In his seven weeks as the interim head coach, the USC football program has rallied around him and been successful. Pat Haden will have a very tough decision come December.
Ed Orgeron has led the USC Trojans to a perfect 6-0 record in Pac-12 play since he's been the interim head coach. The Trojans have also won their past five games in a row, and save for a thriller against Stanford, all of the wins have been dominant. USC has only one game left on the season, a final clash with crosstown rivals UCLA. If the Trojans beat the Bruins on Saturday, should that make Orgeron more of a lock for the vacant head coaching position in Troy?
Well, let's look at the facts.
If Orgeron wins out, he will have gone undefeated in Pac-12 play. To be sure, it's not like USC was a team comprised of scrubs; the Trojans have never been short of talent, but a smothering blanket of mediocrity and low confidence kept them from playing to their true potential.
In seven weeks, we have seen the football team go from a bunch of underachievers lacking identity to a formidable family of winners. This is directly related to the coaching change; where Lane Kiffin was nondescript, so was his team. Where Orgeron is fiery and ever present, so are the Trojans now.
He's proven that he knows what it takes to coach up young athletes and to win at the same time.
As far as maintaining the talent level at USC, we already know he can do that, and do it well. Just last week, USC flipped longtime Alabama commit Viane Talamaivao, a testament to just how influential Orgeron has been in such a short period of time.
Even before Talamaivao, Orgeron has been instrumental in luring top talent out of the South and bringing those athletes to Troy. There's no doubt he would be able to maintain that recruiting prominence—especially if he is able to keep the same staff around him that players love—if he gets the promotion of head coach.
Coaching a team through an emotional swing is not the same as coaching a team year in and year out, however. To some, Orgeron will always have the Ole Miss cloud hanging over his head while to others, what he has done with USC this year is evidence that he has grown as a coach.
He's doing all of the right things now, whether it be giving linemen cookies, chatting with the media or personally writing every single member of USC's marching band a thank-you note. Orgeron is winning over everyone at USC, and the Los Angeles media scene is known for being particularly vicious.
Of all of the coaches USC is looking into, Orgeron comes with the fewest unknowns. Will he fit into the culture at USC? He's already been doing so, off and on since 1998. Will the players bond with him? No question about that one. Can he be a fan favorite? Some of his actions already have drawn Pete Carroll comparisons, a very important fact for any coach looking to step into his shadow that is still cast over Troy.
The most important question, of course, is can he keep USC at the top level of competition? It's easy to say yes, given everything that is happening right now, but anything can happen over the course of a coaching contract (just ask offensive coordinator-turned-head coach of the Oregon Ducks, Mark Helfrich).
That being the case, the safe choice for athletic director Pat Haden is to lift the interim tag off of Orgeron and hope for the best. It would please everyone in Troy— at least in the moment—if Orgeron got the job.
There's an old adage that says, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." For USC, that actually might be the best course of action for filling its head coaching vacancy.
Then again, maybe it's not.