I woke up yesterday to an email from USC football announcing Tuesday’s “Trojan Day” at L.A. Live.
USC coach Lane Kiffin, his father Monte and Ed Orgeron will be there signing autographs. Season tickets will be available for purchase. But the most promising part of the email was written in all capitals at the top:
“Take a picture with a Heisman Trophy and the BCS National Championship Trophy.”
I immediately cleared my entire afternoon to make sure I didn’t miss this opportunity. It might be the closest USC will get to a BCS national championship or a Heisman Trophy for a very long time.
So clear your schedules. All fans should be in attendance. The players should go, too. Why not take some photos with a prize the NCAA probably won’t even let the team compete for next season?
All sarcasm aside, if you’re a fan and you want to get autographs from Trojan coaches, more power to you. But I can’t help but point out the irony of USC personnel posing with college football’s two biggest awards, the same two that were effectively stripped from the Trojans program.
The Trojans were forced to vacate their 2005 Orange Bowl victory, which means the Big Brother NCAA has altered history and USC never hoisted the crystal ball in the first place. Reggie Bush chose to give back his Heisman to the Heisman Trophy Trust before it was taken away from him. USC had Bush’s replica Heisman removed from Heritage Hall even before that.
What would turn this silly public relations event into an actual statement is if fans could take pictures with both tainted trophies: Bush’s real Heisman and the actual 2004 national championship trophy.
These two pieces of hardware represent USC’s peak and its downfall. USC was at the height of its power when these two trophies were won, yet, as if the Trojans made a deal with the devil, they are still paying for that glory.
USC continues to patiently await the results of an appeal that common sense says should come out in favor of the Trojans, but harsh reality says will not. The Trojans might get a few scholarships back, but something tells me that second year of the bowl ban is staying.
The fallout from the NCAA sanctions, along with Pete Carroll’s departure, has set the USC program back perhaps a decade. Think last season was a major disappointment? The effects are only going to get worse from here.
“The next year is where we start hitting the sanctions,” USC Athletic Director Pat Haden told CBSsports.com two weeks ago. “You’re going to see this thing really develop three, four, five years from now. Our fan base may not understand, ‘What do you mean the sanctions are hitting? That was years ago.’”
But it wasn’t. It seems USC has been sanctioned indefinitely. Because of the drawn out appeal, the effects of the sanctions have been extended. Even when they are technically fulfilled, USC is going to feel the effects years down the line.
Maybe USC gets lucky and gets back its bowl eligibility this season, but all or most of the scholarship reductions remain.
The sad truth is that Tuesday’s event at L.A. Live is still the closest USC will get to that BCS crystal ball in the foreseeable future.
The Trojans have a few phenomenal players, but the depth of past championship seasons isn’t there. Realistically, a team just can’t win a national title without depth. The core of this team is strong, but not quite championship-caliber.
Then look at what could happen before the 2012 season.
Junior quarterback Matt Barkley could forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft. Defensive end Nick Perry could do the same. Seniors like Chris Galippo, Devon Kennard and Marc Tyler will have used up all of their eligibility.
The worst-case scenario would leave USC young and inexperienced. And with fewer scholarships at his disposal, Kiffin will be unable to reload.
USC will put together a good, but not great, team this season. As it stands now, the NCAA sanctions will keep the Trojans out of a bowl game. And their lasting effects will keep them out of major bowl games for years to come, away from BCS trophies and probably Heisman’s too.
Anybody still up for the photo-op at L.A. Live?
“Middle Ground” runs Tuesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org.