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IMHO Sunday: Welcome to USC’s Twilight Zone upside- down world

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

* Only in today’s upside-down world could USC’s upcoming revised 2020 schedule – meaning conference-only games – trade playing national powerhouse teams like Alabama and Notre Dame with replacement conference possibilities Washington State and/or Oregon State, two unstoried teams that will never be confused with the legendary Crimson Tide or Irish. Calling Twilight Zone’s Rod Sterling. 

* Only in today’s upside-down world could the 2020 USC Trojans play their way into the College Football Playoffs (CFP) semi-final game and be assigned the 2021 Rose Bowl in a year when the Rose Parade has already been officially canceled?

* Only in today’s upside-down world is it possible that if USC played Georgia in a CFP semi-final or championship game the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback could be former Trojans’ quarterback JT Daniels, who was granted this week immediate transfer eligibility by the NCAA.

With news coming that former USC quarterback JT Daniels (photo above) was granted immediate eligibility to play the 2020 season for the Georgia Bulldogs, it’s possible JT could be the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs against the Trojans should the two universities meet in the 2020 College Football Playoffs.

 *Only in today’s upside-down world could USC athletic director Mike Bohn appear on local ESPN radio and say playing the 2020 season is “50-50 at best” and by the tone of his voice sound like the odds were much grimmer than the vocalized prediction.

* Only in today’s upside-down world and considering his rocky tenure as the Trojans’ head coach the past two seasons could Gentleman Clay Helton be fortunate enough to have the two biggest schedule heavyweights – with all due respect to Oregon – Alabama and Notre Dame removed from the 2020 Trojans’ schedule, thanks to the coronavirus.

Thanks to the Pac-12 Conference moving to a conference-only schedule for 2020, the Trojans will not only avoid Alabama (photo above) but Notre Dame, too. It’s expected the Trojans will add Washington State and/or Oregon State to take the place of the two non-conference powerhouse programs.

* Only in today’s upside-down world could the Los Angeles Times reveal that Trojans head coach Clay Helton “earned more than $4.5 million from USC and its related organizations from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, the first fiscal year following Helton’s five-year extension.” The raise was a significant increase from the 2017 earning of 3.2 million. The five-year contract extension – all guaranteed money – courtesy of former highly unqualified AD Lynn Swann, now sticks out like the “Hollywood” sign at night, especially after the last two seasons combined record of 13-12.

* Only in today’s upside-down world would we learn this past week from The Times that after Ohio State had clubbed USC, 24-7, in the 2017 Cotton Bowl, would Clay Helton be given a 2018 contract extension, which would increase his salary by 40%. Imagine getting a 40% raise, and then coaching next season’s team to a 5-7 record. Incredible and now we may better understand how much money Helton would have been paid if the Trojans had to buy him out of that five-year, guaranteed contract money.

BTW, it would be safe to say that Hot Seat Clay has the USC bank account/boosters by the short hairs or until USC President Carol Folt and athletic director Mike Bohn hold their nose, close their eyes, and have an eye to the future. Bohn especially must have rolled his eyes into the sticking position after reading over Helton’s five-year contract extention.

No wonder Clay Helton (photo above) looks so happy. Wouldn’t you be happy too if you were given a 40% raise and five-year contract extension (yearly money guaranteed) after the 2017 season? Since the contract extension and reported 40% raise, the Trojans have gone 13-12 the past two seasons.

* Only in today’s upside-down world could the Trojans recruiting Class of 2021 be so highly ranked without having played a game in 2020. This is especially noteworthy considering they’re doing it – and not to belabor the point – with a new defensive coaching staff, coming off seasons with a combined 13-12 record, and last season’s deflating loss to Iowa in the Holiday Bowl.

* Only in today’s upside-down world could 2020 Coliseum home attendance not be a scrutinized issue since the public – thus far – won’t be allowed to view games inside the Grand Old Lady.

* Only in today’s upside-down world could Trojans’ season ticket holders be given the option of not attending Coli games this season but forwarding their ticket privileges to the 2021 season.

From the press box…

The update: The National Junior College Athletic Association last Monday approved a proposal to move its football season to the spring. The decision, approved by the NJCAA’s board of regents during an emergency board meeting, affects 54 football-playing members of its association, which is made up of 512 schools.

During the John McKay era and on a needs basis, the Trojans have relied on the junior college system for some of their greatest plays. Above is a photo of 1968 Heisman Trophy winning tailback O.J. Simpson (left), a transfer from San Francisco City College, with head coach John McKay (right).

Transfer reality: This new junior college rule of moving the season to the spring probably won’t affect USC as much as it will other major programs. The Trojans have long moved past relying on community college transfers.

Transfer reality – Part 2:
During the days of the John McKay era, community college transfers were a lifeblood to the program, and many of the Trojans most recognizable players came from the junior college ranks.

Transfer reality – Part 3:
Here are some of the most notable community college transfers that have made their mark with the Trojans: TBs/RBs Jim Sears (El Camino JC), Frank Gifford (Bakersfield CC), O.J. Simpson (SFCC), Clarence Davis (ELAC); DTs Al Cowlings (SFCC) and Jeff Winans (Modesto JC); DEs Charlie Weaver (Arizona Western JC), Rod Martin (LACC); LBs Damon Bame (Glendale JC), Greg Slough (San Diego CC), James Sims (LA Harbor JC); David Lewis (Sand Diego CC); and Ray Rodriguez (ELAC).  

