As the burning hot sun shines across the United States, the smell of football is in the air, and it could not come at a better time. The spring and summer months consisted of the usual coaching carousel, matriculation, and recruiting efforts. This offseason was doused with turmoil and investigations on numerous campuses, and none of these investigations were as high profile as the case in the land of the stars: Los Angeles.
The University of Southern California, or USC, received a heavy dose of scrutiny once Pete Carroll jumped ship in January to coach the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, and the ongoing investigation into Reggie Bush and his improper benefits from Lloyd Lake that reached nearly $300,000. Nothing good could come from that, and sure enough USC was hit hard.
Six months after Pete Carroll’s version of “get out of dodge,” the USC Trojans were slapped with a four-year probation penalty that included the loss of scholarships for the next four seasons, as well as a post season ban for the next two seasons. Just when USC was returning back to the Rose Bowl virtually like clockwork, I guess you can say it is time to change the batteries.
Just recently, USC’s President-Elect C.L. Max Nikias announced that Athletic Director Mike Garrett would “retire,” and that former Trojan great Pat Haden would lead the athletic department from August 3 onward.
However, both men in power have already flexed their proverbial muscles in making decisions. First up: all of Reggie Bush’s memorabilia, trophies, and jerseys would be removed from the USC campus, virtually disassociating the university from their former electrifying tailback.
Now, it is one thing to remove Bush’s trophies and jerseys, but how can a university, which soared to unthinkable heights during his time on campus, erase Reggie Bush’s name from the record books and lore of USC completely?
Thinking back to other past greats at “Tailback U,” one can recall a certain Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson. Don’t get me wrong in this analysis, O.J. Simpson was a phenomenal running back not only in college but at the professional level as well.
However, following O.J.’s trial and the ensuing not guilty verdict many in the public eye still felt that O.J. was the man responsible for the two deaths involved in that case. Leaving all opinions on that topic aside, the dark storm clouds rolled over Los Angeles focusing solely on Simpson.
By the way, did anyone forget that in 1994, O.J. was fleeing in a white Ford Bronco, during a low-speed chase that was broadcast on virtually every local media outlet? Then again, O.J. was not finished. Think back to Simpson’s recent shortcomings regarding memorabilia in Las Vegas. Was that worthy of disassociation?
However, none of that mattered to USC, due to the fact that all his wrongdoings occurred following his illustrious college career.
In Reggie Bush’s situation, everything that occurred on the football field was not affected by money changing hands and gifts being traded. Reggie Bush won the Heisman trophy fair and square. What Bush did off the field, hindered his ability to be an eligible student athlete at the University of Southern California. That is the reason why USC will not acknowledge Reggie Bush as a Heisman Trophy-winning running back from “Tailback U.”
On the other hand, looking a little closer at the motives behind the removal of all of Bush’s accolades, the football program at USC is currently on a four-year probationary period governed by the NCAA. By removing and disassociating the university from Bush, shows that USC is moving forward to cleaning up their act, at least on the field.
This might be a ploy by the university to have some of the sanctions reduced by the NCAA; however, with Lane Kiffin manning the ship in Downtown L.A., the NCAA knows how Kiffin plays the role of head coach—and that is after only a one year at the University of Tennessee.
Not only did nothing good come from the results on the field, but Tennessee was struggling off the field as well. Public apologies have been a mainstay for Lane Kiffin, and at Tennessee, that sentiment held true. If Kiffin wasn’t “turning in” Urban Meyer for “illegally recruiting,” Kiffin was speaking out on radio shows degrading an entire state’s education level, by diminishing and comparing South Carolina academics to an eventual day job “pumping gas.” These actions and statements have no place at USC and should not have been uttered at Tennessee, either.
Nonetheless, Kiffin left Tennessee in worse shape than when he arrived in Knoxville. Although, Kiffin has walked on the wild side in recruiting circles, his efforts have led to less than desirable results on the field as well.
Kiffin’s two seasons in the National Football League went from bad to worse (5-15), to say the least. The headlines that were leaking out of Oakland regarding the Raiders and coach Kiffin were far from positive. In the end Raiders’ owner Al Davis and Kiffin had a “he said, he said playground war of words”, that made no one look good.
Lane Kiffin might be the man in charge at USC, but throughout his head coaching experience his numbers do not add to the level that is expected at USC. Moreover, just from looking at his resume both on and off the field, Pat Haden might want to take a microscope and hone in on the Trojans’ football communications off the field while Kiffin is calling the shots.
The USC Trojans’ football program is far from squeaky clean, much like most athletic programs these days, but from here on out, the program better be as clean as the white uniforms that the USC Song girls wear, or else the four years might turn into eight. But then again, Lane Kiffin’s philosophy might be “live by the sword, die by the sword.”