said being very cautious about holding off the season until this virus-to-heart connection may turn out to be a very good decision.

USC Dr. Seth Gamradt (photo above) spoke to the media this past week and as part of the Trojans advisory medical team said he was not comfortable recommending the Pac-12 play in the fall because of serious questions about how the coronavirus affects the heart, which the Doc says could be linked to a condition known as myrocarditis.

Clearer minds – Part 2: In listening to Clay Helton on the Zoom conference, the coach seemed very much aware of all the issues confronting his programing, especially roster changes and players leaving for the NFL. I thought he handled it very well. He admitted that he didn’t have all the answers regarding the future. Gentleman Clay said the night before the Zoom conference his staff was going over all the important issues of rescheduling his program and recruiting.

Clearer minds – Part 3: As for USC athletic director Mike Bohn on the Zoom, he gave the standard answers how a decision was reached in the Pac-12, and again, it was refreshing to hear that the conference and USC were putting the student-athletes health before the conference’s budget. The Pac-12 talked the talked and walked the walk.

Live for today: After the adult Zoom media questions, Trojans QB Kedon Slovis and safety Talanoa Hufanga addressed the journalism. I thought Kedon was classy in wishing the student-athletes in the SEC the best if that conference does play in the fall and the Pac-12 is on fall hiatus. As for Talanoa, he said a decision to forego his USC future was just that – in the future. He did say that at the moment, he was just living for today. Tal admitted this is a huge decision and that he needed to discuss it with his family back in Oregon, but nothing he said made me think he would be returning to play another season in cardinal and gold. My impression is that he understands his situation, and the NFL’s draft calling is very attractive.        

Safety Talanoa Hufanga (photo above – No. 15) said this past week he hasn’t made a decision whether to skip the “spring” season and get ready for next April’s NFL draft.

Recruiting fallout: The NCAA announced this week that it has extended the recruiting dead period through September 30. It was previously set to expire on August 31. This will probably be the first of a number of recruiting changes as colleges adjust to various seasonal changes or cancellations altogether.

The CFP: This upcoming week, the College Football Playoff Committee will meet to discuss how to proceed with a playoff – which apparently won’t include the Big Ten or the Pac-12. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney says you can still have the best four teams even without the Big Ten and Pac-12. Swinney, of course, reminded the media that his Clemson Tigers have been to the CFP the last five seasons. The colorful coach said, “Whoever wins it, wins it. That’s the champ.”

The post-game show…

The dominoes effect: With the Pac-12 announcement regarding no fall football and his own home state’s delay of prep football in the fall, USC Class of 2021 running back commitment Brandon Campbell (Katy, Tex./Katy) tweeted out that he would be coming to Troy in January and foregoing playing his senior prep season. WeAreSC publisher Erik McKinney reported, “Campbell told VYPE Houston that the combination of the Pac-12 postponing its fall season and his high school season being delayed by a month fed into the decision, but he’d been thinking about it before that.” So, who will be the next?

With the postponement of the Pac-12 season until the second semester and his home state of Texas starting the fall prep season late, tailback verbal Brandon Campbell (photo above) says his plans have also changed, and he will not play his senior high school season but get ready for January enrollment at USC.

Speedy recovery – Part 2: All the best to former Trojans All-America outside linebacker Chip Banks, who was shot in Georgia and was listed in critical condition. Chip was one of the cardinal and gold’s great ones.    

Get well: Best wishes for a continued a continued speedy recovery to Los Angeles Times lead sports columnist Bill Plaschke, who is recovering from a tough bout with the coronavirus. Bill gave a touching but grim column account that having the virus was much worse than he could ever have imagined, and he strongly advised that you don’t want to get it.

The dominoes effect: Perennial California prep powerhouse Santa Ana Mater Dei has already felt the pain of California high school football’s move to January. According to the OC Register and prep columnist Steve Fryer, All-Orange County MD cornerback Jaylin Davies last month announced his intention to graduate mid-school year so he can enroll at Oregon in time to participate with the Ducks while two other Mater Dei standouts, receiver Crisitan Dixon (Michigan) and lineman George Miki-Han (Colorado State), also made known their intentions to graduate in December so they can enroll early in college.

The dominoes effect – Part 2: No word yet whether current Mater Dei linebacker Raesjon Davis, who is currently committed to LSU but is still being strongly pursued by the Trojans, will enroll with the Tigers in January. USC’s future QB candidate Miller Moss, who was declared ineligible at Mater Dei after transferring from Mission Hills (Calif.) Alemany, has turned his attention to enrolling at Troy for the spring. 

The Trojans are still recruiting standout Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei linebacker Raesjon Davis (photo above), who is still committed to LSU. However, with the recent announcement that the Pac-12 won’t consider playing until the second semester, Clay Helton and staff should get further clarity where they stand with Raesjon.

