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O/NSO: Coliseum renovation edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

The Obvious: With the Trojans finishing up their spring break before returning to the practice field on Tuesday, it gave fans and media a chance to pause and think about all things Trojans football – like the Coliseum renovation project.

The Not So Obvious: There has been some limited information that has come out, but with all the attention being paid to spring ball and Heisman hopeful Sam Darnold, the Coliseum renovation seems like on the backburner. BTW, you if haven’t been to the Trojans Coliseum renovation website, http://coliseumrenovation.com , there has been some information released for the estimated $270 million renovation project, which will be privately funded. Renovation will begin after the upcoming 2017 Trojan football season and will be completed for the 2019 home opener.

The Obvious: In case you missed it, the new Coliseum press box will be named the Otis Booth Press Box, which was announced back in August.

The Not So Obvious: The new press box naming rights are in recognition of the $7.5 million gift from the Otis Booth Foundation. The Otis Booth Foundation is a legacy of the late Franklin Otis Booth, Jr., a successful newspaper executive, investor and rancher.  He is the great grandson of General Harrison Gray Otis, founder of the Los Angeles Times.  Booth’s commitment to philanthropy during his life and through the Foundation has benefited many institutions in the Los Angeles area.

The Obvious: At the moment, there is no indication that there will be much or any changes to the original Coliseum renovation project, the Trojans aren’t the only brand university undertaking stadium renovation plans and projection.

The Not So Obvious: In case you’ve forgotten, among the planned Coliseum renovations is the building of a new structure on the south side of the stadium that will house suites, loge boxes and club seats, topped by the new Otis Booth Press Box.  Other renovation plans include replacing every seat in the Grand Old Lady, adding aisles and increasing leg room, installing new video screens and lighting, adding new concession stands and upgrading concourses, as well as restoring the iconic peristyle.

The Obvious: The Coliseum isn’t the only collegiate icon that will be undergoing future renovation.

The Not So Obvious: ESPN recently did a story on the announcement that Penn State would be renovating its football stadium in the future and discussed some of the planned changes. After reading the ESPN article on the Nittany Lions stadium plans, it made the O/NSO even more uncomfortable regarding the proposed Coliseum changes.

The Obvious: Trojan fans have some experience watching their heroes play in Penn State’s Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley, a very intimidating structure when filled to its capacity of over 100,000.

The Not So Obvious: According to the ESPN article regarding the renovation of Beaver Stadium, “Once completed, the 106,572-seat, nearly six-decade-old Beaver Stadium could include a brick facade and see its capacity decrease to 100,000 to improve fan comfort and increase its ability to host events in such sports as professional hockey and soccer.”

The Obvious: One of the biggest fears of the Trojans redoing the Coliseum is the elimination of many prime seats on the press box side and replaced by an enormous structure to house both the high roller suites and the new press box.

The Not So Obvious: Much of what USC can do with the Coliseum will be based on how much money can be raised for the project. In terms of its own renovations, Penn State is facing some money issues, too. According to Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, “This is an aspirational plan. We’ll ultimately build what we can afford.”

The Obvious: It’s rare that the Coliseum goes under the knife and does something radical.

The Not So Obvious: Late “Los Angeles Raiders” owner and once USC assistant Al Davis did  just that when the NFL franchise lowered the Coliseum field and removed the running track for a better fan experience. On the other hand, Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has undergone seven expansions since 1960. According to ESPN, “It remains relatively antiquated, despite additions of luxury boxes, high-definition scoreboards, new elevators and a refurbished press box.”

The Obvious: While the Trojans were off this past week for spring break, that didn’t prevent the world of recruiting to continue at its frenetic pace and that includes verbals and recruiting Cardinal and Gold.

The Not So Obvious: The Los Angeles Nike Regional Combine took place last Sunday, and the goal for all the campers was exposure with a chance to be selected to Nike’s national showcase, The Opening, in July that brings together over 100 top-shelf returning high school blue chippers to compete at the famed shoe company’s headquarters in Oregon.

