The view of the current state of USC football is wrong. Much has been written in the last few days about the chaos in the USC football program left in the wake of Pete Carroll's departure to the Seattle Seahawks.
High-profile players leaving early for the NFL, recruits de-comitting, potential NCAA sanctions looming, and a dysfunctional school leadership in outgoing President Sample and "blame everyone but me" Athletic Director Mike Garrett to potentially work for. What high profile coach would want any part of that?
USC is a golden coaching opportunity for many elite coaches and many of the above-mentioned chaos factors are either temporary or not as bad as it looks at first glance. One of the elite coaches mentioned will take this job, and I will tell you why they should, as well as why they should think twice about it.
Let's take inventory of the good and the bad at USC.
First, USC's roster is still loaded with future NFL talent. Sure, Damian Williams left as did Joe McKnight. Losing the teams top two playmakers is obviously a loss, but both were probably on their way out anyway. Even with them gone, the cupboard is hardly bare.
The next USC head coach inherits Matt Barkley. While the kid did play like a kid at times during the year, he is a natural leader and one taking advantage of the current situation to keep the team together.
It has been reported that Barkley had called most of the team into his apartment over the weekend to talk about nothing but team unity in this time of uncertainty. Because of Barkley, the Trojans will be ready to go out and totally sell out for whoever comes in next.
Follow Barkley with the usual stable of running backs, highlighted by Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable. Both will be seniors and are beginning to establish themselves as feature backs.
Behind them are talented sophomores Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal. Don't forget Stanley Havili, easily the most versatile fullback in the country and one the NFL can't wait to get.
At wideout, the Men of Troy bring serious talent in Ronald Johnson, David Ausberry, Travon Patterson, and Brice Butler back, as talented a group as you are likely to find.
At tight end, Blake Ayles and Rhett Ellison are ready to take the job from graduating Anthony McCoy.
'SC does lose talented players off the defense, insert Taylor Mays, but the young group of linebackers led by Chris Gallippo will all be back and benefiting from the time together.
So whoever takes over will have the horses to run with. But what about those looming sanctions?
While all the press rumbles about the possibility of the NCAA delivering the death penalty as a result of the Reggie Bush investigation, the truth is probably otherwise. USC is likely to face a small punishment, possibly a loss of a few scholarships, but not a punishment likely to keep away a top coaching prospect.
This is because all signs in the Reggie Bush situation show that, unlike the OJ Mayo situation, the goal of the gifts were not to benefit USC but to benefit the player/potential agent relationship after he turned pro.
This is not as fine a line as it seems, but one that keeps USC able to contend for national titles for years to come.
The reason to think twice about coming to USC is Mike Garrett. By all accounts, USC is an athletic department in need of real leadership. Pete Carroll single-handedly saved Mike Garrett's job by becoming the Pete Carroll we know now.
Even still, at the first sign that USC football was not performing like USC football, Garrett was there to publicly criticize the team, and by extension, the coach. Plus, Garrett did not help or shelter Carroll at any point during the Joe McKnight inquiry.
University President Steven Sample, who is set to retire in August, has been an ardent supporter of Garrett and not likely to ask him to leave now.
The truth for Garrett is that he is effectively auditioning for the next president and has to bring in a marquee name to fill the job that became a marquee job through the efforts of Pete Carroll. He has no choice.
Taking a flyer on a hot coordinator who he has a "feeling" for sets Garrett up to be released before the first kick off of the 2010 season. That's not something even his ego will risk.
The only mistake USC can make right now is taking too long to bring on this new coach. The Trojans need to make this hire within the next two weeks in order to salvage 75 percent of the current recruiting class.
It also sends a message to the current roster and to their omnipresent boosters that the university plans to stay on top of the college football world.
Many coaches are going to make a lot of money because of the USC vacancy. Mike Riley already has. Chris Peterson of Boise State, Gary Patterson of TCU, even Bob Stoops of Oklahoma could all see similar extensions and pay raises if USC calls them.
The rest of the names bandied about show just how attractive this opportunity is. Former Chiefs' head coach Herm Edwards, the highly-respected Jeff Fisher of the Titans, the (very Carroll-esque) Jack Del Rio of the Jaguars, even John Gruden, and the venerable Tony Dungy have been mentioned.
Any of the above names, plus former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, would all keep USC competitive next year and help them, potentially, make a title run within two.
The next two weeks should be interesting. USC is still a golden opportunity and, in spite of the presence, for now, of Mike Garrett, is still a job worthy of a larger-than-life coach.
And I bet they get one. Any guesses who?