A noun defined as one who is subjected to oppression or mistreatment. However, it can also mean one that is tricked or duped.
Yes, that pretty much sums up how USC’s student body feels in the wake of a devastating blow, that even months of waiting couldn’t have prepared us for.
The numbers resulting from the NCAA’s stand for culpability are simple: the football team will face a two-year ban from postseason play, the forfeiture of 14 wins from the 2004 and 2005 seasons, the loss of 30 scholarship offers over the course of the next three years, and a potential removal of the 2004-2005 BCS national championship.
While the facts and figures might seem straightforward and self-explanatory, finding the collective strength to get up from this disheartening sucker punch requires a commitment and a plan.
It might not be fail-proof, but here is my attempt to help all of you through this time of great sorrow and frustration.
1. Throw a pity party. For those of you who still haven’t come to grips with what has transpired, don’t be afraid to let it out. Watch hours of low-quality reality TV shows or Law and Order re-runs, eat pints of ice cream, tear down posters, create Facebook pages in protest and even make T-shirts with catchy slogans. Do whatever it takes to cope, because after all this wasn’t your fault.
2. Make your voice heard. Sure heading up message boards and online groups says something, but if you want to vent, why not direct that pent up anger and energy towards the people who need to hear it: the athletic department, the school’s administration, TV outlets or even the sports pages of the Los Angeles Times.
If you have a gripe, speak up. If you feel the school, the athletic program and its chief representative, he-who-shall-not-be-named, neglected its athletes and the student body, act — don’t wallow.
3. Sport a new trend. There is nothing more rewarding as a fan than rooting for a proven winner. It’s what has made our generation of Trojan fans so confident when making the walk over to the Coliseum every fall. While the biggest moneymaker and arguably most-prized source of entertainment on campus has taken a bit of a hit, if you love sports, if you love watching your school compete on the highest of levels, find a more obscure team to root for.
Men’s basketball makes its triumphant return from its one-year ban next fall. The water polo program will be showcasing not one, but two, defending national championship teams next season. And can you say “three-peat?” Well that’s what the men’s tennis squad hopes to achieve next year. While you may not find a Heisman Trophy candidate or household name around every nook and cranny of this university, there are student-athletes in other revenue sports yearning for some love. Now is as good a time as any to show them some.
4. Be your brother’s keeper. For every upperclassmen — center Kristofer O’Dowd or fullback Stanley Havili, just to name a few — who have worked tirelessly the past few seasons with the goal of reaching a BCS title game, their dreams are shattered. For every high school standout — like running back Dillon Baxter or wide receiver Kyle Prater — that took a leap of faith on this program, in spite of what looked to be a precarious situation, their futures have been put in jeopardy for events that took place while they were still playing Pop Warner.
So I am putting every student who claims to bleed cardinal and gold and their fanhood on the chopping block. Even in good times, our student section isn’t exactly the most raucous group in college football, let alone the Pac-10 (or should I say Pac-who-knows?) For the first time in your college experience, don’t be the small fish in a big pond. Make each game your main priority. Yes, even ahead of tailgating and snapping endless potential Facebook defaults. These players, your peers, friends and fellow students need you more than ever. It’s time we all had their back.
5. For everything, learn, learn, learn. While it pains me to drag the late John Wooden into a story that serves as a complete antithesis to his selfless character, the legendary coach said it best: “Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”
Although this may be a lesson that falls on deaf ears, his words preach a message befitting of this ordeal.
No matter how much you have achieved in sports or in life, no one is above the law. Unfortunately, this university has found that out the hard way. But it’s a non-permanent reality check, and that might be exactly what USC needs.
Call it a lack of accountability, a failure in the leadership hierarchy or just plain recklessness, but years of ignoring the warning signs and dismissing opportunities to act courageously even if it meant losing some national exposure and money along the way, proved to be the straw that broke this camel’s back. It’s a shame and it stings. but it could have been avoided. But this intervention was necessary for everyone, and in the big picture will actually strengthen an impure program.
6. Find a silver lining. Maybe this step is trite, but there’s comfort in finding a positive in a negative. Two years is not a lifetime. Sure it closes the books on a chance for a significant portion of the student body from witnessing a potential run at a national championship game, but beneath turmoil there is an opportunity to look beyond what could have been and start appreciating what is.
Adverse times might not be the ideal moments to sort through your emotions. Six days might not be enough time to repair the damage. And whether or not my steps to renewal guide you during these unfamiliar times, take solace in knowing you are not alone. The challenge of fighting on in spite of what has transpired will certainly not be easy, but it is a defining point in our legacy as a student body.
Every action has a reaction, and under these unwelcoming circumstances, that onus falls on every individual associated with this university.
The time is now to show that “We are ’SC,” the University of Strengthened Courage.
“For The Love Of The Game” runs every other Wednesday. To comment on this article, e-mail Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.