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IMHO Sunday: The unthinkable – will the Coronavirus blitz the 2020 USC football season?

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

The virus: The unthinkable is no longer the unthinkable – not since last week’s announcements that there would be no NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament, no NBA, no NHL, no MLB, and no Disneyland or Walt Disney World, either. And then maybe, just maybe, it isn’t such a farfetched possibility – despite the opening kickoff against Alabama a little over five months away – that the 2020 USC Trojans college football season could be in jeopardy, depending on the Coronavirus. Overreacting? Probably yes, but possibly no. After all, who would have thought a month ago that the Trojans Spring Practice would be eventually postponed indefinitely?

The virus – Part 2: Yes, it seems unthinkable that the USC Trojans could also be playing their home season in an empty Coliseum or empty Pac-12 stadiums on the West Coast. Who knows, maybe that opening season match with Alabama down in Arlington, Texas, may be scraped altogether. Of course, some of you are already saying maybe that’s not such a bad thing. If the game in Texas is allowed to be played, the Coliseum the following week against New Mexico may be a ghost town anyway…even if fans are allowed to attend. Then again there is the draconian thought that maybe the season won’t be played or maybe just limited to conference games. It seems as if nothing is off the table – crazy and not so crazy.   

The virus – Part 3:
For those of you optimists that say by the time the college football season rolls around in August, the Coronavirus will have subsided and life will return to normal – not so fast, my friends. You could make a strong argument that the Coronavirus ain’t going anywhere, and until it is completely put back in a Petri dish, it may be here to stay for a while. Certainly not a pleasant thought and not good business for USC home games in the Coliseum.

If the Coronavirus is still going strong, would the Trojans consider playing in an empty Coliseum (photo above) or cancelling games altogether ?

The virus – Part 4: And then there is the College Football Playoff and bowl games. Can you imagine a Rose Bowl with nobody in the stands of the Granddaddy of Them All? Then again, there may be no need for a CFP or bowl games if the virus asserts itself through the fall. Until more information on the virus is gathered, no option is off the table. No Rose Bowl Game probably means no Rose Parade either.

Will the Coronavirus also play an attendance role for the 2021 Rose Bowl Game (photo above)?

The virus – Part 5: Because of the Coronavirus,you may be interested to know that not only has recruiting – on and off campus – been suspended but so have upcoming clinics and camps. So much for those important USC recruiting and evaluation camps on campus at the rate we’re going.

From the press box…

NCAA planning: To their credit, the NCAA passed legislature giving an extra year of eligibility to spring athletes affected by Coronavirus cancellations.

Recruiting halt: The NCAA has suspended all in-person recruiting due to the Coronavirus. It’s expected that this recruiting suspension will hold until at least through April 15.

Because of the Coronavirus, NCAA headquarters (photo above) has had to look into future rule changes or adjustments.

Alabama strong: With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, Alabama announced that it would suspend spring football practice and all media-related activities just hours before it was scheduled to begin spring football last Friday afternoon. The SEC has since ordered that its conference will have no activities through April 15.

Alabama strong – Part 2: Before Alabama, instate rival Auburn had earlier postponed spring ball.

Renovation: The Coliseum playing field is being upgraded for the 2020 season. Among the enhancements for the new Coliseum gridiron is a new drainage system for a safer and better quality playing field.

The 2020 Alabama defense (photo above) will be strong again in both rush and pass defense.

The post-game show…

Another postponement: The Golden Legacy Gala, celebrating 50 years of Dr. Arthur C.  Bartner and the Spirit of Troy scheduled for May 2, has been postponed until the Fall. For further information, contact: www.uscband.com/celebrate50  

Due to the Coronavirus, the program and entertainment to recognize Dr. Arthur C Bartner (photo above) has been rescheduled for May 2.

The retirement: Best of luck to former Trojans’ TE/FB Rhett Ellison (2008-2011), who has announced his retirement from the NFL after an eight-season career. One of the hardest workers you’ll ever find, Ellison, who came out of Portola Valley (Calif.) St. Francis High, proved to all that he was more than just a USC legacy, the son of former Trojans’ all-star linebacker Riki Gray (Ellison). Rhett finished his pro career with the New York Giants after being originally drafted by the Minnesota Vikings.

Crossing the isle: Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis said that the enthusiasm of the new defensive coaches has crossed over to the offense. Slovis said that in the weight room the new “D” coaches don’t look at players as offensive or defensive players but “as Trojans.”

Signed: Former Trojans defensive backs coach Greg Burns has signed a contract to be the secondary coach for the Arizona Wildcats.

Former Trojans secondary coach Greg Burns (photo above) has reportedly taken a similar position with the Arizona Wildcats.

The motto: Recent verbal, JSerra OL Mason Murphy, said that the reason he committed to the Trojans for the Class of 2021 was because of “faith, family, and football.” And you thought that Clay Helton’s motto was kind of hokey.

Deadline passed:
The Trojans extended season ticket renewal deadline passed last week, and did you have any second thoughts about renewing or canceling?

The call-in show…

Caller No. 1: Katz, so now that Spring Practice has been postponed indefinitely, how do you plan to use your free time? Well, that’s what YouTube is for. Having a Smart TV (75-inches), I just instruct my TV to bring up some of my favorite old USC football games like the 2005 USC at Notre Dame Game and the “Bush Push.” One can never get bored watching that game over and over…unless you are a fan of the Irish.    

The beginning of the “Bush Push” (photo above) helped win the big game at Notre Dame, and it never gets old watching the game on YouTube in its entirety, which can help ease the boredom brought on by staying home because of the Coronavirus.

Caller No. 2: Greg, were you surprised that on the first and only day of spring practice that backup center Justin Dedich starting at left guard? No, I actually predicted it. I think if the Trojans are going to move Alijah Vera-Tucker to left tackle, Justin certainly is too good to sit on the bench behind starting center Brett Neilon. While Justin is a bit on the short side for an offensive guard (6-2, 295), that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be productive. As they say, “It’s not the size of the dog but the bite.”  

Caller No. 3: GK, are you surprised with the amount of injuries/surgeries that were revealed last week by Clay Helton? I am always surprised by the release of that type of information, especially when it pertains to player injuries that we didn’t know about. Having 30 off-season surgeries seems a bit excessive, but it’s my understanding that most players will be ready for training camp in August.

Sophomore running back Markese Stepp (photo above) was one of a host of players that will not participate in Spring Practice… if and when the Trojans resume Spring Practice in the future. .

Caller No. 4: My friend, what USC Rose Bowl Game was your favorite of all-time? Wow, good question. I did like the field goal win against Penn State in the 2017 Rose Bowl Game. However, given the circumstances when national championships are the line, I really enjoyed the 1963 Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, and the 1975 Rose Bowl game when the Trojans beat the Ohio State Buckeyes, 18-17, thanks to a late fourth quarter 38-yard TD pass from Pat Haden to J.K. McKay and the ensuing two -point conversation from Haden to Shelton Diggs.

Caller No. 5: Sir, do you like to do much tailgating before USC games? When I am working, I don’t normally have time to do the tailgate scene. I know it’s fun, but I usually don’t get to a game until around two hours before kickoff and sometimes a little earlier. If I am going to tailgate with friends, I would have to arrive earlier to spend quality time. The best time for me to tailgate is when I am not working, which makes it problematic during football Saturdays – either home or away.   

It’s hard to tailgate (photo above) with friends when you are working a USC football game.

The Final Word: Like everything else being rescheduled, the annual Swim with Mike has been rescheduled for Oct. 24.

Greg Katz
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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