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IMHO Sunday: United we stand, June homecoming, and Viva Las Vegas

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

The friendly skies: As you probably may have already come to know, the great Coliseum “name game” has finally come to a rightful conclusion. USC and United Airlines have compromised in the naming rights of the Grand Old Lady – United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – as she will be called for at least ten years. Move over Artie Moreno’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. You could say that, yes, there is a compromise in the naming, but United still got the first three advertising words – United Airlines Field – and USC got the final four words – Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. We think it was basically a win-win for both, but it’s probable that United paid USC less for the billboard rearrangement. It probably also didn’t hurt the compromise situation that United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz is on the USC Board of Trustees. Who knew?

United Airlines and USC hope their new Coliseum naming arrangement flies high for the next 10 years. Does it also mean that United will also be the official charter airline of the 2019 Trojans for road games?

The friendly skies – Part 2: It’ll be interesting to see how the electronic media refers to the new Coli name, especially during telecasts of the NFL and college football. Will it be “Welcome fans to the United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum,” or will it be just plain “Welcome to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum”? One thing you can probably expect, there will be United Airlines Field somewhere on each side of the 50-yard line to make sure United gets its exposure on the telecasts. Perhaps ABC sportscaster Rob Fukuzaki said it best on a tweet: “That name will take up half of my sportscast.”

Reacting to the news of the new Coliseum naming between USC and United Airlines, Los Angeles ABC sportscaster Rob Fukuzaki said in a tweet: “That name will take up half of my sportscast.” Was he kidding?

The friendly skies – Part 3: With the naming compromise and even without any announced changes in the financial arrangement between United and USC, there will still be $315 million in funding support to complete the project. In addition to the stadium’s renovation and as part of this revised agreement between USC and United, both partners will continue to work together to identify additional ways to honor local veterans, including providing support for veterans who attend USC as well as erecting a memorial in honor of veterans at the Coliseum.

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It ain’t over till it’s over: Call it a June cardinal and gold homecoming of sorts. In a week’s time, the Trojans have received the recruiting benefits from the new order (AKA the NCAA Transfer Portal). Coach Clay Helton’s program is a beneficiary of this new wave of transferring by receiving two former local 5-star players, receiver Bru McCoy (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei/Texas) and corner Chris Steele (Bellflower, Calif,/St. John Bosco/Florida), who had different reasons for transferring back to the hometown Trojans. Clay Helton also got a double surprise with the Twitter announcements that junior WR Velus Jones and junior QB Matt Fink would be returning to the motherland of the renovated Coliseum. In this new era of the NCAA Transfer Portal and the crazy world of recruiting, Yogi Berra was right when he said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Legendary NY Yankees catcher Yogi Berra must have been referring to the current state of recruiting and the NCAA Transfer Portal when he famously uttered these words: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Anything goes: Both Bru McCoy and Chris Steele have their reasons for “coming back” to Troy, but Steele’s recruiting odyssey after attending Florida, committing to Oregon, and finally settling in by enrolling at USC has been some journey. Chris told the Athletic’s Tyson Alger that he was planning on Oregon after the Florida transfer because the Trojans didn’t originally have spot for him, but a spot did open up, which also coincided with a family financial hardship with Steele’s mom and grandmother that made it impossible to be a Duck.  Whether one or both players will have to sit out the regular season is now up to the NCAA, but it matters little to Clay Helton who hopes to be around when both McCoy, who left Texas because he was homesick for SoCal, and/or Steele are eligible. The immediate eligibility question seems to favor Steele, who told the Athletic that he expects to be eligible after applying to the NCAA. Because McCoy’s case revolves around moving back from Texas to LA due to homesickness, Bru, who did attend classes at Troy for three weeks before the Texas transfer, may not get the same verdict by the NCAA, but one never knows.

The return of Velus: Not that he had to be re-recruited, but junior WR Velus Jones announced on Twitter he is now off the NCAA Transfer Portal marketplace and will be returning to play for Troy.It’ll be interesting to see how Jones is received by both the coaching staff and his teammates after having entered the NCAA Transfer Portal and having taken visits to other universities. What isn’t known is why Jones elected to enter the “Portal” in the first place. Certainly, if it was a family situation as rumored, that must be taken under consideration. We will eventually know.

WR Velus Jones has announced he won’t be transferring and will return to the Trojans for 2019.

