20 min Read

IMHO Sunday: USC Coliseum football – Made for TV?

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

A blueprint: Saturday was supposed to be the USC Trojans season opener against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, but you know how that one went down. However, on Friday, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott publicly announced that he had “a high degree of confidence that we’ll be playing (football) in January. It’s possible we could play sooner.” Needless to say, local health restrictions will have a huge say regarding Scott’s optimism. The again, how odd would it be if the Pac-12 is playing in January in competition with the College Football Playoffs semi-finals and title game?

 A blueprint – Part 2: Now, for the sake of argument, Larry Scott’s optimistic announcement of a late 2020 or early 2021 kickoff for the Pac-12 got me to thinking how games might be presented on television with the probability – at least at the beginning – of no fans in attendance. That being said, Pac-12 stadiums should take a close look how Major League Baseball is presenting games with no fans, creating an at-home audience environment through sound effects, visual fan cutouts, and TV camera angles. No, it’s not the real thing without live fans and bands, but it does lull one watching on television to engage with more than just a background of silence.    

A blueprint – Part 3: After personally watching televised major league baseball games without fans the past month, if USC football is played without fans in the Coliseum, homeviewing might not be so bad…if the Trojans take heed of some MLB creative ideas and TV innovations. In having canned crowd noises run through the public address systems with a live public address voice, there is some sort of sense of normalcy at home given the situation. Yeah, it’s a TV mind game, but it serves the purpose.    

If there are no fans inside the Coliseum (photo above) for Trojans home games, will USC follow the lead of Major League Baseball and provide the sights and sounds for visual and audio creativity?

A blueprint – Part 4: If you have creative USC game producers in the Coliseum press box, they can use all the sights, sounds, and traditions of a USC home football game by controlling and making things as “normal” as possible in this world of the abnormal. Here’s a thought: If the actual Trojans band is not an option, have “retired” Trojans band director Dr. Arthur Bartner work the press box and cue a CD or MP3 of songs/musical segments associated with various moments during a game such as first downs, turnovers, sacks, touchdowns, field goals, fumble recoveries, etc.

If the Trojans try to substitute a “CD” Trojans Marching Band for Coliseum home games using a sound system on the field,, would Dr. Arthur C Bartner consider coming out of retirement to direct the sounds of the band like a regular in-game experience?

A blueprint – Part 5: MLB has shown me how a viewer can trick themselves into believing there are fans in attendance at some level. MLB has also shown me that fan cutouts can become entertaining visuals unto themselves. Now, here’s a little secret: your humble columnist and his girlfriend have our cutouts at Dodger Stadium on the Lexus Dugout Box level near the Dodgers on deck circle, and when the umpires convene for a replay conference, there we are.

Look who’s in the back row of these Dodger Stadium cutouts (photo above). Could it be your humble columnist (the old guy with the grey hair without a hat) and his girlfriend (the fan with the long dark hair in the upper left)? Might the Trojans athletic department offer USC fans a chance to have cutout pictures at Coliseum home games?

A blueprint – Part 6: Yeah, maybe cutouts are a little hokey, but the first time we were on TV, we got calls and texts from friends everywhere saying they just saw us. Would USC fans buy into this gimmick? The Dodgers started with 3,500 cutouts in the early going, and it has grown to well over 10,000 fans and counting. Putting cutouts behind the goal posts in the closed end of the Coli would be entertaining, and broadcasters seem to have fun with some of the closeups. Imagine a cutout of Traveler or Tommy Trojan sitting in the stands. Maybe the entire Trojans Marching Band could be cutouts, which means no social distancing. Okay, maybe that’s a little over the top.    

A blueprint – Part 7:
I don’t think it would take much for Trojan fans watching on television to become engaged because the general USC fans passion for competition and winning would supersede any other distractions. I don’t think the Trojans playing Arizona State with the Pac-12 South title on the line with no fans in a deserted Coliseum would cause folks to turn off their television sets or change channels.  

Can USC fans (photo above) transition their enjoyment of Trojans football from being in their Coliseum seats to their living room couch?

A blueprint – Part 8: And to add a little more gameday reality, how about a backyard tailgater before kickoff, using appropriate social distancing and the recommended mask protocol?  

From the press box…

First weekend review: Although I still believe that the Pac-12 has been rightfully cautious regarding not playing football in the fall, I had a chance to watch college football on TV this weekend, and it was fascinating just viewing the limited number of fans in the stands, the protective measures taken on the field, and the intensity of play on the field. On television, it kept my interest.

