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IMHO Sunday: Those were the days, my friend, I thought they’d never end

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


Let’s first begin the IMHO Sunday by imagining we’re all at the 901 Bar and Grill, the still famous off-campus tavern for generations of USC students and alumni, crooning along with recording artist Mary Hopkin, who is singing her 1968 Billboard hit “Those Were the Days” because those really were the days, my friend. Sing jovially and read on.

* Those were the days, my friend, when you never worried how many Trojans football wins per season because 10 was the unspoken minimum – nor were you concerned about the direction of the program and the head coach.

* Those were the days, my friend, when visiting teams walked slowly down the Coliseum tunnel to face the Trojans feeling like it was the Bataan Death March.

* Those were the days, my friend, when the Trojans once walked briskly down the Coliseum tunnel chanting “War Time,” accompanied by the music of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” knowing they were going to kick some ass.

* Those were the days, my friend, when the Trojans won the 1962 national championship with a star quarterback named Pete Beathard, who actually also played in the secondary and intercepted three passes that glorious season.

* Those were the days, my friend, when you could sit with your longtime Coliseum seat neighbors to watch a home football game without fear that next season you’d all be dispersed or relocated due to Coliseum renovation and/or refusal to upgrade your donation to the university.

* Those were the days, my friend, when legendary USC coach John McKay and his coaching staff would head across the street from campus to Julie’s Restaurant to unwind after practice and draw up new plays and formations on napkins in McKay’s favorite booth.

Julie’s Restaurant was a favorite hangout of legendary USC football coach John McKay and his staff, and they were so well received that the coach had his own private booth to draw up plays and entertain media members (photo above).

 * Those were the days, my friend, when the Coliseum capacity was 92,000 and during the zenith of the Pete Carroll era there were weekly sellouts or close to it. 

* Those were the days, my friend, when everybody knew that Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett played his high school ball at Roosevelt High, located in the Boyle Heights area of East Los Angeles.

* Those were the days, my friend, when parking lots across the street from the Coliseum were not $80 dollars or higher but $10 per car.

It’s not unusual to see $80 or higher private parking lots (photo above) for USC Coliseum football games in the present. Those were the days when the same lots charged $10 per car.

* Those were the days, my friend, when Trojans players didn’t care how fast they could get to the NFL but how fast they could win a national championship.

* Those were the days, my friend, when the USC football team was as consistently great as the USC Marching Band.  

* Those were the days, my friend, when the Trojans could actually run the football.

Yes, those were the days, my friend, when the Trojans had one of the most feared running attacks in the country (photo above).

* Those were the days, my friend, when the 1967 USC national champions actually had a non-Heisman Trophy winning little quarterback named Steve Sogge, who was also a catcher on Rod Dedeaux’s baseball team.
* Those were the days, my friend, when you didn’t return home at 2 a.m. because of a night game.  
* Those were the days, my friend, when there was in December a Pasadena Junior Rose Bowl, which featured two elite community college teams pitting one from California and one from out-of-state.


There was once a time that Pasadena presented not only the famous New Year’s Day Rose Bowl, but a Junior Rose Bowl in December featuring a California community college against an out-of-state community college (photo above).

* Those were the days, my friend, when the Coliseum public address voice for the Trojans was the legendary John Ramsey, who also did the Dodgers, Rams, and Lakers.
* Those were the days, my friend, when everybody knew the names of the original Wild Bunch, or have you forgotten Jimmy Gunn, Charlie Weaver, Tody Smith, Al Cowlings, and Bubba Scott?
* Those were the days, my friend, when the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner would sell their own special gameday newspapers outside the Coliseum complete with starting lineups, rosters, and photos and competed with the official game program, Pigskin Review.  


There was a time when the official game program program, Pigskin Review (photo above), competed with both the LA Times and LA Herald Examiner newspapers.

* Those were the days, my friend, when O.J. Simpson was more well known as a Heisman Trophy winning tailback legend than a felony disgraced legend.
* Those were the days, my friend, when there was a USC student section that performed card stunts at halftime and the band was located behind the Trojans bench. 
* Those were the days, my friend, when the USC Song Girls were more noted nationally for their beauty and talent than for an alleged system of abuse.


There was a time when the USC song girls (photo above) were known nationally for the beauty and performance than for controversy.

* Those were the days, my friend, when you didn’t think twice about renewing your football season tickets.
* Those were the days, my friend, when Coliseum concessions didn’t cost you an arm and a leg.
* Those were the days, my friend, when you could see future USC stars play their last high school football game at the annual summer North-South Shrine All-Star Classic in the Coliseum.


For many years, the Shrine High School All-Star Football Classic (photo above), which was played in the Coliseum in early August and featured the best prep players from Northern California vs Southern California, showcased many future USC stars.

