There doesn’t seem to be an explanation, not an adequate one anyway.
Four broadcasters — whose names were not made available — showed up to the Coliseum on a surprisingly blustery Saturday afternoon to audition for USC’s public address announcer opening. Over the four periods during the annual spring game, the quartet rotated, each sitting behind the microphone for one quarter.
But nobody knows exactly how the position became vacant to begin with.
Dennis Packer, a retired police detective since 2008, has served as the school’s PA announcer for 22 years, his voice booming throughout the 88-year-old stadium, introducing the Trojan Marching Band and signaling touchdown after touchdown.
But earlier this month, USC issued a press release on its website, stating that Saturday’s auditions were part of an “ongoing effort to update the football game day experience.”
I have no idea what that means either.
Furthermore, it should be noted that the athletic department was looking into the “possibility of a new voice to usher in the latest era of USC football.”
Because of the vagueness, I asked a school spokesman for more information. After all, 22-year employees don’t typically just disappear — not without at least saying some sort of goodbye or farewell.
My request, however, was declined.
Packer’s sudden absence has been a bit surprising for a number of fans, primarily because he was well-liked, amicable and, most of all, rather pleasant to hear on Saturdays in the fall.
His deep voice meshed almost seamlessly with USC’s “Tribute to Troy” march. His touchdown calls resonated with sold-out stadium crowds.
It should hardly come as a surprise that a number of fans, as a result, have taken Packer’s side in this ongoing ordeal. A few have created online forums supporting Packer — a Facebook group with more than 400 members titled “Save Dennis Packer” and an online petition with 95 signatures have circulated in recent weeks.
“When you talk to people, you won’t find a single person who thinks this is a good idea,” said Roy Nwaisser, commonly known as “USC Psycho” and the man who started the online petition. “One-hundred percent of the people you ask, ‘What would you think about USC getting a new announcer at the Coliseum for football,’ … [would] tell you it’s a bad idea. They don’t like it.”
Packer, understandably, has tried to handle the situation with dignity. He isn’t bitter. He doesn’t let on that he is.
“Whether I’m there or not, I’m still a Trojan fan through and through,” Packer said Saturday night.
But no matter how recent events are spun, it remains a bizarre situation, mostly because USC officials haven’t exactly offered much of an explanation or any sort of rationale. The lack of transparency remains somewhat jarring.
The school’s initial release suggested the “likely” possibility that Packer could return in a reduced role, announcing the band’s pregame and halftime shows.
For now, though, the San Fernando Valley native is unaware of such a prospect and doesn’t expect to return to the Coliseum press box — not for the time being at least.
Packer said he received a telephone call on March 27, from Craig Kelley, the university’s associate athletic director for marketing, in which Packer was notified he would no longer be needed as the team’s PA announcer and USC was headed in a different direction.
He says he has tried to follow up with the athletic department, as his brief communication with Kelley slightly differs from the release posted online on April 2.
But his attempts have been to no avail, and he has been left to twist in the wind as a result.
“I thought that after all my service and time someone would talk to me about it,” Packer said.
Maybe we’ll eventually find out what happened. Heck, maybe Packer will too.
It’s a rather abrupt change. A change that appears unprompted.
So for now, we’ll have to wait for information and clarification. USC, for whatever reason, is keeping its cards oddly close to its vest.
“I have a lot of different emotions about it,” Packer said. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to be the announcer for USC, so [the news] was rather startling.”
He isn’t the only one startled.
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