The Obvious: There were a number of Trojans verbals for the class of 2018 and a larger number of recruiting targets on display last Saturday at El Camino Community College for the Nike Los Angeles Opening Regional.

The Not So Obvious: After the camp, a number of Trojan verbals and recruits were invited to The Opening in July. Those notable USC verbals included LBs Palaie Gaoteote (Las Vegas, NV/Bishop Gorman) and Raymond Scott (Harbor City, Calif./ Narbonne). Others invited were WRs Amon-Ra St. Brown (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) and Chase Cota (South Medford, OR/South Medford), LBs Solomon Tuliaupupu (Claremont, Calif./Claremont), and Jack Lamb (Great Oak, Calif./Great Oak), DBs Olaijah Griffen (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo) and Bryan Addison (Gardena, Calif./Serra), and OL Justin Dedich (Chaparral, Calif./Chaparral).

The Obvious: Trojans fans better get ready to correctly pronounce No. 1 ranked linebacker Palaie Gaoteote’s name correctly.

The Not So Obvious: Okay, here’s how to pronounce Palaie Gaoteote’s name: (First name) Paula-E-A (Last name) Nah-oh-tay-oh-tay. Got it? Of course, you could just call him by his nickname “I.E.” BTW, “I.E.” says he would like to major in kinesiology and do it in three years.

The Obvious: At the Nike Los Angeles Opening Regional, there were a number of former Trojans represented.

The Not So Obvious: In attendance was former Trojans All-America linebacker and Butkus Award winner Chris Claiborne. Claiborne was showing a deep and talented group of linebackers how the game at linebacker is played fundamentally. It’s doubtful most of the “kids” knew who was mentoring them if they weren’t paying attention. The O/NSO has said it before that we believe that Claiborne is the greatest linebacker in USC football history. The thing that I admire about Chris is that even though he was in good standing in the NFL, he didn’t like it and got out while his brain was still intact. He now coaches at the prep level locally and is enjoying every minute of it.

The Obvious: Also in attendance at the Nike Los Angeles Opening Regional was former Trojans tailback Aaron Emanuel.

The Not So Obvious: Arron was considered the No. 1 running back recruit in the country back in the 80s. If anybody knows what a bigtime recruit goes through in high school, it was Emanuel. Aaron played at Palmdale (Calif.) Quartz Hill. At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, he was a horse. Although he never quite lived up to all the hype, he was still a very physical running back at Troy and to this day is one SoCal’s all-time prep tailbacks

The Obvious: Trojans senior safety Chris Hawkins is expected to play a vital role in Clancy Pendergast’s defense in 2017.

The Not So Obvious: Hawkins was in attendance along with Trojans sophomore linebacker John Houston Jr. to survey the Nike Los Angeles Opening Regional talent. My how time flies in a player’s career. The O/NSO still remembers the Nike Los Angeles Opening Regional not that long ago when Hawkins was still in high school and right after the Nike regional announced his intentions to attend USC.

The Obvious: Another former Trojan in attendance at the Nike Los Angeles Opening Regional was former Trojans legend Willie McGinest.

The Not So Obvious: Since Willie is a contributor to the NFL Network, many of the Nike campers were aware of his career. Willie has kept himself in standout shape, and you can bet none of the linemen campers wanted to test themselves against him. On second thought, there might have been some unhinged ones that wanted to test him.

The Obvious: And finally, one of the “sleeper” participants in the Nike Los Angeles Opening Regional was Ontario (Calif.) Colony wide receiver Michael Ezeike (6-5, 210).

The Not So Obvious: The O/NSO commented in a WeAreSC Roundtable that Ezeike caught our attention at the Nike regional and was surprised that not many seemed to know about him. Well, apparently not everybody. On Monday, Ezeike was offered by UCLA. The kid looks like he is still growing and could grow out of a wide receiver to become a tight end. Either way, Michael Ezeike is no longer in the “sleeper” category.

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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