* Those were the days, my friend, when USC football players had nicknames like The Thundering Herd, Gloomy Guess, Cotton, Nobliest Trojan of Them All, Antelope Al, Jaguar Jon, Saint John, The B-Boys, Prince Hal, Iron Mike, Juice, AD, Batman, The Wild Bunch, Cardiac Kids, Sam Bam, The Tree, and Thunder and Lightning.
* Those were the days, my friend, when the USC offensive lines were the envy of college football and were not literally offensive.


There was a time when the Trojans’ offensive line is future NFL stars from tackle to tackle like guard Brad Budde (photo above- No. 71) and tackle Anthony Munoz (photo above on right).

* Those were the days, my friend, when Martin Luther King Boulevard, which  runs parallel with the Coliseum, was known as Santa Barbara Avenue.
* Those were the days, my friend, when recruits were taken to the Papadakis Taverna in San Pedro for some Greek cuisine and “entertainment” (AKA erotic belly dancers), which was sure to seal the deal for those official visits by blue-chippers in attendance.


The Papadakis Taverna (photo above) in San Pedro, owned by the family of former USC linebacker John Papadakis, was once a restaurant home to blue-chip recruits on their official visits, and it didn’t hurt they were also entertained by lively belly dancers.

* Those were the days, my friend, when a USC quarterback would take the football snap from directly under center.
* Those were the days, my friend, when it seemed like the Trojans football roster was full of All-Americans and future NFL stars like Ron Yary, Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott, Anthony Munoz, Brad Budde, and Carson Palmer. 


All-America safety Ronnie Lott (photo above) is typical of the type of talent the Trojans have had down through the years.

* Those were the days, my friend, when game times were usually 1:30 p.m. with some Saturday night exceptions.
* Those were the days, my friend, when the Trojans fan base believed what the head coach would say in public.


Trojans legendary head coach John McKay (photo above) never shied away from telling it like it is about his team or players.

* Those were the days, my friend, when you didn’t think about the Trojans winning the Pac-12 South Division because there was no Pac-12 South Division.
* Those were the days, my friend, when the Trojans football games only appeared on national television perhaps once or twice a regular season.
* Those were the days, my friend, when the legendary voice of Tom Kelly on radio would signal the start of a new USC football season.


You always knew it was time for a new USC football season when you heard the radio voice of the Trojans, Tom Kelly (photo above).

* Those were the days, my friend, when there was no reason to sit down in your seats whenever Reggie Bush had the ball.
* Those were the days, my friend, when you weren’t concerned about the Trojans recruiting efforts but only concerned if the Trojans would finish in the Top 5.
* Those were the days, my friend, when the Trojans and UCLA both played home games in the Coliseum.


Until UCLA departed for the Rose Bowl in 1982, there was a time when the Trojans and the Bruins both called the Coliseum home (photo above).

* Those were the days, my friend, when the reality was that without a legendary football program to be the shining light by capturing the imagination of the massive Southern California population and sports and business communities, USC – despite its academic successes – would be no different than other small private university like Loyola Marymount.
* Those were the days, my friend, when Stanford football wanted to be like USC – not the other way around.
* Those were the days, my friend, when Notre Dame was an all-boys university and UCLA actually had a football program.


There was a time that Notre Dame and its Golden Dome (photo above) was an all-boys university.

* Those were the days, my friend, when former USC players and even coaches were seen in Hollywood movies.
* Those were the days, my friend, when everybody knew that famous actor John Wayne played football at USC. Nowadays, many don’t even know who John Wayne is!
* Those were the days, my friend, when Hollywood stars and music industry icons would attend USC to gain national television exposure.    


During USC’s various glory eras, it wasn’t unusual to see some of Hollywood’s most notable stars in attendance or on the Coliseum sidelines. One of the the most famous USC alumni and Hollywood elite is Will Farrell (photo above).

* Those were the days, my friend, when the Trojans wouldn’t go more than two seasons without winning a conference championship…let alone three seasons or longer.
* And those were the days, my friend, when the USC administration, athletic department, football program, boosters, support groups, and fan base were all pulling from the same end of the rope with expectations of a conference and/or national championship. Yes, those were the days, my friend.

From the press box…


Summer ball: The Trojans have begun their summer workouts, and Trojans fans will be excited to know that DE Korey Foreman, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, is part of the action. Like you expecting he wouldn’t be there live and in person?

Trojan fans were excited to see heralded true freshman defensive end Korey Foreman (photo above) going through summer workouts this past week.