No Friday Night Lights: Don’t know about you, but Friday night in the fall just won’t be the same without high school football, especially without the local Fox Sports West Game of the Week, which had become a ritual for us lovers of the prep gridiron. Even games that were streamed during the season allowed us to see many of the great local high school teams – not to mention those superstar blue-chip recruits. If games are actually played in January– which I will see it to believe it – how much of an effect will that have for those that follow Friday Night Lights religiously?

Friday Night Lights – Part 2:
Don’t think for a minute that even the roster- heavy talents of such national prep powerhouses like Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei and Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco won’t feel the pain of early roster departures to college. Both Trinity League programs will still be great, but with the rush to play talented but inexperienced talent, powers like Mater Dei and St. John Bosco might not be quite as invincible as they would have been if games had been played this fall. 

Despite California prep football rescheduled for January of 2021, powerhouse programs like Santa Ana Mater Dei (photo above) will likely lose some senior stars but should have enough talented underclassmen to maintain their personnel advantage. (Photo by Kevin Carden)

The call-in show…

Caller No. 1: G-Kat, I hope you’re happy now that the Pac-12 football season has been rescheduled for the spring.

No, I am more relieved than happy that brighter minds have prevailed. Kudos to the Ivy and MAC Leagues for leading the charge not to play in the fall and to the Big Ten for throwing its mighty weight around. Okay, a little cred to the Pac-12 for doing the right thing and supporting the Big Ten. I’ll repeat for the millionth time: If money wasn’t involved, the decision not to play would have been made more than a month ago.  

Caller No. 2: Katz, what’s going to happen to the CFP if not all the conferences are playing in the fall?

Excellent question, Caller No. 2. It’s starting to look like a truncated playoff with the three of the Power 5 conferences participating (SEC, ACC, Big 12) in the fall. The decision not to play in the fall by the Pac-12 and Big 10 pretty much waters down the CFP in theory and leaves the Pac-12 and the Big Ten on the outside looking in. Then again, there was no guarantee a Pac-12 team would have even been selected if they had played in the fall. Obviously, the Big Ten would have offered up Ohio State as a strong CFP team if they would have captured the 2020 Big Ten title. Here’s an idea: Maybe the Pac-12 and Big Ten should send their championship teams to Pasadena in late March or early April and play a spring Rose Bowl Game.

If the Pac-12 and the Big Ten do play a spring schedule, maybe the tradition of the Pac-12 vs the Big Ten champions could play an early April Rose Bowl Game (photo above).

Caller No. 3: Gregory, what will you miss most if there is no season in the spring?

For me, it will be missing the road games, which is a source of fun and a nice football getaway. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the various Pac-12 venues and those non-conference opponents’ homes like – of course – Notre Dame. The past season, I had not been to Provo, Utah, and enjoyed the experience and hospitality of the area, although the results of the game left much to be desired.   

Caller No. 4: Mr. Meow, how will the loss of the entire fall 2020 season and potentially the winter-spring season affect WeAreSC?

Simply put, it won’t. This week, I received a call from our publisher Erik McKinney, and we did some brainstorming and came up with some really good ideas for our readership. We are under no illusion what the lack of football games does, but we’ve had some time to prepare for potential outcomes of no seasons. Some of our ideas will be excellent fillers to go along with our increasing recruiting coverage. So, no, I am not concerned about our content, and I don’t take the challenge as a negative at all. Nothing can replace the games, but in terms of interest and news, we’ll be ready to accept the responsibility of keeping our good readers happy.  

Caller No. 5: Greg, so, how are you handling the coronavirus and all this mask and social distancing stuff?

I am being much more cautious than most due to my age and proverbial underlying medical conditions, which isn’t unusual. But since you asked the question, I have all my groceries delivered to my house from Instacart. I have my meds sent to me from CVS. I don’t go and get takeout food because I have no idea who is preparing the food and how much detail they are adhering to as far as health standards. You might find this excessive, but I restrict my movements to being with my girlfriend, Sharon, a retired 40-year nurse at the City of Hope in Duarte, and visiting her new grandchild, Sophie (AKA Peanut), because I know that family stays confined like me.

In order to keep social distancing, I have my Ralphs groceries (photo above) delivered to my home using Instacart.

My big trip is actually getting my car filled with gas while wearing gloves and a mask and then using Clorox wipes when done. Yes, I also scrub down my credit card when I am finished. So, you probably think I am nuts, but the great fear motivator is that I have no plans to leave this planet with a ventilator tube trust down my throat while gasping for air. And if you think I am overreacting, you certainly have a right to do the complete opposite of me.    

The final word: I find it really strange that private universities like Notre Dame and Duke (ACC), Vanderbilt (SEC), and Baylor (Big 12) are willing to play through the coronavirus in the fall when they pride themselves as scientific research institutions.  

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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