The USC football program is more than just a team. It's a brand, and it's one that continues to attract recruits like Shay Fields.
The 5'11", 160-pound wide receiver committed to the Trojans on Thursday, per 247Sports, becoming the eighth member of USC's 2014 recruiting class. He previously decommitted from Boise State and also holds offers from Utah, Colorado and Hawaii.
Despite uncertainty surrounding the squad's future, USC remains a fixture among national teams with rich tradition.
The Trojans took center stage in the national spotlight throughout the past decade, demanding attention for the star players (Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Brian Cushing, Mike Williams, etc.) and Rose Bowl victories (four in six seasons). The current crop of high school football standouts were impressionable children during that dominant run, which still serves as motivation for many of them to wear the Trojans uniform.
"USC was always my dream school," Fields told Scout.com writer Greg Biggins. "It’s a great school with incredible tradition and I’ve been watching them my whole life."
The receiver plays for national powerhouse St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.). The school is located in Los Angeles County, where the Trojans have reigned supreme in recruiting for a while.
USC also annually cleans up in talent-rich Orange County and San Diego County. Although the wins and BCS bowl appearances have tapered off considerably, the allure remains intact.
The Trojans are expected to pursue a big-name coach this offseason. The effort to replace ousted Lane Kiffin is still in its early stages, but that hasn't phased several recruits, including Fields.
"I know they don’t have a head coach right now but that wasn’t really a factor for me," Fields told Biggins. "It's USC, I know they’ll bring in a great coach."
That's why, despite dealing with an unstable season, the Trojans are still finalists to land 5-star recruits Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La.), Speedy Noil (New Orleans, La.), Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif.), John Smith (Long Beach, Calif.) and Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif.).
Does USC recruit itself?
Mama, the nation's No. 1 guard prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings, is Fields' high school teammate. He attended the USC-Notre Dame game in South Bend, Ind. last Saturday.
The program is charged with the task of ramping up its level of incoming talent in order to return USC to prominence on the playing field. Postseason bans and scholarship restrictions crippled the team's ability to build a deep roster.
That resurgence must start with this 2014 recruiting cycle and carry into next year.
The Trojans' 2015 recruiting efforts are off to a promising start. That's pivotal for USC, since a new head coach will be in place within months to carry on the process.
The team already holds a commitment from quarterback David Sills (Elkton, Md.), one of the country's top-ranked passers. Several elite junior prospects already consider USC among favorite options, including Cordell Broadus (Diamond Bar, Calif.), Terry Beckner (East St. Louis, Ill.) and Aliz'e Jones (Las Vegas, Nev.).
Whether the team lands a "rock star" coach or picks an under-the-radar candidate, the brand will stay the same and draw interest. After all, it's USC.