Read this report if you have ever wanted to experience a college football game from the press box, join the players on the field, and attend the postgame press conference.
Not many fans get invited to sit in the University of Southern California Trojans football press box and get issued press credentials.
I was fortunate to get invited by Jordan Moore from USCTrojans.com to represent Bleacher Report at the USC–Arizona State University Sun Devils game on November 6, 2010.
As an avid Trojan fan since my freshman year in 1968, I have enjoyed season 50-yard line seats, including the Rose Bowl, marching on the field as a member of the color guard, and falling in love with my wife as she screamed for USC to win during the “Cardiac Kids” 1969 season.
But, I never thought that I would experience being a member of the “media” and see a USC football game. It was fantastic, but it may have spoiled me for future games!
USC won 34-33 in a crazy game full of special team triumphs and bloopers. Here is more information and interviews with head coach Lane Kiffin and key players: “USC Football: Trojans Postgame Interviews after Victory over Arizona State.”
Lisa Horne, Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Team Leader and Fox Sports News reporter, let me know what to expect in the USC press box and her advice was invaluable.
I arrived at the media check-in table outside Gate 6 a few hours before the game. There I was issued press credentials, and filled out forms to comply with all the NCAA rules.
I was directed to the press box elevator, and let out at press box level two where most of the media is located.
There is a seating list upon entering the press box. There are about 200 seats in three rows with more than half of them occupied by scouts from NFL teams, many newspapers and television, USC fan online news, Pac-10, USC and ASU Sports Information Departments, and 12 seats for the statisticians.
Tom Kelly, the ex-USC football and basketball broadcaster (1961-2003) has two seats, which is a great perk that he deserves. It was nice to see Tom and say hello.
Level one includes booths for the USC and ASU athletic directors, coaches, radio, television, public address, scoreboard and videoboard, and Pac-10.
I settled into seat 246 on about the 40-yard line. After scouting the press box for bathrooms, food, and general layout, I set up my laptop with wireless press box connectivity.
Soaking in the atmosphere and the Coliseum view as the football players started warming up and some fans began arriving, I noticed the voice of Dan Weber in front of me.
Dan covers the Trojans for USCFootball.com, and no one is better at capturing everything that happens in USC football with the most insight and interesting stories. His experience covering the SEC gives him a unique perspective to see the NCAA and media bias against the west coast and USC in particular.
I introduced myself to Dan, reminded him of email exchanges we had about USC NCAA sanctions, and that led to a long and interesting discussion about the real reason this happened to USC and the likely appeal results.
Patrick Crawley, USC Communications grad student and sports information director of the USC Neon Tommy (student-run online news), sat next to me.
We had great discussions about Neon Tommy, current student life at USC, and, of course, the game. Patrick was very helpful anytime I had a question about the press box experience.
This was a day of upsets since many of the top 25 teams lost. Such is college football.
I followed the active games on my laptop along with Dan’s USCFootball.com live blog, and reviewed the scores of completed games on the press box white board near the food.
That was a good excuse to enjoy the bountiful supply of hot dogs, fruit salad, pasta, chips and salsa, peanuts or soft drinks.
Tim Tessalone and his USC sports information department have the best-run press box, according to several media representatives that I asked.
The press box was well organized with each media representative provided rosters, programs, and quarterly stat updates. Intercom announcements of every play were provided as well as TV replays. Security was terrific so there was no need to worry about leaving your computer or other items when leaving the area.
During the game, there was no cheering allowed. It was noisy enough with some people talking and the play by play announcements that I didn’t get kicked out when responding to some of the really good or bad USC plays. Thankfully, those around me understood that I was a fan in “media” clothing.
It was so unbelievable to watch a game with all information and food provided, bathroom a few feet away, in your own private space.
Everyone else took it for granted, and no one seemed especially excited about being in the Press Box. Of course, it is their job and they have deadlines and work pressure.
But, I had a smile on my face the entire time until I arrived home after midnight.
The press box is very business-like.
The media representatives all have stories to prepare. Some do live blogs during the game, but most have to publish their articles and interviews before they leave after the game. So, they write their stories as the game progresses, fill in the final stats at the end of the game, and tweak anything that changes based on the final results.
The media is allowed to walk down to the field with about five minutes to go in the game. No discussions are allowed with the players until after the game.
It was a great experience walking down the Coliseum steps among the roar of the fans at a pivotal time in the game for both teams.
I could not believe how much bigger the football athletes become as you walk on the field.
The game speeds up on the field, and there is a mass of bodies colliding without any visibility of holes and open receivers that you get from the seats.
Most of the action took place in front of me and the ground seemed to shake. This is a great way to experience football!
USC is behind 31-33 and Joe Houston lines up for a field goal after missing two short ones earlier in the game. He splits the goal posts with 3:24 to go. Unbelievable!
The crowd is roaring. The announced attendance was 68,784 but most of the media thought 57,000 actually attended. Despite the lower attendance, this was a USC crowd and they did a great job of supporting the team.
ASU drives down the field until fourth down at the USC 32 with 1:34 to go. A 42-yard field goal is missed by Thomas Webber, who previously won the Lou Groza award. Unbelievable!
USC gets the ball back and just needs a first down, but three runs for eight yards forces a punt with 22 seconds and Jacob Harfman gets a 51-yarder.
ASU ends up throwing an interception to Nickell Robey with time running out, and the players and media fill the field.
The USC players go the band in the end zone and sing the Alma Mater, and then celebrate. I am taking pictures and video, and my family sees me on FSN TV. They are excited and take a picture of the TV screen, which ends up on Facebook for my friends and family.
I participated in field interviews with T.J. McDonald and Chris Galippo before heading to the tunnel and a press conference room next to the players’ locker room.
Sitting next to Patrick and Dan in the second row is a great place to video the interviews. We interview head coach Lane Kiffin, quarterback Matt Barkley, field goal kicker Joe Houston, safety T.J. McDonald and linebacker Malcolm Smith.
After the press conference, I walk back through the tunnel onto the Coliseum field and look around at an empty stadium. It is surreal. I hike up the Coliseum stairs to the Press Box to pick up my computer, and then leave in the elevator.
As I drove away from the Los Angeles Coliseum, I was as happy as my first visit to Disneyland when I was 5 years old and it had just opened. It was an experience that I will never forget.
And, did I mention that USC won 34-33?