1969 All-America defensive tackle Al Cowlings (photo above), another transfer from San Francisco City College, was a major headliner on the famed Wild Bunch defense of 1969.

Transfer reality – Part 4: Quarterbacks Vince Evans (LACC) and Tim Green (El Camino); WRs Keyshawn Johnson (West LA CC), Hal Bedsole (LA Pierce JC; OLs Ron Yary (Cerritos JC), Booker Brown (Santa Barbara CC), Pete Adams (Sand Diego CC), Bill Bain (San Diego CC), Taitusi “Deuce” Lutui (Snow JC);  DB Nate Shaw (San Diego CC); and S Mike Battle (Long Beach CC). 

Former Trojans All-America wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson (photo above) was a junior college transfer from West Los Angeles JC.

The post-game show…

In memory: Former USC outside linebacker David Lewis, an All-Pac-8 first team selection in 1974, passed last Tuesday in Tampa, Fla. He was 65 and was in ill-health for some time.

The Trojans are mourning the loss of former All-Pac-8 linebacker David Lewis (photo above) who passed away last week. David will also be remembered for his legendary kickoff return “hit” against Notre Dame in 1974.

In memory – Part 2: Former USC captain, All-Pac-8 linebacker, and WeAreSC.com columnist Kevin Bruce was touched by the passing of his former teammate. Regarding David Lewis, Kevin said, “He was a good guy. I’m saddened he’s gone now. I still don’t know how the ND returner held on to that football after David hit after AD’s runback.” 

In memory – Part 3: As Kevin Bruce alluded, David Lewis will always be remembered for his memorable tackle in the second half of the legendary 1974 Comeback Game against Notre Dame. David made a monster hit of Irish kick returner Mark McLane at the 8-yard line after Anthony Davis had returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Below is a brief video highlight of that historic AD kickoff return and the ensuing David Lewis tackle.

Decision time: The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), which includes the massive CIF Southern Section, is expected to announce on Monday the future of high school sports participation in California and how they’ll proceed with the 2020-21 sports season calendar. Most experts on the subject are suggesting that all CIF sections will not begin sports until January.

Decision time – Part 2: According to Rob Wigod, commissioner of the CIF Southern Section, and speaking on the local Fred Roggin/Rodney Peete radio show said, “I remember saying we could start the season on September 14 and finish by the end of December, and a month ago that was potentially possible. And we all know what has happened since then (COVID-19 cases locally have spiked), so some of those ideas have to be set aside, and we have to see how we can let time work for us and how can we see the next several months play out.”

The call-in show…

Caller No. 1: Greg, what were your thoughts when you heard that the 2021 Rose Parade had been cancelled? Sadness. I have to admit that having lived in Southern California all my life, I have never attended the Rose Parade (too early in the morning to wake up). However, I was the public address announcer for the 1996 Rose Bowl Game (USC vs Northwestern). I will say not having the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day means Jan. 1, 2021, won’t be the same. Something will be missing, and it will be the Rose Parade.  

2021 New Year’s Day won’t be the same without the Rose Parade (photo above), which has been canceled due to the coronavirus. As for now, the Rose Bowl Game , which is scheduled to host a semi-final CFP game, has not been canceled.

Caller No. 2: Greggo, in one word, how would you describe the prospect of having a 2020 college football season? Fading.

Caller No. 3: Katz, your reaction to a recent coronavirus pandemic comment from former Trojans coach and current LSU head man Ed Orgeron, who said, “I don’t think we can take this away (the season) from our players, take this away from our state and our country. We need football. Football is the life blood of our country.” With all due respect to Coach O, the life blood of our country is literally life, and the virus threatens all of us – which places life way above football.  

Caller No. 4: Mr. G, what do you think is going to happen with the CFP if the season is played? I think the CFP has to expand the playoffs, which I think I mentioned last week. I just don’t see any legitimacy in a playoff system that tries to name teams from conference-only schedules. It wouldn’t be hard to have a quarterfinal round a week before the semi-finals. As mentioned, just have automatic quarterfinal seeds from the champions of the conference title games and an independent. I think it has to be a six or eight team playoff, but I am probably preaching to the choir.    

Due to the coronavirus, will there even be a College Football Playoff and a trophy (photo above)?

Caller No. 5: GK, if you could meet and have a foursome lunch with anybody in the history of the world, who would they be? Man, that’s kind of a deep question. Well, I’d like to have lunch with Abe Lincoln, Jesus, and my great grandfather. Lincoln because I’d like to find out how he got through the Civil War. I’d like to meet Jesus and ask him what he thinks of today’s world. Lastly, I’d like to meet my great grandfather to find out what his life was like in the old country (Russia) and what DNA traits he passed on to me.

One of those famous figures from the past that your humble scribe would love to have lunch with would be President Abraham Lincoln (photo above).

The final word: Keep safe, keep others safe, and keep the faith.

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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