The return of Fink: It seems fitting that the showstopper in this wacky week of Trojans roster moves was the tweet announcement by junior quarterback Matt Fink that he was withdrawing from the NCAA Transfer Portal. Considering Matt’s QB pecking order at Troy, it really did appear that he was heading to Illinois, according to his dad, but his son had different ideas in the end. Yes, in the end, that picture of Fink in a USC jersey as a kid was just too much soul-searching to leave. Make no mistake about it, however, Matt is a longshot to start against Fresno State. One thing we do know about him, he’s not a quitter, and he one spirited kid who competes to the end, so bring it on, Matt! So once again, it’s going to be a four-way quarterback competition in August, and Fink will try and upset the apple cart by crashing into the perceived two-man race between JT Daniels and Jack Sears.

IMHO: Excuse us if we don’t fall all over ourselves and gush with enthusiasm over the announcements of the aforementioned four players coming to Troy. Consider that Fink and Jones were already members of the team, so status quo there. Nothing added there but numbers and much-needed depth. McCoy was already a Trojan before he didn’t like what he was seeing and bolted for Texas. So, in a sense, although he is a super talent and a fresh face, it shouldn’t have never gotten to the point that he left SC in the first place, and we’re not totally blaming the kid. That one was on the program. And as far as DB Chris Steele, he probably is the one player who, while originally verbally committing to be a Trojan, is the most exciting addition because of the four, he had no legal signing or roster recognition as a Trojan. Yes, these four player have helped with some momentum and created some positive news for a change, but now Clay Helton needs to go out and recruit some linemen and win some games in 2019.

QB Matt Fink has announced his return to Troy and hopes to run his way back into the competition.

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The new bowl arrangements: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott promised some new bowl matchups for the 2020-2025 post-season bowl parade, and there is some good news and some bad news. It all depends on the bowl location, the opponent, and the scheduled date of the bowl game. For USC fans, all three listed components will have a big say in buying in or just ignoring the future bowl game schedule. Given the future choice of the Las Vegas Bowl and playing a SEC or Big Ten team in the new NFL stadium or traveling to the new Pac-12 affiliation, the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, to play an ACC opponent, we don’t think it takes much foresight to know which bowl game cardinal and gold fans would select.

The Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, is one of the new 2020 Pac-12 bowl affiliations.

Las Vegas or bust: With the new NFL Las Vegas Stadium, which will be home to the Raiders, the Las Vegas Bowl has a very bright future, considering the Pac-12 will take on an opponent from either the Big 10 or the SEC in alternate years. Now, we can get into that. Point of fact, in the Trojans’ last visit to the Las Vegas Bowl (2013), the good folks of Sin City did a tremendous job as hosts, Trojans fans were satisfied, and it figures to get even better if say USC is matched up with an upper echelon SEC or Big 10 team. If there is a down side to the Las Vegas Bowl, it figures that the SEC won’t be sending its best, thanks to the CFP and the top tier bowl arrangements. However, you might get an Auburn or Mississippi on occasion.

Given your choice, would you like to see the Trojans in the Las Vegas Bowl or the Independence Bowl?

Shreveport or bust: We’re sure you’ll be panting to get your tickets to the new Independence Bowl on Dec. 26 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Wow, a trip to Shreveport the day after Christmas. Does it get any better than that? You say the Sun Bowl in El Paso is starting to look better by the moment? The Sun Bowl also features an ACC opponent. 

Los Angeles or bust: It looks like L.A. will also get its own bowl game, which figures to be played in the new NFL stadium, home of the Rams and Chargers, in Inglewood. The opponent unfortunately will be a Mountain West team, which may not be of much interest to the L.A. scene even if USC or UCLA are one of the participants. Of course, the novelty of the new stadium for those fans that will have not seen a Rams or Chargers game in the new digs will prompt the curiosity factor and probably lead to a one-time visitation of the Los Angeles Bowl or whatever they’re going to call it. The challenge for this bowl will be exciting the Pac-12 fans for a matchup with a Mountain West opponent.

The Pac-12 is hoping that the new Los Angeles Bowl in the new NFL stadium in Inglewood will create some enthusiasm, and that the local community will support the fresh bowl venture, especially USC Trojans fans.

San Diego or Bust: The San Diego Holiday Bowl will be replacing the Big 10 – which is moving to the new Las Vegas Bowl – with a team from the ACC to face a Pac-12 team. For the Trojans, that could mean playing Miami, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Pitt, Syracuse, etc. No, we didn’t forget Clemson. Don’t hold your breath on that matchup anytime soon. There is speculation that San Diego’s QualcommStadium will be demolished, and future Holiday Bowl games may be played at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.

The future pecking order: So, beginning in 2020, it appears the Pac-12 order of bowl game priorities will be as follows: No.1 Rose Bowl (vs Big Ten), No. 2 Alamo (vs Big 12), No. 3 Las Vegas (vs SEC or Big 10), No. 4 Los Angeles (vs Mountain West), No. 5 San Diego Holiday Bowl (vs ACC), No. 6 San Francisco Redbox (vs Big Ten), No. 7 El Paso Sun Bowl (vs ACC), No. 8 Shreveport Independence Bowl (vs ACC). Of course, it all depends on what Pac-12 teams get into either the CFP or the New Year’s Six.

