One of the most simultaneously frustrating yet promising aspects of USC is that it is a school perpetually under construction.
Construction is underway at seemingly every turn of the campus. Given all the upheaval in the last four years, orange cones and yellow tape should be the official crest of the graduating class of 2010.
It’s nearly impossible to catalogue all the changes made during that time span. The athletic department alone has been yanked in every direction.
Up went the Galen Center. Down came self-imposed sanctions. Out went Pete Carroll. And still hovering somewhere in the air are the NCAA’s findings on USC and a possible punishment.
Change is almost always unwelcome in sports, especially when things are going well. No one on the home team wants to see the star player leave or the coach take a new job.
Even for seniors who have learned to adapt to the school’s radical transformations, the thought of the uncertainty brought about by graduation is intimidating. I have learned in my time here that reform will go on, no matter our attitude toward it. But if you concede a lack of control to a dynamic world, you’ll at least get an amazing ride.
Coming from a small private high school outside Washington, D.C., I knew I wanted to make a big change in my life. Most of my classmates went to liberal arts schools, whose football teams’ existence was either ironic or for performance art. Coming to USC would either be an incredible experience or an unmitigated disaster.
But it never takes long for a freshman to see how everything is evolving because this is a communal experience. My favorite example of this was packing into the student section of the Galen Center for the men’s basketball team’s first game in the new arena. The Trojans lost that game, but fans chanted the name “O.J. Mayo,” even though the program’s alleged savior was only a high school senior at the time.
I wonder if the fans would have shown him the same adulation if they knew what kind of mark he would leave on the school just two years later.
Working for the Daily Trojan has been the best exercise in coping with uncertainty. As a writer, you are beholden to the facts, and the universe does not care about your deadline.
The games that are close, changing until the last minute, are the most frustrating but also the most memorable. Last fall at Notre Dame, I remember frantically leading a pack of sportswriters running down the stadium stairs to get onto the field for the end of the game. All the while I wondered, “What the hell am I going to write?”
But even in the most frantic times, there’s a brief moment of lucidity where you get to sit back and just watch. If you remember this instead of panicking during hectic times, you’ll get to see something incredible.
Of course, everyone handles change differently. Given the job market, many are understandably apprehensive of leaving the cocoon. But right now, I don’t like to think of myself as unemployed; “unrestricted free agent” is a more apt term.
The best lesson that USC sports have provided is that reform is best embraced as a team.
The Daily Trojan has given me a group of friends, especially in the sports department, undergoing the same daily struggle that I face. I can only hope everyone else has a group that can even compare to the one I have had for the last four years.
People ask constantly about what the school will be like in the future. USC has torn down so much of what used to be — in some manners, it’s hardly recognizable. But I can’t wait to see what the school starts up in the future.
Thinking about all of this took me back to Pete Carroll’s last press conference. Addressing a legion of diehards who only wanted to keep the status quo, he articulated why everyone had to move forward.
“I know that our fans want to know why it can’t keep on going,” Carroll said. “It can’t keep on going because of this opportunity that just came up.”
I like to think a similar sentiment applies to the class of 2010. We can’t keep on going here forever, but there’s an exciting opportunity waiting.
Even if we can’t see it right now.
“Tackling Dummy” ran Thursdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org.