The ballot box: Congrats to Reggie Bush, Mark Carrier, and Jeff Bregel on being nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame. This is a repeat ballot for Carrier and Bregel and Bush’s first time being nominated.
The ballot box – Part 2: He may have become the controversial offensive coordinator of USC, but the College Football Hall of Fame has put Graham Harrell on this year’s ballot as a Texas Tech player. As a Red Raiders quarterback, Harrell was a 2008 First Team All-American and AT&T All-America Player of the Year who finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting and a 2008 NFF National Scholar-Athlete who holds seven NCAA records, including career 400-yard games (20). He also was a three-time All-Big 12 performer who is second in league history with 15,793 career passing yards. I know, what were his team’s records?
The ballot box – Part 3: Speaking of the College Football Hall of Fame, it again and again begs the question: How can former two-time Trojans All-America and three-time all-conference pick OT Marvin Powell (1974-76) be in the College Football Hall of Fame and not – after all these years – be in the USC Athletic Hall of Fame? I repeat, not in the USC Athletic Hall of Fame? Did Marvin excrete in somebody’s Wheaties? 


How is it that former All-America tackle Marvin Powell is in the College Football Hall of Fame, and he isn’t in the USC Athletic Hall of Fame after being a two-time All-American and three-time all-conference selection?

To win: Draft Kings has announced its latest win totals for the 2021 college football season, and it predicts the Trojans will win 8.5 games this season.
To win – Part 2: Looking at the Trojans 2021 schedule, Draft Kings predicts the win totals for the following: Non-conference – San Jose State (7.5), Notre Dame (9), BYU (6.5). Pac-12 – ASU (9); Oregon (9); Washington (9); Utah (8.5); UCLA (7); Cal (6); Washington State (6); Colorado (4.5); Oregon State (4.5); Stanford (4); and Arizona (2.5).


One of the biggest games of the 2021 season will be when the Trojans host Utah (photo above) with the Pac-12 Division South lead likely at stake.

Rankings: In the latest ESPN college football power preseason ranking of their Top 25 teams in the country, USC is not listed.
Fox interview: Last Sunday’s IMHO, I highlighted some of Clay Helton’s comments on a Fox Zoom interview with RJ Young. Gentleman Clay also said in his 12 seasons as either an assistant or head coach, the hallmark at USC has been “the tremendous quarterbacks.” The coach also mentioned that the Trojans also had the ability to draw elite players “on the outside” (AKA receivers). Helton said it was worth the risk to change to the past offense to the current offense because it’s the future of the game.


Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton (photo above) said to Fox that it was worth the risk to change from a balanced power offense to the pass friendly Air Raid.

Fox interview – Part 2: Clay Helton said with the personnel the Trojans have the capability of signing, they could be elite within “this system.” In year three in this offensive system, the coach feels that “we’re going to see something really special,” and he would not be surprised this season if Graham Harrell’s offense averaged 40-plus points per game.

Fox interview – Part 3:
In the Fox interview, a subject discussed was some past recruiting. Clay Helton said he was involved with many past notable players that signed with the Trojans, including the name of All-America defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who hails from Daytona Beach, Florida.
Fox interview – Part 4: For the record, while Clay Helton – who was the Trojans quarterback coach and passing game coordinator when Leonard Williams signed in 2012 – may have had some recruiting contact with Williams, the main kudos for the Williams signing was former defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, who was also the Trojans’ recruiting coordinator at the time.


Former Trojans defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron (photo above) is generally credited with signing future USC All-America defensive tackle Leonard “Big Cat” Williams out of Daytona Beach, Florida.

Fox interview – Part 5:
Also, for the record, it should also be noted that Clay Helton was also still a USC assistant coach when Williams left early for the NFL after the 2014 season. Helton became the interim head coach and eventually named head coach during the 2015 season.

The post-game show…


Blue-chip sightseeing: Forgive me for being so inquisitive, but thanks to a social media photos release, why would the Trojans take recruits this weekend to the Rams/Chargers SoFi Stadium and use the enormous scoreboard to highlight USC football when millions and millions were spent on renovation of USC’s own home stadium, the Coliseum? So much to impress recruits in the immediate LA area besides SoFi Stadium. No doubt that these same recruits were taken to the Coliseum, but really?

Blue-chip sightseeing – Part 2: Apparently the Trojans were trying to convey the message that USC sends players to the NFL, and SoFi Stadium was a point of emphasis (see tweet below). Now if the BLVD video at SoFi stadium showed video and/or photos of past and present USC greats now in the NFL, I get it. If not, aren’t there enough photos of USC NFL players inside the John McKay Center?

Happy, happy, happy: You will be happy and delighted to know that an email was sent out by USC announcing they are now accepting season ticket deposits for the 2021 football season. Hmmm, so much for past deadlines and the deadlines before that.