This was the TV scene yesterday when SMU played at Texas State (photo above). Notice the crowd size and the band and cheerleaders were located beyond the far end zone. It was an interesting setup to say the least.

First weekend review – Part 2: It all looked somewhat normal with the exception, of course, of a limited number of fans. However, reality struck during the day when it was announced that a University of Tennessee scrimmage had to be cancelled because 44 Volunteer players either tested positive for COVID-19 or were part of contact tracing. Cue up “Rocky Top”, baby! Either get used to it or just shut it down until 2021.    

Several Saturday’s college football games were shown on television, but COVID-19 made its presence felt when it was announced the that University of Tennessee (photo above) had to cancel its scrimmage because of a reported 44 Vols players either testing positive or were part of contact tracing.

Hope and optimism: While Larry Scott’s words of a January or sooner kickoff to the season created a sense of excitement, it also creates a potential wait-and-see for those Trojans players that could go to the NFL early, but understandably might want to stay and play if games commenced before January and don’t collide with the NFL combines and the training camps that lead up to it. Then again, it might be cutting it too close on the calendar for those that have strongly considered jumping to the NFL.  

A change of heart – maybe: Outside of Iowa, Nebraska, and Ohio State, the Big Ten recently voted not to have football this fall. Thumbs up for most of the Big Ten by sticking to its “no fall play” guns up to this point. However, it is now being reported that another vote may be taken to play in the fall. It does, however, say a lot about the Hawkeyes, Cornhuskers, and Buckeyes as it pertains to student-athlete health. However, the big elephant in the room for all college athletics, which includes the Pac-12, is the risk of the heart issue known as myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.

While there has been a push to play college football in 2020 or early 2021, USC and the Pac-12 are well aware of a potential health risk with a byproduct of COVID-19, myocarditis,, an inflammation of the heart muscle (photo above).

A change of heart – maybe – Part 2: USC officials are already on record regarding concerns and unknowns as it pertains to myocarditis. While Larry Scott has made overtures that a season may yet be upon us, the health officials – like those at USC – are still learning more about this COVID-19’s effect on the heart. I know, as long as it’s somebody else’s heart – play on.    

The CFP: Did the College Football Playoff management team think that by committing to having a “normal” post-season playoff with three of the Power 5 conference teams, it would put added pressure for the Pac-12 and/or Big Ten to play in the fall? Well, that may be a weak theory, but there appears to be some movement to play before January, as the Larry Scott announcement might suggest. No matter how you slice it, any decisions should strongly be made with the health of the student-athletes at the forefront.  

How much pressure is the Pac-12 feeling to play before January with the College Football Playoffs (photo above) having announced it will proceed with its normal post-season playoff schedule?

Must viewing: If you haven’t had a chance to watch WeAreSC publisher Erik McKinney’s “First and Ten” Zoom video with Trojans legendary defensive end Charlie Weaver from the original Wild Bunch, it is must viewing for any USC football fan. As a public service, just check out our homepage or here is the link to this standout interview: https://wearesc.com/first-and-ten-with-charlie-weaver/

Sign of the times: A Trojans supporter told us his check for the 2020 USC Football Media Guide has been returned along with an obvious letter of explanation. Of course, what happens if there is football before January or shortly after?

The post-game show…

Georgia peach: Former Trojan QB JT Daniels looks like he could very well be the starting QB for his new school, the University of Georgia, which will open the Bulldogs season on Sept. 26 at Arkansas. JT got a major break when expected Georgia starter Jamie Newman announced that he would forego the 2020 season and get ready for the 2021 NFL draft. We’ll see how JT handles the SEC media scrutiny, those big bad SEC defensive linemen, and the hostility and crazy fans of the South. Of course, he reportedly still needs to be medically cleared.

It’s looking like former Trojans QB JT Daniels (photo above) might be starting for Georgia in their opener at Arkansas on Sept. 26.

The official protection game: If you watched some of the college football games on Saturday, you may have noticed some COVID-19 changes in game management, which includes those officiating games. Below are some of the changes due to the coronavirus.

The whistle: The traditional whistle will not be allowed based on health concerns. Each official will now use an electronic whistle, and it is recommended that this whistle be attached at the waist.

Because of COVID-19, game officials (photo above) will be wearing black masks and using electronic whistles.

The mask: All officials will wear a solid black mask. The official will “mask up” when the snap is imminent and may only lower the mask between plays when the official is in space (i.e. social distancing). The official may lower their mask and replenish oxygen but must mask up if anyone approaches the official or the next snap is imminent. 

