Just when the USC athletic department thought the black eyes would stop, they keep getting hit from every angle. Lane Kiffin inherited many of the challenges he has faced as the Trojans head coach. However, the newest bruises to the Trojans, excluding the losses, are self inflicted. Many uninformed people are crediting USC's troubles to the lack of depth due to scholarship restrictions imposed by the NCAA. Reality is, USC signed a full recruiting class last year plus a few extra players due to 7 players who transferred for a total of 31 signees. The scholarship losses are coming but have little to do with the problems at hand now.
The fabric of tradition and dominance USC once showed over the Pac-12 is slowly coming apart at the seams. The mystique is gone and so is the respect and pride that used to cause teams to crumble from the shadow of the Coliseum. The Trojans are still a hot bed of talent for the NFL, but those numbers dwindle over next few years with the loss of blue chip recruits to other schools like Oregon, Washington, and even UCLA. The Trojans have lost the strangle hold they had on the Pac-12 to the Ducks, who have won three straight titles. Top recruits (i.e. Max Redfield) who wouldn't consider other options after being offered a USC scholarship are considering taking their talents to other schools. Even worse than that, the Trojans are losing their identity and pride. Part of the identity was tied to the uniform. SC's traditional uniform complemented with white socks and black cleats with white laces have been traded for cardinal and yellow socks and shoes. This may sound like a little thing but after talking to many players I played with in the NFL, they agree with me. Now to the pride:
When asked about the controversy after the game Kiffin said, " We're just playing within the rules of college football". This move by Kiffin is clearly against NCAA rules because the jersey change was to deceive the opponent. He is also only one of a handful of coaches who could attempt a stunt like this because nearly all teams have names on the back of their jerseys.
Today it was just announced here that USC fired a student equipment manager for intentionally deflating game balls during the first half of the loss vs Oregon. When footballs are properly inflated they are hard as rocks. A slightly under inflated ball allows the quarterback to grip it tighter and throw it harder and further. It also allows the receiver to grip the ball better and making it easier to catch.
"When informed of this allegation by the Pac-12, USC investigated it immediately. The student manager confirmed that he had, without the knowledge of, or instruction from, any USC student-athlete, coach, staff member or administrator, deflated those game balls after they had been tested and approved by officials prior to the game."
Really... Are we supposed to believe a frat boy equipment manager just under inflated balls without anyone's knowledge in the biggest game of the year? Yea right. Equipment managers know that quarterbacks are very particular about the balls they use. There is no way he would have bothered the balls without consent or knowledge from authority. While this violation brings a fine and reprimand, the bigger punishment is another bruise to the USC name.
NCAA sanctions for recruiting violations and improper benefits are one thing, but shaky in game tactics are a whole different ballgame. You might expect a school that is completely undermanned to try these things. Is this what it has come to with USC?
USC is a football program rich with history, tradition, and accomplishments. Their history is becoming increasingly difficult for fans, recruits, and to see though the dark clouds over the Coliseum. If USC is not careful they will end up just a shadow of their former selves like Notre Dame, Michigan, Miami, Tennessee, Florida State, and Alabama (before Saban).
Is this what we should expect out of the "mighty" USC?
Is it possible to right the ship? If so, how and when?