The commit: I dare you to tell me that when WR/S Kevin Green Jr. announced his verbal to Troy as part of the class of 2022, you were shocked and surprised that the lead recruiter for Green was coach Donte Williams.

One of the great recruiters in America, the Trojans Donte Williams (photo above), is credited with getting the commitment of wide receiver/safety Kevin Green Jr.

The commit – Part 2: I dare you to tell me you would have been shocked and surprised if the latest USC recruit wasn’t a wide receiver or a corner/safety.
The commit – Part 3: I dare you to tell me you would have been more shocked and surprised if the latest USC recruit was a 4-star or higher quality offensive lineman.
The transfer odds: So, what is the over and under that former Trojans true freshman defensive tackle Jay Toia announces for UCLA?


Perhaps “former” Trojans defensive tackle Jay Toia (photo above), who has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal, will end up at UCLA, having taken a visit to Westwood this past week.

Transfer odds – Part 2: If it’s true that Jay Toia is realistically down to UCLA and possibly ASU, you want to place a bet that the lead recruiters for both schools are former Trojans coaches: UCLA defensive line coach Johnny Nansen and ASU linebacker coach Chris Claiborne and Sun Devils defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins?
The big question: With the lessening of restrictions for COVID-19 becoming more the norm, will there be a live Salute To Troy on campus in August?
The call-in show…

Caller No. 1: Gregger, Draft Kings predicts that the Trojans will win 8.5 games in 2021. Do you agree?

Caller No. 1, in the Katz win-loss totals for the 2021 season, we’ve predicted an 8-4 record at best, but that could change depending on players heading to or from the NCAA Transfer Portal.   

Caller No. 2: Grego, is there any update on why true freshman defensive tackle Jay Toia is leaving USC after performing so well in spring practice?

Caller No. 2, Toia sent out a message last Monday that although USC was his dream school, had all “A’s” in his first academic semester at Troy, and the fact that he was at or near the top of the depth chart, because of COVID-19 and not able to make other official recruiting visits, he made a hasty decision. Are you buying it?

Is it possible that Toia, who visited UCLA during last week and was reportedly at Michigan this weekend, was in conflict with his defensive line position coach Vic So’oto, known as an intense and disciplined taskmaster? It is known, and So’oto says so himself through early interviews, that he holds players accountable, and that they must take on personal responsibility. A personality conflict or a responsibility conflict?

It might be premature to say that defensive line coach Vic So’oto (photo above) is the rumored main reason that true freshman defensive lineman Jay Toia has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal. So’oto is known to be an aggressive coach who holds his players accountable both on and off the field.

Caller No. 3: G-Kat, did you ever have a chance to eat at Julie’s, the once iconic bar and grill across the street from USC and the hangout of John McKay?

Caller No. 3, yes, I did. I must tell you from my memory of it was that it was somewhat dark inside and I thought the food was average and not at the all-star level, but that’s just IMHO.  

Caller No. 4: Mr. K, I know that the Notre Dame and Bay Area Weekenders are always at the top of the list for USC fans that like to watch the team on the road. Since those trips are a given, what would you recommend for other away games this 2021 season?  

Caller No. 4, I know a lot of folks will disagree, but I would select the away game at Washington State. There is nothing glamorous about it, but driving from Spokane to Pullman is a beautiful and relaxing drive through the beauty of Eastern Washington, and there is nothing like seeing the little town of Colfax and its Main Street along the way. Martin Stadium is a small but intimate setting, the air is clear, and playing the Cougars in September avoids weather issues. If you’re the adventurous type, give it a shot. You can also stay along the Idaho/Washington border for convenience to WSU and the stadium.

If you go on just one USC road trip to watch a game, the best-of-the-best in any year is when the Trojans visit the Irish in Notre Dame Stadium (photo above), especially with Touchdown Jesus and the Golden Dome overlooking the famous “House that Rockne Built.”

Caller No. 5: Katzer, name me an indoors or outdoors restaurant hangout that you used to partake and still exists today.

Caller No. 5, wow, an easy one. No doubt it would be “The Hat” where I grew up in Alhambra (corner of Garfield and Valley), and now has locations around the SoCal area. The Hat is best known for its pastrami and beef dip sandwiches and fries. And let’s add an “orange bang” drink to wash it down. Not exactly the healthiest of food, but it sure tasted great!

Unless times and/or locations have changed, The Hat locations: Alhambra (the original), Brea, Glendora, Lake Forest, Monterey Park, Murrieta, Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga, Simi Valley, Temple City, and Upland. Again, check to see if any of these locations are still in existence.     

Still a favorite in Southern California is “The Hat” (photo above), which features pastrami and beef dip sandwiches .

The last word: Speaking of those were the days, my friend, it’s never too early to ask, but where will you be spending your July 4th as COVID-19 restrictions lessen?

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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