The eyes have it: Protective eyewear and gloves are recommended but is an optional decision that each official can make based on their personal circumstances.

The test: All officials will be tested for COVID-19 weekly and will follow all conference protocols.

COVID-19 (photo above) has caused football officials to redesign how they prepare for and officiate games.

The film sessions: Officials will conduct their Friday night film session and pregame meetings virtually even when they are together in a specific hotel.

Travel plans: All conference coordinators are reworking crew and game assignments to minimize public transportation.

The call-in show…

Caller No. 1: Sir, USC football has had so many glorious moments in its history, and you have been so fortunate to have seen so many of them over the many decades. However, is there an event or moment that you would consider an embarrassing or uncomfortable moment for such a legendary and proud program?

Caller No. 1, I was hoping this question would never be asked because like you said, there have been so many wonderful and exciting moments in the extraordinary eras of John McKay, John Robinson, and Pete Carroll. However, there is one moment that I would like to forget and wished had never happen. It was the 2016 opener against Alabama when the Trojans were getting ready to take the field. Hopefully, you’ve forgotten it. Below is a video moments before the Men of Troy were getting ready to take the field and head coach Clay Helton was standing in the front left with his hands on his hips. The Trojans acted liked barking dogs, and I’ll just let the video below speak for itself. It might have been more embarrassing than the final score.

Caller No. 2: Greg, who is the greatest football recruiter you have seen at USC?

Caller No. 2, there are certainly a number of candidates that have been great salesmen for the Trojans. Certainly, names like Marv Goux, Ed Orgeron, Dave Levy, and Artie Gigantino come to mind, and I know I am missing some others. Head coach John McKay was a great closer just by his presence in his office at the end of a recruit’s official visit. However, IMHO, Pete Carroll was the best, an irresistible recruiting force both in his office, on official visits, and on the road. Coach Charisma was a rock star wherever he went. He caused the SEC to push the NCAA for new recruiting rules so that head coaches like Carroll couldn’t recruit personally down in the South. Regarding Carroll as a force in recruiting, even a prolific recruiter like Ed Orgeron once said after he left Troy to be a head coach, “Once Pete gets involved with a recruit, especially as a closer, it’s over.”   

Pete Carroll (photo above) was USC’s best football recruiter I have seen in my over two generations of watching, following, and writing about Trojans football.

Caller No. 3: Coach, don’t you think if USC games are to be watched only on television, it would help viewers by having the players’ last names on the back of their Trojans jerseys?

Caller No. 3, sorry, but I am old school and Trojans jerseys without names is fine with me. It hasn’t seemed to be a problem on television before. You can probably download numerical rosters from WeAreSC. Besides, all those national titles and conference crowns weren’t hindered without names on the back of players’ jerseys. In theory, you should be playing for the name on the front of the jersey and not on the back.       

As per tradition, you won’t see the last names of USC players (photo above) on the back of their legendary jerseys (photo by Aaron Nelson).

Caller No. 4: Greg, aside from the 1974 Comeback victory over Notre Dame, what’s the second loudest crowd you have ever heard at the Coliseum?

Caller No. 4, man, I’ve heard a lot of intense noise over the years in the Coliseum. Obviously, last second wins in the Coli have brought the noise level to a crescendo. I would have to say other than the 1974 Comeback over Notre Dame, I would have to say the 2004 game against a great Cal team in the Coliseum before 90,008 was extremely loud from kickoff to gun, and that final defensive stand against the mighty Bears offense led by QB Aaron Rodgers and TB Marshawn Lynch and company was ear-piercing. The Trojans survived 23-17.    

The Coliseum was rocking in 2004 as the Trojans held off Cal (photo above), which featured two future NFL offensive stars in quarterback Aaron Rodgers (No. 8) and running back Marshawn Lynch (No. 24).

Caller No. 5: Mr. Kitty, basic automatic or stick shift?

Caller No. 5, I am not a huge car buff, but my first car was an automatic, but for some reason I decided to go with stick shifts for the next several cars. It was a novelty until I burnt out too many clutches and being in bumper-to-bumper traffic going up a hill was challenging. I finally came to my senses later in life by returning to automatic shifting. However, I am glad I went through my stick shift stage, and I am just as happy that I have returned to the life of an automatic car.   

I must say, learning how to drive with a stick shift (photo above) with a clutch was a real learning experience.

The final word: Have a happy Labor Day and stay safe, which means in these difficult times adhering to using good common sense and trying to follow the advice of health professionals as it pertains to the coronavirus.

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.

More Articles By Greg