No matter the bowl possibilities, for USC fans the Granddaddy of Them All remains a premier destination

Bowling dates: Here is the announced dates of the 2019-20 bowl season as it pertains to the Pac-12 Conference: Dec. 21: Las Vegas Bowl (4:30 p.m., ESPN); Dec. 27: Holiday Bowl (5 p.m., FS1); Dec. 27: Cheez-It Bowl (7:15 p.m., ESPN); Dec. 30: Redbox Bowl (1 p.m., FOX); Dec. 31: Sun Bowl (11 a.m., CBS); Dec. 31: Alamo Bowl (4:30 p.m., ESPN); Jan. 1: Rose Bowl (2 p.m., ESPN). All times are Pacific Time.

From the press box…

Cheez-It: And now a moment of silence for the Cheez-It Bowl in Phoenix, which appears to be out after this upcoming post-season. Cheez, we hardly knew ye.

Vote Count: We love Anthony Munoz as one of football’s all-time offensive tackles, but the recently announced WeAreSC voting that made Anthony and Tony Boselli as the two best USC offensive tackles in history is misguided. Munoz was hurt most of his USC career and his best days in were the NFL. Boselli did have a fabulous cardinal and gold career. For our two-cents, Ron Yary should have been one of the two tackles, and remember he was never hurt to the point he couldn’t play. IMHO, Yary is the best tackle ever at USC. As far as Boselli, you could make the case he belongs in the top 2, although personally I would have voted for Marvin Powell as one of the two tackles.

In the WeAreSC all-time offensive tackle voting, IMHO, it should have included two-time All-American Marvin Powell (1975-76), who is still not in the USC Athletic Hall of Fame. Go figure.

Media day: As previously reported, the Pac-12 Media Day will be Wednesday, July 24, at Loew’s Hollywood. Remember the old days when media day was held at a local movie studio? We’re surprised that Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott didn’t try to add a little out of this world touch by holding this summer’s media day inside Disneyland’s new Star Wars Land: Galaxy’s Edge on the planet Batuu.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has tried every possible venue to attract attention to the conference’s media day, but the one place that he hasn’t yet considered yet is having media day inside Disneyland’s new Star Wars Land: Galaxy’s Edge on the planet Batuu.

The old college try: The USC Ticket Department is still doing everything they can to sell full and mini-season ticket plans. Obviously, there was a backlash of season ticket cancellations over the result of last season’s 5-7 record and the retention of head football coach Clay Helton. Perhaps the most early intriguing aspect of the renovated stadium will be how many fans show for the season opener against Fresno State on Aug. 31.

The post-game show…

Ring of Honor: Former Trojans Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Carson Palmer will be inducted into the Arizona Cardinal Ring of Honor on Sept. 29 for his outstanding play during his professional time in Phoenix. Ironically, the game selected by Arizona for doing the induction is against the Seattle Seahawks, coached by Carson’s former USC college coach, Pete Carroll.

Carson Palmer won’t be wearing a USC uniform when he is inducted into the Arizona Cardinals’ prestigious Ring of Honor, which is a selected group of former Cardinals considered the franchise’s best of the best.

Ring of Honor – Part 2: Continuing on some irony, the day before Carson Palmer is inducted into Arizona Cardinals’ Ring of Honor against Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks, the Trojans will be in Seattle to battle the Washington Huskies on Sept. 28.

Complaint department: One of the criticisms of Clay Helton is the perception that his hiring of assistant coaches has not been historically overwhelming. In fact, there is the common feeling that he is uncomfortable bringing someone other than family that might be a threat. You can come to your conclusion on that assessment, but recently ASU head coach Herm Edwards hired former Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach Marvin Lewis to be part of his Sun Devils’ staff. Lewis will a “special assistant” to Edwards.  

Although Clay Helton has gotten some intense scrutiny regarding his past hires onto his coach staff, there have been very positive reviews regarding first-year defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a, who had successful defensive lines for the Utah Utes. Helton also appears to have upgraded his staff with new RB coach Mike Jinks and the return of former Trojans’ defensive coach Greg Burns, who was part of Pete Carroll’s early USC staffs.

The last word: Here’s the latest real time Coliseum renovation camera view: https://app.oxblue.com/open/usc/lacoliseumrenovation



Greg Katz
Author
Greg Katz

A longtime WeAreSC columnist, Greg began his affiliation with WeAreSC 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 staff writer covering USC, is also is 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 is a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.


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